Situated in Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Spirit Island is—for most of the year, at least—not actually an island at all, but rather a pint-sized peninsula connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land. A long-standing symbol of the Canadian Rockies, the tree-topped islet has featured on countless postcards and images of the park.
For many visitors to Western Canada, Spirit Island features high on their checklist of sights. The island is a sacred place for the First Nations people and visitors are not permitted to walk on it. You can, however, get close enough to the island to capture pictures during Maligne Lake cruises. Round-trip boat cruises usually last for about 90 minutes. Full-day sightseeing tours around Jasper National Park often combine a boat tour to Spirit Island with other destinations, such as Medicine Lake and Maligne Valley.
You can also kayak or canoe to Spirit Island; rent a canoe from the Maligne Lake Boathouse. If you do plan on paddling to Spirit Island, you may want to prebook a spot at a lakeside campsite, as completing the round-trip journey in one day can be challenging.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Spirit Island is a must for nature enthusiasts, with sublime views of Maligne Lake and the surrounding peaks.
- Note that the canoe trip to the island is about 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) one way and is best suited to fit, experienced paddlers.
- Wear sturdy boots if you want to explore lakeside hiking trails.
How to Get There
Spirit Island is situated in the southern half of Maligne Lake. The northern end of Maligne Lake is about 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Jasper, accessible via Maligne Lake Road. Driving from Jasper takes 45 to 60 minutes.
When to Get There
Boats venture out to Spirit Island between late May and early October. The area is busiest during the peak summer months of July and August. The best time to visit is in early morning before the first cruise sets off and crowds arrive. Another good time to come is late afternoon, an hour or so before sunset, when a golden glow and pastel skies make an excellent backdrop for photographs.
Wildlife-Viewing at Maligne Lake
One of the best wildlife-watching spots in the park is Maligne Lake Road. Drive down the road in either early morning or late evening, and look out for moose, caribou, and bighorn sheep. Closer to the lake, you can often spot black and grizzly bears as well as bald and golden eagles, who come here to feed on fish.