Is the Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island Worth It?

Maligne Lake is one of the most stunning lakes in all of Canada, and embarking on a cruise here offers a front-row seat to this natural spectacle. Venture south, closer to the glaciers, and you’ll be treated to the lake’s captivating emerald hues.

While enjoying the lake from its shores is gratifying enough, there’s another way to experience this water. Enjoying a Maligne Lake cruise is on many visitors Jasper bucket lists. But what can you expect from your time on the water, just how much is the tour, and what’s all this fuss about Spirit Island? Is the Maligne Lake cruise worth the time and money? Let’s break it all down in this review.


About Maligne Lake & Spirit Island

Beautiful Spirit Island at Maligne Lake
Beautiful Spirit Island

Maligne Lake is an incredible stretch of sheer beauty, spanning 22km from the boat docks to the majestic Spirit Island and the base of the Coronet Glacier. Spirit Island, a charming peninsula, rests 14 kilometers away from the docks and is a special place for the area’s indigenous people.

Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies, stretching over 22 km. This Alberta lake is impressive not only in size, but also in its average depth of 35 meters, reaching nearly 100 meters at its deepest points.

Beyond its sheer scale, Maligne Lake is also incredibly blue, and if you hit it on a beautiful summer day, its colors will shine through. Why is it so blue? Like other glacial lakes, as the melting glaciers flow into the lake, they leave behind rock flour, which, when hit by sunlight, creates the lake’s distinctive color.


When Does the Maligne Lake Cruise Run?

Maligne Lake

Cruises only run during the summer and early fall seasons, as the lake freezes over in Jasper in the winter. In 2024, cruises will run on the following dates:

May 31 – June 21stDaily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM
June 22 – September 2Daily, 9 AM – 6 PM
September 3 – 29Daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM
September 30 – October 13Daily, 9 AM – 4:30 PM

It’s essential to know that this cruise is the most popular thing to do in Jasper, and cruises book up well in advance in the summer. It’s important to book ahead to avoid disappointment. You can book these tours on the Pursuit website, if the cruises are sold on, you can always try booking the same cruise on a third party platform like Viator.


Where Do the Cruises Depart From?

Maligne Lake

Cruises depart at the end of Maligne Lake Road. This is where you’ll find parking for Maligne Lake, a boat dock, a canoe house, a gift shop, and a few restaurants like The Lake House Café and Waffle Hut.


Maligne Lake Cruise Review & Overview

Maligne Lake Cruise
Enjoying the fresh air and surroundings

The Maligne Lake Cruise is one of the most popular things to do in Jasper, and for many, the reason to head to Maligne Lake. The hour-and-a-half panoramic cruise heads to Spirit Island 14 km up the lake. It’s around a half-hour to the island, where guests get 15 minutes off the boat for photos before the return journey unless they purchase a longer tour (we’ll get into that later).

natasha cruising on maligne lake

Visitors are guaranteed spectacular mountain vistas while cruising across cerulean water. In fact, if you take a cruise on Maligne Lake, you may even notice that the further south on the lake you travel, the closer you get to glaciers, the more the lake shows off its stunning color!

During the cruise, a guide will tell you about the lake, its history, and its importance to the area. You’ll learn a bit about the Stoney Nakoda and the cultural significance Maligne Lake plays to them. There’s plenty of time to take in the views, and stepping outside the covered boat is possible to get some fresh air as you’re cruising.


Classic vs. Premium Cruise Offerings

Maligne Lake Cruise

Classic Cruise

Embark on a scenic 14-kilometer journey across Maligne Lake until you reach the serene and captivating Spirit Island. On this 1.5 hour tour, the knowledgeable tour guides will share vibrant stories, delving into the lake’s history, early explorers, and the region’s geology, glaciology, and diverse flora and fauna.

Upon reaching Spirit Island, the boat docks, allowing guests to disembark and follow a brief nature trail leading to a viewing platform that unveils one of the most breathtaking scenes. The Classic Cruise allows for 15 minutes of free time in the vicinity of Spirit Island.

Premium Cruise

This cruise is almost identical to the Classic Cruise cruise only difference is that you get 30 minutes total. This is to explore Spirit Island and there is an extra stop to enjoy the views at Pincushion Bay.

The Premium Cruise also runs in the evening and is the last cruise of the day. This means you’ll have the best possible light on Spirit Island as you’ll get there around Golden Hour. If you’re a photographer, we recommend booking the Premium Cruise.


Who Runs This Experience?

Maligne Lake Cruise
Waiting for their cruise

The cruise is run by Pursuit Adventures, the same folks who run the Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff, the Banff Gondola, Jasper Skywalk, and the Athabasca Glacier Experience.


Amenities Available on the Cruise

captain of the maligne lake cruise

There are three types of boats that hold between 38 and 50 passengers. There are not many amenities available actually on the boat, and basically what you will find are wooden seats. Do your business beforehand because there is no bathroom on board. There is no food or drink offered on board, so eat beforehand.


How Long is the Cruise?

maligne lake cruise

Classic Cruises lasts around 1.5 hours, while Premium Cruises take 2 hours, excluding the loading time. It’s advisable to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled departure. That way, you can park, check-in, and get your tickets. If you are not there when the cruise departs, your seat is subject to being given up. The cruise has a waiting list, and peak times are booked well in advance. A $25 fee may apply to late passengers that have to be rebooked.


How Much is the Maligne Lake Cruise?

Advanced Purchase Pricing (CAD):

(Keep in mind prices are subject to fluctuate based on the time of year, as well as how soon in advance you book. If you wait until the last minute prices usually jump up).

Cruises run from May 31st – October 13, 2024.

  • Classic Cruise – $82 to $85/adult and $55.25/child
  • Premium Cruise – Cruise $109 to $135/adult and $87.85/child
  • Pursuit Rewards Cruise (for Alberta locals): $70.00/adult and $45.90/child
  • Age 5 & Under – Free if sharing a seat with adult (but they still require a ticket)
  • Kids Go Free Early Bird! Receive one free child ticket for each paying adult on the 9 AM and 9:15 AM Classic Cruise.
  • Pursuit Pass Jasper (Columbia Icefield Adventure – including Skywalk and Maligne Lake Cruise)$245.00/adult and $159/ child

When is the Best Time to Cruise?

Maligne Lake Cruise

July and August provide the best chance for a sunny day in the Rockies, though it’s mountain weather, and you never know what can happen here! Cruises start running at 9 a.m., and because mornings on the water are some of the calmest (and our favorite), we recommend purchasing a tour as early as possible. This will also still give you excellent morning light on Spirit Island.


Is the Cruise Wheelchair Accessible?

Maligne Lake Cruise

Their facilities are accessible to standard wheelchairs in most cases. However, they have a limited supply of accessible boats, so it’s best to contact them before booking your tour at +1.888.900.6272.


Is it Pet-Friendly?

It’s best to leave your furry friends at home, as they are not permitted on the boat. However, pets on a leash can enjoy all the other wonders that Maligne Lake offers.


Is it Kid Friendly?

Yes! The whole Maligne Lake and Spirit Island experience is kid-friendly, and kids under 5 are free, though strollers are not permitted on the boat.


Will You Get Wet?

maligne lake cruise

It’s pretty unlikely you will get wet unless it is raining. Still, the boats are covered, and guests can step outside whenever they wish.


Do You Need to Book in Advance?

checking in for the Maligne Lake Cruise
Checking in for the cruise

Booking your cruise in advance is highly recommended, especially in July and August. Cruises do sell out frequently.


Hiking Trails, Picnic Spots, and Other Recreational Activities Nearby

A kayaker on Maligne Lake
A kayaker on Maligne Lake

Before or after your cruise, there are few things to do at Maligne Lake that may be of interest.

  • Canoe or kayak: It’s impossible to miss the charming boat house at Maligne Lake. Here you can rent canoes, kayaks, and rowboats and get out on the water.
  • Walk the Mary Schaffer Loop Trail: This is an easy 3.2 Jasper trail with only 82 meters of elevation gain near Maligne Lake. It will loop you through some beautiful forests and starts and ends at Maligne Lake.
  • Moose Lake Loop: This trail is similar at 3.4 km, but has slightly more gain at 108 meters. The trail starts at Maligne Lake and gets you to the quiet Moose Lake! It’s common to see Moose on this trail.
  • Gift Shop: The gift shop at Maligne Lake is quite extensive, and even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s still worth a wander.
  • Have a Meal: There are three Jasper restaurants at Maligne Lake. The Lake House Café has both Grab and Go food as well as hot food service. There’s also the Waffle Hut, which is pretty self-explanatory for their food type, and The View Restaurant. All of these dining options only operate from June to October.

Is The Maligne Lake Cruise Worth It?

Walk the Mary Schaffer Loop Trail
Walking the Mary Schaffer Loop Trail

We have now enjoyed the Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island twice in the summer and can confidently say that the experience is worth it. It’s pretty tough to see Spirit Island any other way, unless you have backcountry camping permits and are willing to canoe in. The beauty of the lake rivals popular Banff lakes like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. It’s certainly the most beautiful lake in Jasper, and you may even find it the most stunning lake in the Rockies!

Is the Premium Cruise worth it? The Premium Cruise gets you an extra 15 minutes to explore Spirit Island, though no one can walk out to Spirit Island. The cruise also stops and lets you soak in the views at Pincushion Bay. Most importantly, the Premium Cruise is available only in the evening, allowing you to have the best possible light on Spirit Island, which is ideal for photographers. If all these things are important to you, we recommend booking the Premium Cruise. Premium Cruises must be booked on the Pursuit website. Since there is only one a day, keep in mind that it sells out very quickly.

Questions about the cruise are often asked in our private Facebook group, and nearly everyone agrees that the Maligne Lake cruise is worth the time, effort, and money. Everyone also agrees, including us, to book one of the later time slots in the day for the best light on Spirit Island.


Getting to Maligne Lake

Maligne-Lake-Road
Maligne Lake Road

Maligne Lake is roughly 45km from the Town of Jasper, and it’s recommended that you take at least one hour to get to the lakeshore from Downtown Jasper. To get there, get on the Yellowhead Hwy and take a right on Maligne Lake Road. You’ll continue on this road until it ends at Maligne Lake. Allow either before your visit to Maligne Lake or after so that you can stop at some of the incredible sights on the way.

I suggest stopping at Maligne Canyon, as it’s a great beginner-friendly Jasper hike and definitely don’t miss Medicine Lake on your way in. Keep your eyes out for moose, sheep, and elk – Maligne Lake Road is one of the most well-known places to see wildlife in the park! Please remember these animals are wild. Never get out of your car for a photograph and observe quickly and at a distance so that they can live peacefully in their natural habitat.


Accessibility and Parking at Maligne Lake

map of maligne lake

There is parking at Maligne Lake, though during a beautiful summer weekend, the area becomes quite congested, and you might have to circle a few times before finding a place to park. There’s space to drop off elderly or disabled guests, as well as a few handicapped parking spots. The parking area is just a short distance (5-minute walk) from where you must be to depart on your cruise.


I Can Only Choose One Cruise – Lake Minnewanka or Maligne Lake?

Maligne Lake Cruise vs Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Many visitors to the Rockies can only choose so many paid experiences like this. The two cruise experiences are on Maligne Lake and Lake Minnewanka in Banff. While both are fantastic, we would tell any visitor who can only choose one to go with the cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. We explain why below.

Let’s break it down: Maligne Lake Cruise vs Lake Minnewanka Cruise


Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit Maligne Lake?

Maligne Lake

Yes, Maligne Lake is in Jasper National Park, and all visitors to the parks need a valid park pass. Pass prices are as follows:

Parks Canada Day Pass Rates
Pass TypeRate
Adult$11.00
Senior$9.50
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$22.00
Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.

A Parks Canada Discovery Pass grants you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for a year. For many visitors, purchasing an annual pass makes more sense, as an adult’s day pass is $11.00 per day. The pass also grants access to historic sites such as Cave & Basin along with any other national park in the country.

Parks Canada Discovery Pass Fees
Pass TypeRate
Adult$75.25
Senior$64.50
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$151.25

Our ultimate guide to purchasing a Canadian Parks Pass


Where to Stay in Jasper?

jasper downtown hostel
pyramid lake lodge
jasper park lodge

Our Top Recommended Jasper Tours

About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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6 thoughts on “Is the Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island Worth It?”

  1. How long is the drive to the lake from Golden in August? I checked the drive time today but I don’t think it’s effected by winter weather

    Reply
  2. Thank you for your amazing and helpful content! Your blog has been a planning dream! The Maligne lake cruises are unfortunately sold out the dates we’ll be in Jasper (late June). Do you have any tips on securing last minute tickets/finding cancellations? Do you know if there is ever room for walk ons? We are a family of 4 so guessing that might be tough. Finally, do you think it’s still worth visiting Maligne lake w/o cruise tickets? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Stephanie,

      Have you tried booking through a third party like Viator and Get Your Guide as mentioned in the article? Sometimes they show as having extra. Are you flexible with your timings for the day?

      There are sometimes no shows, but for a family of four that might be tough! Still I would recommend going to Maligne Lake and enjoying the lakeshore – plus Maligne Lake Road is a stunning drive! Once at the lakeshore you can try to walk on, though I truly do think four spare tickets is unlikely. You could split the group 2 and 2 and see if you can get tickets then. However, this may be waste of your precious time in the Rockies!

      Reply

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