Maligne Lake Boat Tour | How To Get To Spirit Island, Jasper

Maligne Lake is the most photographed lake in Jasper National Park and an icon of the Canadian Rockies. While nearby Banff National Park is famous for its Lake Louise, Maligne Lake takes the top spot in Jasper. If you are planning a trip to Jasper National Park, you need to add the Maligne Lake boat tour to your list. Visiting this awe inspiring lake is a once in a lifetime experience that you don’t want to miss! 

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History Of Maligne Lake

“Lake Louise is a pearl, Lake Maligne is a whole string of pearls.”

As with most lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Maligne Lake was already widely known among the local Indigenous population, but Maligne Lake was officially put on the map by explorer Mary Schaffer. 

As with many lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Maligne Lake was already widely known among the local Indigenous population, but Maligne Lake was officially put on the map by explorer Mary Schaffer. 

In 1907 Mary Schaffer, along with her companions Billy Warren and Sid Unwin, set off on an expedition to find Maligne Lake, known as Chaba Imne by the local indigenous people. 

A year later the group found the lake with the help of a local Stoney man named Samson Beaver whose hand drawn map of the lake guided them to the shores of Maligne Lake.  Upon setting her eyes on the majestic shimmering blue lake, Mary Schaffer declared “Lake Louise is a pearl, Lake Maligne is a whole string of pearls” 

How To Get To Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake is located in Jasper National Park, which you can reach by driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff. The lake sits at the very end of Maligne Lake Road. 

This road is one of the most scenic in Jasper National Park and you will want to spend some time here during your trip. While Maligne Lake is the top attraction here, there are plenty of things to see along this stretch of road. See below for other things to do in this area.

From Jasper town drive 4.5 kilometre until you reach the turn off for Maligne Lake road on the right. You’ll then turn left and continue on this road for about 44 kilometres until you reach the parking lot for Maligne Lake which is clearly signposted. 

The Maligne Lake Boat House was built in 1928 by Donald "Curly" Philips.
The famous Maligne Lake Boat House was built in 1928 by Donald “Curly” Philips.

Related: 4 Days in Jasper – The Ultimate Jasper Itinerary For Adventurers!

Maligne Lake Cruise Tips & Things You Need To Know

  • Do I need to reserve tickets? Reservations are highly recommended during the height of summer when the lake is the busiest. You can book your tour through Pursuit.

  • Arrive Early – There is so much to do in the Maligne Lake area that you’ll want to arrive early to allow you time to explore the area. The drive along Maligne Lake Road is also 44km long so you’ll need time to drive this incredible road. 

  • When is the best time to visit Maligne Lake? Maligne Lake freezes over in the winter months (November to May) so the best time to visit is during the summer between June and September. The later in the summer you visit the bluer the lake will be. The best time to visit the Lake is early in the morning before the lake cruises start. The best time to take a Maligne Lake Cruise is early in the morning or late afternoon. 

  • What does the Maligne Lake Boat Cruise Cost? Maligne Lake cruise prices start from $72* per Adult and $46.80* per child for the standard cruise. The premium cruise starts from $104* per adult and $67.60* per child. *2022 Prices. 

  • What is the difference between the standard and premium cruises? The standard cruise is 1.5 hours long and includes a 15-minute stops at Spirit Island. The premium cruise is longer at 2 hours and includes a 30-minute stops at Spirit Island as well as a scenic photo stop in the lake at Pincushion Bay. There are only one premium cruises per day which departs at 5pm.

  • How much is a canoe rental? Kayaks, canoes and rowboat rentals are available from the Maligne Lake Boat House and can be rented by the hour or a full-day rental. Rentals are on a first come first served basis. 

  • Can I bring my own canoe? Yes you can bring your own boat to Maligne Lake as long as it is non-motorized.

  • Can you camp at Maligne Lake? There are several campsites along the shores of Maligne Lake that you can only access via Canoe. Reservations highly sought after and should be booked in advance. There is no camping at or near the Parking Lot.

  • Are there hiking trails are Maligne Lake? There are many hiking trails in the Maligne Lake area ranging from easy walks to uphill grinds. Some of the nearby hikes include the Mary Schaffer Loop, Moose Lake Loop and the Bald Hills Trail.

  • Are there washrooms? There are no washrooms on board the Maligne Lake cruise boats but there are washroom facilities inside the Gift Shop. There are also a washroom at Spirit Island. 

  • Are there food and drink options? There are three dining options at Maligne Lake, the Waffle House, Lakehouse Café and The View restaurant. 

  • There is no cell signal at Maligne Lake – There is no cell signal along most of Maligne Lake Road and the Lake itself however you may get a weak connection at the Visitor Centre.

  • And Lastly… Leave No Trace – Let’s do our part to help kelp this beautiful place pristine. The great thing about the drive to Maligne Lake is that the road is full of pit stops that have trash cans.. so if the trash bins are full or overflowing at the Maligne Lake parking lot, you can hang onto your trash and dispose of it 5-minutes down the road!

Related: Lake Agnes Tea House Hike – A Must Do In Lake Louise

Maligne Lake Boat Tour

Maligne Lake is not only one of the top places to visit Jasper, it’s one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies. At 22.5 kilometres long, Maligne Lake is one of the longest lakes in the Canadian Rockies and the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. 

The Maligne Lake boat tour is a great way to experience Maligne Lake & Spirit Island. It’s a great option for families or those with no canoeing experience who only have a few hours to experience the lake. 

You’ll want to arrive early for your boat cruise. There are many things to see and do along the Maligne Lake Road that you may want to stop and see either before or after your boat tour. 

If you have already purchased tickets ahead of time you should have your e-tickets ready to be scanned. Since there is no Wifi in the area, I would recommend downloading these onto your phone prior. 

The boat tour departs from the north side of the lake just to the right of the Maligne Lake Boat House. You will want to snag a window seat for this tour – the views are out of this world! The lake opens up as you depart the docks and then draws in again as you approach  Samson Narrows.  

If you are lucky you may even see Moose along the shores of Maligne Lake, when our evening tour departed there was a Moose way off in the distance snacking on the lakes vegetation. 

During the tour our guides explained about the origins of Maligne Lake and the journey of Mary Schaffer. Throughout the duration of the tour you’ll be allowed to stand out at the back of the boat to really experience these breathtaking views. 

Your tour boat will frequently stop, allowing you to get those picture perfect photographs. If you are taking the premium tour, the boat stops at Pincushion Bay and will slowly turn to give you fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Samson, Mount Warren and Mount Unwin. 

Hall of the gods at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park.
The boat dock at Spirit Island looks out onto the Hall of the Gods.

Stop at Spirit Island

The part of the cruise that I was most excited for, is the stop at Spirit Island. Spirit Island may be one of the most visited places in the Canadian Rockies, but oh my is it a magical place! Seeing this view in person is truly a bucket list moment. 

Even with the motorized boats on the lake, the tour is organized in such a way that when you arrive at Spirit Island, the experience is still so serene. 

There is a short boardwalk which wraps around the shoreline with a lookout view that perfectly frames Spirit Island. This is a great photo spot to capture Spirit Island. 

Spirit Island sits in a box canyon that Mary Schaffer referred to as the “Hall of the Gods” because of its sheer beauty. This iconic Canadian Rockies landmark gained popularity after a photograph by Peter Gales was hung in New York’s Grand Central Station for Kodak’s Colorama Showcase in September of 1960. Since then Spirit Island has existed in the minds of adventurers everywhere. 

Walking onto Spirit Island is prohibited as it is a sacred place for the local Stoney Nakoda people. They believe the mountains are physical representations of their ancestors. 

According to First Nation mythology, Spirit Island was the meeting place of two young lovers from opposing tribes. The young girl confessed of her love to her father, the Chief, who banned her from ever returning to Spirit Island. The boy continued to return to the island in the hopes of seeing her again. He eventually died on the island where his spirit is said to wander for eternity. 

Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park is one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies.
The jaw-dropping views at Spirit Island

Related: Big Beehive Hike – Discover This Stunning Viewpoint Above Lake Louise

How To Get To Spirit Island

Spirit Island is tucked away in a small cove on Maligne Lake and is only accessible by boat. There are a couple of options for getting to Spirit Island. The first involves renting a canoe and rowing 14km up the lake, and the other is a boat tour. 

During my time in Jasper National Park I opted for the boat tour as I was short on time. However, if you do have a while to spend in Jasper I would absolutely recommend trying the canoe route. This option has many benefits over the guided boat tour. Not only are you not confined to a certain time, you can spend as long as you like at Spirit Island – you can even paddle there for sunset or sunrise. 

Other Activities Near Maligne Lake

What else is there to do in the area? 

Take advantage of your time in this incredible area. The drive along Maligne Lake Road is not a short one and there are many things to see and do here. 

If you have time after your cruise, take the hike through Moose Meadows, an easy walking loop that leads to a swampy meadow where local Moose come to hang out. I didn’t see any Moose at Moose Lake but when I returned to Maligne Lake after the walk there was a Cow Moose hanging out right in front of the Maligne Lake Boat House – she was huge!

Maligne Lake Road is one of the best places to spot wildlife in Jasper and therefore it’s important to drive slow, you are more likely to spot roaming Elk, Black Bears and Moose this way! Remember to keep your distance from all wildlife during your time here. 

Medicine Lake is another amazing stop situated about halfway down Maligne Lake Road and is a great spot to watch the sunset. 

Maligne Lake Road is full of scenic spots. Medicine Lake is a great place to watch the sunset.
Sunset at Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park

Related: Visiting The Columbia Icefields & Athabasca Glacier Tour

Where To Stay In Jasper

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – Relax in the quiet tranquility that is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This iconic Jasper hotel is one of the closest to Maligne Lake and is located just outside of Jasper town. The hotel sits on the shores on Lake Beauvert which is perfect for canoeing in the summer and offers an onsite spa and golf course.

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  1. Wow! This is incredible! Love the lake and the island. What picturesque views. Saving for a future trip!!

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