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? Let’s break it all down!
About Maligne Lake & 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 not just impressive in size, but it also has an 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, the Maligne Lake Cruise will run daily on the following dates:
|May 31* – June 21
|Daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM
|June 22 – September 2
|Daily, 9 AM – 6 PM
|September 23 – 29
|Daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM
|September 30 – October 13
|Daily, 9 AM – 4:30 PM
Where Do the Cruises Depart From?
The 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 Overview
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).
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! The Maligne Lake Cruise is one of the best things to do in Jasper, especially on a glorious summer day.
During the cruise, there will be a guide to 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.
Types of Cruises Offered
Embark on a scenic 14-kilometer journey across Maligne Lake until you reach the serene and captivating Spirit Island. On this 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.
This cruise is almost identical to the Classic Cruise cruise only difference is that you get 30 minutes to explore Spirit Island and an extra stop to enjoy the views at Pincushion Bay.
Who Runs the Maligne Lake Cruise?
Amenities Available on the 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 Maligne Lake Cruise?
The Maligne Lake Cruise lasts around 1.5 hours, with the Premium Cruise taking 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. There is a waiting list for the cruise 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):
The Maligne Lake cruises run from 2024 dates: May 31* – October 13th.
- Classic Cruise – $82/adult and $53.50/child
- Premium Cruise – Cruise9/adult and $70.85/child
- Pursuit Rewards Cruise (for Alberta locals): $66.00/adult and $42.90/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)$160.00/adult and $104/ child
When is the Best Time to Enjoy the 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! Maligne Lake cruises start running at 9am, and because mornings on the water are some of the calmest (and our favorite), we would recommend purchasing a tour as early as possible. This will also still give you excellent morning light on Spirit Island.
Is the Maligne Lake Cruise Wheelchair Accessible?
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 the Maligne Lake Cruise Pet-Friendly?
It’s best to leave your furry friends at home as they are not permitted on the Maligne Lake Cruise, but pets on a leash can enjoy all that Maligne Lake offers.
Is the Maligne Lake Cruise 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 on the 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?
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
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?
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.
Is the Premium Cruise worth it? The Premium Maligne Lake Cruise pretty much gets you an extra 15 minutes to explore Spirit Island, though no one can walk out to Spirit Island. For nearly $30 more, you can have this experience, or $2 a minute. At that point, we don’t think the extra time at Spirit Island is worth it, unless you have strong ties to the area.
Getting to Maligne Lake
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
There is parking at Maligne Lake, though during a beautiful summer weekend day, the area does become 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 a relatively short distance away from where you will need to be to depart on your cruise.
Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit 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
|Youth (up to 17)
|Family/Group (7 Persons)
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
|Youth (up to 17)
|Family/Group (7 Persons)
Where to Stay in Jasper?
Our Top Recommended Jasper Tours
- Athabasca Falls: Class 2 White Water Rafting Adventure: Action packed adventure for the whole family.
- Canadian Rockies: Scenic Helicopter Tour: Located away from Jasper towards Nordegg, but worth the stop when checking out Abraham Lake or driving the Icefields Parkway.
- Maligne Valley Wildlife Watching & Boat Tour: Animals and boating- two for one!
- Jasper SkyTram: Roundtrip Flight: One of the top things to do in Jasper.
- Evening or Morning Wildlife Search: If you want to see wildlife, adventure out with a knowledgeable guide.
- Jasper: Columbia Icefield Skywalk: Best to do when driving from Banff to Jasper.
- Maligne Lake Cruise With Guide: Experiencing Maligne Lake is one of the top things to do in Jasper.
- From Jasper With Love Theatre Show: The best thing to do in the evening with a nightcap in hand.