Maligne Lake Road • Tips For Jasper’s Most Scenic Drive

Maligne Lake Road in Jasper is one of Canada’s most scenic roads. It takes you past amazing sights like Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake and ends at Maligne Lake, leaving any visitor more than satisfied.

The drive starts near the Town of Jasper and concludes at Maligne Lake. Constructed along the glacier-carved valley between the Maligne and Elizabeth mountain ranges, it offers stunning vistas of towering peaks, turquoise glacier lakes, and the spirited Maligne River. The road is also famous for its wildlife sightings, including elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, white-tail deer, and grizzly and black bears. Almost every time we drive it, we have an amazing sighting.

Stops Along Maligne Lake Road

Maligne Canyon

Natasha at Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon is the first major site you’ll encounter when on Maligne Lake Road. It’s one of the best things to do in Jasper, and it is a nice, family-friendly hike in Jasper. Here, you view rushing waters that have carved out the limestone over the years to create a deep canyon. Walls reach nearly 200 feet in places, and you can easily view them by crossing over the bridges, making it one of the most dramatic sights in Jasper National Park.

The canyon area is a hot hiking spot when the ice thaws in late spring and summer due to its natural beauty and the sheer number of amazing and unique geological features you’ll find.

Guided tours are available, but you can also easily visit alone and hike around Maligne Canyon for as long or as little as you want. We recommend “carving out” at least one hour to stop at Maligne Canyon. If visiting in the winter, it’s worth looking into their Icewalk tour offered.

Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake

Next up, the next major attraction you’ll come across is Medicine Lake. This is one of the top sights in Jasper and an easy pull-off anyone can enjoy. It requires no hiking and can easily be viewed in a quick 10-15 minute stop. Though technically part of the Maligne River, it looks like a huge lake to the untrained eye, especially when it swells with water from the big thaw, which occurs in late spring and summer.

Medicine Lake in winter
Medicine Lake in Winter

Fun fact – Medicine Lake is called the “disappearing lake” amongst Jasper locals as the water drains out through sinkholes at the bottom, travels through a cave system, and resurfaces downstream in the winter. Seriously, visit in the winter; and it doesn’t look much like a lake!

Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake Spirit Island Landscape

After Medicine Lake, continue driving, and keep your eyes open for wildlife. This area is teeming with it. Eventually, you’ll come to a dead end, and this is Maligne Lake. Maligne Lake is a renowned destination in Jasper. It’s certainly the prettiest lake in Jasper, and maybe all of the Rockies – yes, even rivaling Moraine Lake in Banff!

Maligne Lake in Winter
Maligne Lake in Winter

The lake’s grandeur, as countless glaciers run off into the lake below from the Hall of Gods, is beyond compare. On a sunny day, the waters of Maligne Lake sparkle a dazzling cerulean blue, just like many other lakes in the Canadian Rockies. You can head here and walk some of the lakeshore, and enjoy dining at the lakefront restaurant, but most people book a cruise to Maligne Lake, which runs daily and often in the summer.

Maligne Lake Cruise

is the maligne lake cruise worth it

Nearly every visitor has the Maligne Lake Cruise on their Jasper itinerary. Operations usually ramp up around mid-May when the lake thaws. There are two cruise offerings, but both go to Spirit Island.

The Classic Cruise lasts 1.5 hours and will take you to Spirit Island, where you can get out on the shore and enjoy the famous view for 15 minutes. Along the way, a knowledgeable guide will share information about the area’s past, including its importance to the indigenous Stoney Nakoda people, all while taking in the best views money can buy.

Premium Cruises are also offered here. These cost about $30 more and give you an extra 15 minutes at the Spirit Island viewpoint. They also are some of the last cruises of the day, which makes for better light for photographers.

If you can only do one paid experience in Jasper, we think your money is best spent on the Maligne Lake Cruise.

Side Detour: Old Lodge Road

Beauvert Lake
Beauvert Lake

Jus as you exit or return to Downtown Jasper there’s a side route you can take if you haven’t already. Look for Old Lodge Road and once on that look for Lake Annette Road. Once on this road you can get to Annette Lake and Edith Lake, two of the most scenic lakes in the area and great paddleboard places.

If you continue down Old Lodge Road you’ll eventually get on the Fairmont Park Lodges grounds, which is one of the places you can access Beauvert Lake. Beauvert Lake is the clearest lake I have come across in Jasper, and another favorite paddleboard place of mine.

When is the Best Time to Drive?

Driving Maligne Lake Road

Maligne Lake Road is open year-round, but the summer is the best time to drive it. This is when Maligne Lake is at its most beautiful and when the cruises run. It’s also when you’ll see roaring falls at Maligne Canyon.

Winter in Jasper is still a fantastic time, and the road is quiet and it’s unlikely you’ll see many other cars on the road at all. There are no services in the winter, even at Maligne Lake.

What to Do if You See Wildlife

Jasper in winter
We saw some moose in the winter!

It’s very likely you’ll see wildlife along the road—we almost always do—but it’s important to respect them and their homes.

We understand wanting to get a photo, but please do so quickly. There is nothing wrong with slowing down to take a picture of a bear or moose, but please be mindful of traffic and never get out of your vehicle. However, the slowing vehicle does create a “Bear Jam.” In limited numbers, this seems harmless, but it can quickly snowball.

What’s a Bear Jam? Essentially, one person pulls over to look at wildlife, another car pulls over, and so on. Eventually, people leave their vehicles parked on the side of road, creating traffic and trying to take selfies with the bear or moose (yes, I’m serious), which is dangerous to humans and wildlife.

Parks Canada discourages pulling over for bears and other wildlife and has even made it illegal for buses to do so. They can issue tickets, too. So if you see wildlife on the road, slow down and admire it from the car, and do not cause a traffic jam, please. Giving large animals 30 meters or three bus lengths plus space from your vehicle is recommended, and bears 100 m or ten bus lengths. Never feed or approach wildlife. Let’s keep the wild wild!

Are There Any Services

Driving Maligne Lake Road in winter
Driving Maligne Lake Road in winter

There are no services along the road or gas stations, so be sure to fill up in Jasper. There are no restaurants besides Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake (summer only).

Is There Cell Service?

Driving Maligne Lake Road in winter

There is no cell service along most of Maligne Lake Road.

Is Maligne Lake Road paved?

Maligne Lake Road is a paved road in Jasper. Please respect speed limits.

How Much Time Does it Take to Drive?

maligne lake road map
Downtown Jasper to Maligne Lake AND back would take about 2 hours

Maligne Lake Road is 46 km. Without any stops, it takes about one hour to get from Downtown Jasper to Maligne Lake. However, if you plan to hike at Maligne Canyon and enjoy the cruise to Spirit Island, you’ll easily spend 4-6 hours enjoying the road and the activities.

Tour Options

cruising maligne lake
Cruising on Maligne Lake

This mini road trip itinerary is best suited to those who have their own rental car, though there are a few tours that make some stops along Maligne Lake Road and take visitors to Maligne Lake.

Where To Stay in Jasper

There are no hotels at Maligne Lake. If you can swing it, our favorite place to stay in Jasper is the Jasper Park Lodge, which is right on Lake Beauvert. Our other favorite places to stay are Pyramid Lake Lodge, which sits right on Pyramid Lake, and we also love the Forest Park Hotel and Mount Robson Inn, both close to Downtown Jasper. If you are looking for a more remote cabin experience, Patricia Lake Bungalows has some of the best lakeside cabins in Jasper – right on Patricia Lake!

jasper park lodge

If we had an unlimited budget, we would spend all our nights at the Jasper Park Lodge. They have stunning grounds and sit right on one of the most beautiful lakes.

pyramid lake lodge

Pyramid Lake Lodge is another fantastic property on Pyramid Lake. It operates more like a rustic cabin with modern amenities. If you want direct access to Pyramid Lake, this is a winner.

mount robson inn

If you want a central hotel right on Connaught Drive, we recommend Mount Robson Inn as a great mid-range option in Jasper.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
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!

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

Leave a Comment