Maligne Lake is a glacial lake that is just a 45-minute drive from the town of Jasper. It is one of the most serene lakes in all of the Canadian Rockies and prized for astounding natural splendor. It’s well worth a visit for anyone visiting the Canadian Rockies, and is a must stop if you’re in Jasper for a few days. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Maligne Lake.
All You Need to Know About Maligne Lake
Maligne Lake is a premier destination in the Canadian Rockies for scenic beauty. It’s the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies and a must for any visitor to Jasper National Park. The serene natural beauty and picturesque views are prized around the world. The grandeur of the lake 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.
The lake stretches from the boat docks for 22km past the famous Spirit Island to the base of the Coronet Glacier. Spirit Island is a small peninsula island that sits 14 kilometers up the lake. The small island is now world-famous for its resplendent scene that is treasured around the world. It feels more like the landscape of a dream than reality.
An expansive forest of pine and spruce trees flank Maligne Lake. It makes for a wonderful habitat for many wildlife that includes mule deer, wolves, elk, caribou, bears, moose, and mountain sheep. The waters also draw in birdlife that includes Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Golden Eagles. That being said, don’t come expecting to see any or all of that wildlife — especially wolves or caribou.
The blue waters of Maligne Lake vary as the water moves from the inflow to the outflow of the lake. This is due to the glacier sediment deposited at the lake’s start in a box canyon. Melting glaciers run into the lake and deposit rock flour which in turn refracts the sunlight and produces the signature color. As the water flows out of the lake the rock flour settles and causes a shift in color from one end of the lake to the other.
There are a plethora of things to do around Maligne Lake all year round. In the summer, visitors can hike, canoe, fish, or hop on a tour boat. While the winter months are great for cross country skiing. The gorgeous blue waters of Maligne Lake make look very tempting for a swim, but the glacier-fed lake remains cold for swimming year-round. While we haven’t taken a dip in Maligne we’ve been in many of the areas lakes and can attest to their temperature that at most reach a few degrees above freezing.
Even the drive to the Maligne Lake is eye-watering as you drive from Athabasca Valley through Maligne Valley. From the townsite of Jasper is roughly 45km and passes the worthwhile stops of Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake, both are fed from the outflow of Maligne Lake. There is no notable outflow from Medicine Lake as the water travels through underground caves before reemerging in dramatic fashion in Maligne Canyon.
Spirit Island Information
Spirit Island is a small island that sits along the lakeshore of Maligne Lake in Alberta, Canada. It’s prized for its spectacular landscape and photos of the picturesque island circle around the globe for its idealistic landscape. The island is surrounded by emerald blue glacier waters and flanked by staggering mountains that form a box canyon referred to as the “Hall of Gods.”
Most interesting enough is the vast majority of the year it is not an island as it connected to the lakeshore. Spirit Island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. Mountains are considered the physical representations of ancestors and since the island is surrounded by the same mountain range it is treasured.
There are only two ways to reach Spirit Island and they are both by boat. The vast majority of visitors to the Spirit Island will visit with the popular cruise tour with the Pursuit Collective. The boat ride is around 30 minutes and provides amazing views of the lake along with some history from a tour guide. The other way to reach the island is by personal watercraft such as a canoe or kayak as motorized boats are not allowed. Paddlers can choose from three campsites along the lakeshore to camp with the closest campsite at Fisherman’s bay.
Maligne Lake Cruise
One of the most popular activities on Maligne Lake is to hop on a lake cruise run by the Pursuit Collective. 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 of the boat for photos before the return journey.
You’re guaranteed spectacular mountain vistas while you cruise across the cerulean water. You can buy individual tickets for the Maligne Lake cruise, but for the best deal consider purchasing the Banff Jasper Collective’s Banff Explorer Pass that includes the Banff Gondola and the Icefields Experience.
Advanced Purchase Pricing:
- Adults – $63
- Ages 6-15 – $30
- Age 5 & Under – Free
History of Maligne Lake
It’s original name Indigenous name was “Chaba Imne” (Beaver Lake) who lived in Jasper. Mary Schaeffer was a wealthy Quaker and artist from Philadelphia. She received a map in 1907 from Samson Beaver, an Indigenous guide and settler. Mary set out on an expedition from Banff and reached the lake and valley. She reached the lake in 1908 explored the valley extensively.
Her writings and paintings about the lake are what would in turn bring more tourists to the area in the coming years. Mary was taken by Maligne Lake’s natural beauty and said that “if Lake Louise is a pearl, Maligne is the entire pearl necklace.”
Boating on Maligne Lake
The original boathouse built by Donald Philips in 1928 rents our a number of canoes, kayaks, and rowboats. To take a paddle on Maligne Lake is a wonderful activity to enjoy on a warm summer day. You can rent boats by the hour or the full day to make the most out of the backcountry offerings along the lakeshore. The boats operate on a first-come-first-serve basis so the best chance to secure a rental is to arrive early in the morning or late in the evening. Visitors can use their personal non-motorized watercraft on Maligne Lake.
- Location: Maligne Lake Boathouse
- Canoe Cost: $75 hour / $200 day
- Single Kayak Cost: $40 hour / $165 day
- Double Kayak Cost: $75 hour / $200 day
- Rowboat: $75 hour / $200 day
- Large Rowboat: $100 / $225 day
- Season: June to October
When Is The Best Time To Visit Maligne Lake?
The best time to visit Lake Maligne is from mid-June to late October. This is the timeframe for the lake has thawed from winter and boat cruises are operational. However, the winter months are still worthy of a visit because of the gorgeous drive and cross country ski trails.
Fishing on Maligne Lake
You’re permitted to fish on the lake on your own. To fish in the park you are required to have a Park pass, fishing permit, and be aware of current regulations. This means you know fishing limits and can identify the various fish within the park. No live bait fishing is allowed in the park.
Kids under the age of 16 are allowed to fish on their accompanied pass, but their catch is included within the permit holders’ daily limit. For the most up to date fishing information please reference Park Canada’s website as it changes seasonally.
Fishing permit price:
- Daily – $ 9.80
- Annual – $ 34.30
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