Maligne Lake is the longest lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains at 22.5 km’s and the second largest glacier fed lake in the world. It’s home to Spirit Island, a picture perfect spot that’s featured on calendars around the world.
Maligne Lake Boat Tours operates from May to early October taking people on a scenic 90 minute trip to Spirit Island and back. During the summer months the tours are very busy. Each boat holds about 50 people and are usually quite full. The island is located 14km’s down the lake from where the boat launch is located. The only way to get there is by taking the boat tour or on your own with a kayak or canoe, but it would be a full day of paddling.
If you’re a keen photographer you’ll want to try and get a position on the small platform at the back of the boat, otherwise you will be trying to shoot through the windows and past other people unless you have a window seat.
The scenery along the lake is beautiful, but there’s some things to take note of. Spirit Island is actually a small peninsula of land that juts out into Maligne Lake. You don’t actually go on the island, but view it from the shoreline. There appeared to be some trails around the viewing area, it’s a shame you don’t get to explore them. By the time you get a few photos snapped you’re being called to the boat to start heading back. You only get about 15 minutes to spend admiring this beautiful spot.
The lake is surrounded by the Queen Elizabeth mountain range on one side and the Maligne range on the other.
Whether you decide to take the Maligne Boat Tour will depend on a couple of factors. Do you have enough time and does it fit into your budget? If you are doing a lot of other sightseeing and/or hiking in the mountains you don’t need to feel you’re missing out. There’s plenty of other places where you can see spectacular mountain and glacier waters such as Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
If your time is limited in Jasper you may want to make other areas your priority such as walking or hiking in Maligne Canyon and driving the Icefields Parkway. We would not recommend rushing out to Maligne Lake just to take the boat cruise and come back again. It’s an hour drive in each direction from town. Options for other lakes closer to town are Annette or Edith Lakes. It’s a short drive to the pretty setting of Pyramid Lake. It also has it’s own version of an island with a wooden boardwalk to access it.
If the drive to Maligne Lake and the boat cruise are of interest and you have the time then by all means take them in. Allow yourself time to leisurely drive Maligne Lake road stopping at places like Medicine Lake along the way.
We’ve driven the road several times, it can be a great area for spotting wildlife. On some occasions we’ve seen black bears and bighorn sheep. It can be hit or miss, other times we haven’t seen anything. The best chances to spot animals are around dawn. Consider planning an early morning drive and taking the first boat cruise of the day. For more information on this route and other things to do at the lake see our post on the scenic Maligne Lake Drive.
Maligne Lake Boat Tour Hours And Rates
- The boat tours usually start towards the end of May or early June depending on the weather conditions and when the lake thaws. They run into the first week of October.
- Boats leave on the hour from 10 am to 5pm from early July to early September. During the early and later part of the season the last boat of the day leaves at either 3pm or 4pm. See their site for the current schedule.
- Rates for adults are $65 and for children $33 (ages 4 and under are free)
- There’s a boat tour geared towards photographers with longer time at Spirit Island. The total cruise is 2.5 hours instead of 1.5 hours. A local professional photographer comes along to assist in getting photos. They run on selected days only from early July to mid-September. The cost is $145 per person.
Tips For The Maligne Lake Boat Tours
- The summer months, especially from late morning into the afternoon are going to be the busiest time. Advance reservations are recommended. You can try and wing it, but you may find yourself having to wait for an hour or two for the next available seating.
- There’s an office for the Maligne Lake Boat Tours in Jasper at 616 Patricia Street. Or call 780-852-3370, toll free 1-866-625-4463 or book online at Maligne Lake Cruises.
- The drive is just under 50 km’s from Jasper, it takes approximately an hour to reach Maligne Lake. For the return trip and taking in a pre-reserved boat cruise you would want to allow for a minimum of 4 hours. Longer if you want to make any sightseeing stops along the way, do any hiking or have a meal at the cafe at the lake.
- It’s best to know what the weather forecast is going to be before booking the boat tour. An overcast day is fine, but if there are low clouds and/or rain the visibility of the lake and mountains can be poor. The weather can be variable even in the summer months, anything from warm and sunny to cold temperatures or rain. Sudden storms can occur and occasionally snow.
- There’s a cafeteria offering snacks and food at the lake and washrooms.
- If you don’t have a vehicle you can do a search for one of the companies offering tours departing from Jasper. Or see if the Maligne Lake Shuttle is going to meet your needs. Maligne Lake Shuttle.
Directions To Maligne Lake
From the town of Jasper head north on Yellowhead Hwy 16 and watch for signs for Maligne Road where you will turn right and follow the road for approximately one hour until it ends at Maligne Lake.
Getting To Spirit Island On Your Own
The only other option for getting to Spirit Island is by kayak or canoe. Rentals are available through Curly’s boathouse located just a bit further down the shoreline from where the boat tours leave. From the boathouse to Spirit Island is approximately 14 km’s one way. It wouldn’t be something to take on unless you are a well experienced paddler. The lake is subject to strong winds and rough conditions. It can be accomplished in a day, but if you run into foul weather or rough conditions you may have to be prepared to wait along the shoreline hoping it passes. It can be anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to reach the island depending on the conditions. There is a campsite te at Fisherman’s Bay at the 13km mark just before Spirit Island and another at the 21.5km mark at Coronet Creek.