The Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island is one of our all-time favorite summer tours in The Canadian Rockies. For those of you who have never visited, the turquoise water of Maligne Lake is an iconic symbol of Jasper National Park. The opportunity to explore much of this 22km lake by boat is one that you don`t want to miss! Keep reading for everything you need to know about adding the Maligne Lake Cruise to your itinerary.
Getting There & Stops Along The Way
To get to Maligne Lake, you will be traveling 48km southeast of the town of Jasper on Maligne Lake Road. This is one of the most incredible drives in the province for several reasons. First of all, you have an extremely high chance of seeing wildlife. Bears, moose, elk, and deer frequent the area and are most commonly seen at dawn and dusk.
NOTE: Please do not get out of your vehicles or attempt to approach any wildlife. Giving them their space and admiring them from afar is the safest move for them, for you, and for future human encounters.
Secondly, the scenic mountain views around every corner are absolutely phenomenal! There are numerous spots to pull off and take in your surroundings, go for a walk, or have a picnic with a view. If you are looking for a relatively easy and rewarding hike, we would highly recommend stopping in at Maligne Canyon.
Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park and an awesome place to explore! The trail, accessible to hikers of all abilities, features five bridges built across different areas of the canyon. The waterfalls and winding river below reach a depth of more than 50 meters in certain areas. In total, this hike is 3.4km with 118m of elevation gain. It is paved the whole way and can get busy, so we recommend going early!
In the same parking lot, you will find Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Depending on what time you leave, this is a great place to stop in for a meal before or after your cruise. David and I always make a point of dining at the Wilderness Kitchen when we`re in Jasper. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.
A little further down the road, you will find Medicine Lake. Filled with water from Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake actually feed’s Maligne Canyon via an underground limestone cave system. Because of these subterranean springs, Medicine lake will simply “vanish” at certain times of the year! It is quite a phenomenon. The first parking area offers the best views of the lake and we would highly recommend walking along the shore if you have the time.
The Maligne Lake Cruise
The Maligne Lake Cruise by Pursuit is actually one of our favorite tours in all of the Canadian Rockies. There are a few reasons for that, but here’s the biggest:
They do an excellent job of keeping it quiet and secluded, despite how popular it is.
There are many tours that David and I will avoid or recommend trying on your own to ditch the crowds. This is not one of them! The small group sizes and spaced-out departure times ensure that you can enjoy the serenity of this magnificent area without it feeling busy or overcrowded.
Over this 1.5 hour tour, you will travel over halfway across Maligne Lake to one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada, Spirit Island. Tours start at 9 am daily and in our opinion, the earlier you can book, the better! Arriving early will typically give you the calmest water and the smallest crowds. It also significantly increases your chances of seeing wildlife. To book your tour in advance, click here.
After arriving at the lake, we grabbed a coffee from the gift shop and promptly boarded for our cruise. We were lucky enough to get the front seat, but you can enjoy the panoramic views from anywhere on the glass-enclosed boat. There were only about 25 people on our tour and there was plenty of space for everyone. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgeable, breaking the ice immediately and passing on a ton of valuable information for the duration of the journey.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was that as a passenger, you are free to move around as you please at any time. This includes the outdoor area on the back of the boat!
David and I spent a huge portion of the boat ride outside, taking in Maligne Lake and all of its glory. We really appreciated this because, as many of you know, being closer to nature and away from the crowd is very much our jam. The only time we were asked to come inside was when we docked the boat at Spirit Island.
Spirit Island, named by the Stoney Nation indigenous people for the experiences their ancestors had at this place centuries ago, is a tiny grove of trees and pristine nature separated from the mainland by an isthmus. Spirit Island becomes a true island for a few short days during the summer.-Pursuit Banff Jasper
The views from here are truly some of the most magical in all of Jasper. A short path from the dock brings you to numerous viewing areas from which you can admire Spirit Island and the serene mountain backdrop. The colour of the lake seems to get more and more incredible as the cruise goes on. The best part about our visit? We were the only boat there the entire time! It was quite possibly the most peaceful 15 minutes I have ever spent at a popular photo destination.
Things to do After Your Maligne Lake Cruise
Upon finishing your cruise, there are several options for what to do next. Moose Lake Loop and Marie Schäffer Loop are a few of the easy hikes in the area. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with incredible views, try Opal Hills Loop or Bald Hills.
If you`ve still got a desire to be out on the water, you can rent canoes from the Maligne Lake Boat House. They have a restaurant and gift shop near the dock if you are looking to grab a bite to eat! As I mentioned earlier, you could also stop into Maligne Canyon and The Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen for a hike and some lunch on your way back to Jasper.