Visitors Guide to Maligne Lake Jasper’s Most Popular Tourist Attraction

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Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Alberta Canada

Maligne Lake is the most popular tourist site in Jasper National Park. That’s partly why I avoided it on my first visit to Jasper! On my recent solo road trip to Jasper from Calgary I decided to spend a day along the Maligne Valley, and I visited Maligne Lake on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the Canadian Rockies. Maligne does get crowded with tourists but it’s a big lake (22 km) so you can easily find a space of your own to enjoy this magnificent lake in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta.

 

Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

 

Story of Maligne Lake

The Indigenous people of the Stoney tribe called the lake “Chaba Imne” which means Beaver Lake. When Mary Schäffer from Philadelphia, heard about the lake in 1907 she wanted to see it and she did visit in 1908 using a map drawn by a Stony man named Samson Beaver who visited the lake only once as a teenager. Mary Schäffer wrote about her travels to Jasper and visiting the lake, and this brought more travelers to the area.

 

Maligne Lake Rocky Mountain landscape

Maligne Lake Rocky Mountain landscape

 

Now there is a hiking trail named Mary Schäffer Trail at Maligne Lake. Samson Peak on the east side of Maligne Lake is named in honor of Samson Beaver and Leah Peak is named in honor of his wife.

 

Things to do Maligne Lake Jasper - signage

Hiking, boating, or enjoying dining with a beautiful view – there’s lots of things to do at Maligne Lake

 

Facts about Maligne Lake

  • Length: 22 km (14 miles)
  • Elevation: 1,690m (5,545 ft)
  • Average depth: 35 m (115 ft)
  • Maximum depth: 97 m (318 ft)
  • Shoreline: 45 km (28 miles)
  • Largest natural lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountain range
  • Coronet Glacier feeds to Maligne Lake
  • Hiking in summer and cross country skiing or snowshoeing are popular in winter
  • In valley carved by glaciers
  • The name Maligne Lake is from the French word for malignant or vicious – initially referring to the flow of the river and later the name applied to the canyon, lake, and valley.

 

Maligne boathouse and model of Maligne Lake

Maligne boathouse and model of Maligne Lake

 

Getting to Maligne Lake From Jasper

  • From downtown Jasper take Connaught Drive/AB-16A north for 2.5 km
  • Turn left onto Hwy AB-16 (signs for Edmonton) and drive 2 km
  • Turn right onto Maligne Lake Road and continue for 44 km (27 miles) to the Maligne Lake parking lot

The drive from downtown Jasper to Maligne Lake takes about 1 hour. But you may want to stop and hike at Maligne Canyon and enjoy the stunning beauty of Medicine Lake on the way there. Do all three and make it a perfect Jasper day trip!

 

Maligne Lake Cruise Jasper

Maligne Lake Cruise Jasper

 

Boating at Maligne Lake

You can rent a kayak or canoe at Maligne Lake. When I visited the lake, the sign read: Last boat out 3:00 pm and all boats back by 4:00 pm.

 

Kayaking at Maligne Lake Jasper Canada

Kayaking at Maligne Lake Jasper Canada

 

Spirit Island is a 28 km (17.4 miles) round trip and takes about 10 hours! But you can also do the Maligne Lake boat tour and enjoy the scenery without paddling.

It’s best to book the Maligne Lake cruise online in advance – check hours and rates here. I found out that sometimes the Maligne cruise is totally booked for the day – so best to have your reservation before visiting.

 

Maligne Lake paddling Jasper National Park

Maligne Lake paddling Jasper National Park

 

Boat rental rates are by the hour or full day rate. Your choices for paddling at Maligne Lake are canoe, single kayak, double kayak, or rowboat.

The canoes can seat up to 2 adults and 1 child (under age 6) and the rowboats seat up to 5 people. Rental rates vary from $75 to $200 – check at the boathouse for the latest boat rental rates.

 

Maligne Canyon boat rental rates

Maligne Canyon boat rental rates

 

Did you know that Spirit Island isn’t an island most of the time?

Spirit Island is only an island in spring when the snow melt leaves the water level higher at Maligne Lake. The rest of the time it’s a chunk of land connected by an isthmus.

 

 

Maligne Lake Boathouse with mountains in background

Maligne Lake Boathouse – rent kayaks, canoes, or paddle boats here

 

Maligne Lake Boathouse, built in 1928, by a local guide named Donald “Curly” Phillips. He built boats and stored them in the boathouse during winter.

 

Old boathouse at Maligne Lake

The boathouse at Maligne Lake was built in 1928

 

Hiking at Maligne Lake

You will find a few options for Maligne Lake hikes – easy and difficult. All hiking trail distances listed are for the full hike.

Easy hikes at Maligne Lake

  • Moose Lake Loop: 2.7 km
  • Mary Schäffer Loop: 3.2 km
  • Lorraine Lake and Mona Lake: 5.2 km

Difficult hikes at Maligne Lake

  • Opal Hills Loop: 8.2 km
  • Bald Hills: 10.4 km

Visit Parks Canada for more information on hiking trails at Maligne Lake and elsewhere.

 

Map of Mary Schäffer Loop trail Maligne Lake

Map of Mary Schäffer Loop trail Maligne Lake

 

Camping on Maligne Lake

There are three backcountry campgrounds at Maligne Lake:

Hidden Cove Campground – 4 km from boat dock. Hidden Cove is a four-site campground that is good for families and novice paddlers.

Fisherman’s Bay Campground – 13 km from boat dock the Fisherman’s Bay Campground is on the east side of Maligne Lake and only 2 km from the famous Spirit Island. Fisherman’s Bay is a good place for fishing at Maligne Lake.

 

Maligne Lake mountain range Jasper

Maligne Lake mountain range Jasper

 

Coronet Creek Campground – 21.3 km from the boat dock. The Coronet Creek Campground is the most serene because it is located beyond the boat tour destination of Spirit Island. Coronet campground is a great location for fishing on Maligne Lake.

Maligne Lake Camping Info

  • 2-night maximum stay at each campsite with maximum of 6 nights stay at the campgrounds
  • Book several months in advance if you want to camp in the summer months
  • Food storage lockers are provided at all campsites
  • Campground check-in and check-out time is 11 am

To reserve a campsite at Maligne Lake call 1 877-737-3783 (1-877-RESERVE) or visit the Parks Canada camping reservation webpage here.

 

Model of Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

Model of Maligne Lake Jasper National Park

 

Dining at Maligne Lake Jasper

Choose from four restaurants at Maligne Lake or bring your own picnic and sit by the lake.

The View restaurant is in the same building as the Maligne Lake Lodge and Gift Shop. The View features patio dining with lakefront views. Reservations recommended.

Summer hours: 11 am to 7 pm

 

Dining options at Maligne Lake include The View restaurant with patio seating lakefront views

Enjoy dining at one of 4 restaurants at Maligne Lake including The View restaurant with patio seating

 

The Waffle Hut is a great choice for breakfast or midday snack – featuring sweet or savory waffles, pastries, coffee and tea.

Summer hours: 8 am to 4 pm

 

Lakehouse Cafe offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and hot meals and a selection of pastries, coffee, tea, or beer.

Summer hours: 8:30 am to 6 pm

 

Historic Maligne Lake Chalet offers a lakeside luncheon menu from 11 am to 2 pm. Highly recommended to book in advance online.

Maligne Lake restaurant menus, hours, and reservations available here.

 

 

You can also enjoy your own picnic lunch at Maligne Lake on one of the wooden benches.

 

Lakeside bench at Maligne Lake Jasper is the perfect picnic spot

Lakeside bench at Maligne Lake Jasper is the perfect picnic spot

 

What should you bring to Maligne Lake?

  • Refillable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunhat
  • Shoes that can get wet if you go kayaking
  • Bug spray – the mosquitoes are hungry!
  • Camera
  • Wear layered clothing – weather changes rapidly in the mountains
  • Small backpack or day bag to put all your stuff in

 

Read more about visiting Jasper National Park with these related posts:

 

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Visitor Guide to Maligne Lake Jasper National Park Canada

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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