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How to Get from Jasper to Maligne Lake

How to Get from Jasper to Maligne Lake

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Visiting Maligne Lake is one of the best and most popular things to do in Jasper, and it’s easy to see why. With bright blue water, a scenic mountain backdrop, and the iconic Spirit Island sitting in the middle, this place is almost too beautiful to be real. But since Maligne Lake is about an hour outside of Jasper town, you may be wondering how to get there. 

I grew up in the Rockies and live about 3 hours away from Jasper, so I’ve been to this lake more times than I can count, both with tours and by myself. So keep reading to get the lowdown on how to get here!

About Maligne Lake

Bailey walks the pathway along the shores of Maligne Lake looking out at Spirit Island
Most people come to see Spirit Island!
A boat travels to Spirit Island on a cruise from Maligne Lake, Jasper
The Maligne Lake cruise boat

Maligne Lake perfectly encapsulates everything incredible about the Canadian Rockies. Jasper National Park has lots of jaw-dropping beauty, but this is as good as it gets. It’s famous for its sky-blue color, as well as for being the home to Spirit Island, one of the most photographed destinations in the world. Even if you haven’t heard of Spirit Island, you’ll probably recognize it from a screensaver, calendar, or postcard.

The lake is surrounded by giant mountains and glaciers, and during the summer, elk, bears, wolves, and moose can often be spotted close by. I’ve never been lucky enough to spot a moose at Maligne Lake – guess I’ll just have to go back!

The best way to see the lake once you arrive is aboard the Maligne Lake Cruise! I wrote a review on the cruise here, but spoiler alert – it’s gorgeous.

The 2 Best Ways to Get from Jasper to Maligne Lake

The stunning road to Maligne Lake with the mountains in the distance
The drive to Maligne Lake is spectacular!

Tours 

Maligne Lake is one of the most famous places to visit in the Rockies, so there are plenty of tours here from Jasper. We’ve done lots of guided tours to Moraine Lake and what we like about them is that they take the stress out of your visit. Plus, most include the cruise to see Spirit Island, and many tours, such as this half-day Jasper tour, take you to other beautiful places like Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake. 

The Maligne Lake cruise is a seasonal activity, so tours from Jasper generally run from June to October.

Driving (rental car) 

Renting a car in Alberta gives you so much freedom, and if you’re here for a while, it can prove cheaper than taking tours. The drive from Jasper to Maligne Lake only takes about an hour, so it’s not too long. We also love making a road trip out of it and including some fun stops along the way, but we’ll talk more about those later on. If you do need a rental car, we’ve used Discover Cars and been happy with them.

Tours to Maligne Lake from Jasper

Half-day tour to Maligne Lake with Cruise or Hiking Add-on

Bailey sits on a dock at Spirit Island, Canada
At the Spirit Island dock on Maligne Lake
A glacier in the mountains around Maligne Lake
There are some cool glaciers you can see on the tour too!

This half-day tour in Jasper makes getting to Maligne Lake super easy because you’ll be picked up right from your hotel, and taken to the first stop of the day: Maligne Canyon. We consider this a must-visit spot, and the guide, Yvonne, was really skilled at pointing out wildlife here.

After that, it’s onto Maligne Lake. Here, you get the option to choose between a guided hike or a boat cruise to Spirit Island. We went for the latter and, as much as we love hiking, we recommend that you do the same. Spirit Island is one of the most stunning places we’ve ever seen, so you really can’t miss it. We also found the stop at Medicine Lake super interesting! 

As well as making it easy to get to Maligne Lake, this tour is a fantastic way to discover the history of Jasper and the Indigenous communities who have lived here for thousands of years. We learned loads on the cruise and the guides have even more knowledge to share! 

The tour costs $165 CAD including the boat cruise or $80 CAD for the hike. Either option makes it the cheapest tour on our list, so it’s great for budget travelers! It leaves Jasper at 8:30 am and lasts for 6 hours, so you’ll tick off some famous sights and still have the afternoon to enjoy in town. And when you book through Viator, you also get the benefit of free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance! 

Jasper Wildlife and Waterfalls Tour with Maligne Lake Cruise

Big horn sheep walk along the road on the way to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park
There are so many animals to see on the way!

This tour to Maligne Lake is one for the wildlife lovers. The guide, Jake, is super passionate about wildlife and goes above and beyond to help you spot creatures including eagles, elk, bighorn sheep, and even bears, if you’re lucky. We’ve actually seen a few bears at Maligne Lake! 

You get around half an hour at Maligne Canyon, which is enough time to enjoy a short guided hike along the most beautiful section including the cascading waterfall. There’s also a photo stop at Medicine Lake, so remember your camera because the dramatic scenery is a photographer’s dream. 

Of course, for us, the highlight of the tour is the 90-minute Maligne Lake Cruise, which is a truly breathtaking experience. We also love the fact that the tour allows some time to hang out by the lake afterward, so you can either bring a packed lunch or do what we did and pick up a grab-and-go lunch from the Lake House Cafe. Eating outside with a view of the lake made for the perfect combo. 

This tour costs $175 CAD, including all activities and transportation. It lasts for around 6 hours and we like that it gives you a bit more flexibility with your itinerary, as you can choose to go at 9:30 am or 12 pm. 

Full-day Jasper Sightseeing Tour with Maligne Lake Cruise 

Bailey walks the dock at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Canada
Just look at the mountains!
Steep cliffs and blue water of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park
The water of Maligne Canyon is so blue

This full-day tour is a fantastic way to not only visit Maligne Lake, but to explore Jasper National Park if you only have a couple days here. One thing we like about this particular tour is that there’s time to sightsee around Jasper town and a full hour to explore Maligne Canyon, which is longer than usual, so you’re able to explore in much more depth. 

As well as a stop at Medicine Lake and the epic Maligne Lake cruise, a hot lunch is included on this tour. We thought that this was a really nice touch because it can get pretty chilly out on the lake, although fortunately, it’s nice and warm inside the boat. 

We think that this tour is ideal for anyone who’s short on time in Jasper National Park, because it also includes a tour of the Jasper townsite, so it’s a good way to learn a little more about the downtown area. We also appreciated the fact that the guide, Brad, was so full of fantastic suggestions on where to eat, drink, and hike in Jasper, and even what to do if you find yourself face-to-face with a bear! 

The tour costs $239 CAD, so it’s a little more expensive than the other two we’ve mentioned, but this is because it includes hot lunch and a city tour, making it a full-day experience.

Related Read: For more personalized recommendations, check out our 10 favorite Jasper tours!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Driving (rental car)

The Boathouse at Maligne Lake, Canada
The Boathouse at Maligne Lake!

The drive from Jasper to Maligne Lake is very scenic, with beautiful stops along the way. It only takes about an hour, and we find that it’s a very easy drive. There’s a big parking lot at Maligne Lake but it does get full, so it’s best to leave early and take the first cruise of the day, which is at 9 am. 

Speaking of the cruise, make sure to book it in advance if you want to see Spirit Island (which you definitely should!) because it’s very popular and demand is high. We recommend the morning cruise times for the best reflections on the water and to avoid the peak crowds.

Best stops between Jasper and Maligne Lake

A bridge over Maligne Canyon during summer in jasper
Maligne Canyon is such a cool spot to visit!

Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon is a stunning river canyon that’s a testament to the fierce power of the Maligne River. Its rugged rock formations and gushing waterfalls have earned it a reputation as one of Jasper National Park’s top natural wonders. There’s a network of six bridges crossing the canyon, but we think that the sections between bridges 1-4 are the most beautiful, and the return walk only takes an hour, max. 

The canyon is only a 10-15 minute drive from Jasper, and you can park next to the first bridge. There’s also parking next to the fifth bridge and this lot tends to be quieter, so we usually park here and walk for an extra 15 minutes each way if we’re visiting during the middle of summer.

Medicine Lake

Another 15-20 minutes from Maligne Canyon, you’ll come to Medicine Lake. This is a calm lake surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks, so it’s a scenic spot. But the reason that this lake is so famous is that a lot of the water disappears during the summer months because it drains into underground sinkholes, which is a pretty rare phenomenon. 

We usually only spend around 15 minutes at Medicine Lake, so it’s a nice quick stop on the way to, or back from, Maligne Lake. There are only a few parking spaces here so it’s a good idea to go early before the tours arrive. 

What is our recommended option?

View of the dock on Maligne Lake at Spirit Island
Looking at the Spirit Island dock from the cruise

Not to be wishy-washy, but honestly, both are good options! It just depends on what works for you. 

The tours we picked (and have gone on ourselves!) are all highly rated and visit several of Jasper’s scenic highlights without the need to drive. We’d say a tour is great if you’re short on time or just don’t want the hassle of planning everything yourself. Taking a tour is also a good choice if you don’t want to drive. 

On the other hand, although driving does require a small amount of effort, we think it’s a lot of fun! You can’t beat the freedom of a rental car, and the drive from Jasper is pretty easy, with excellent stops along the way. We love being able to set our own schedule when we drive ourselves, especially as it allows us more time to enjoy some of the best things to do at Maligne Lake, like hiking and enjoying the views from the scenic lakeside patio. 

Related Read: If you are driving, check out our ideas for the best Alberta road trips! One of our favorite routes is the drive from Jasper to Banff.

Other Activities to do While You’re in Jasper

Bailey smiles while white water rafting in Jasper National Park, Canada
Rafting in Jasper is so much fun!
the ice explorer athabasca glacier bus drives on the glacier with a mountain backdrop
This bus actually drives you onto the glacier!

Jasper National Park is just filled with fun things to do and see! So besides visiting Maligne Lake, there are a few other activities that we recommend that you check off your to-do list. They are:

  • Whitewater rafting – Jasper is one of the best places in Alberta to go whitewater rafting with a few different rivers nearby. For an adrenaline-filled rafting experience complete with class 3 rapids, opt for this rafting tour. It has nearly all 5-star reviews. For something a little calmer and family-friendly but just as highly rated, choose this scenic rafting experience.
  • Take the Jasper SkyTram – For the best views from the peak of Whistlers Mountain, the SkyTram is a must. It’s a large gondola that takes you to a huge viewing platform with an area to explore at the top including a restaurant and gift shop. Tickets to the Jasper SkyTram are available here.
  • Visit Pyramid LakePyramid Lake is a calm lake that offers reflections of the surrounding mountains including the symmetrical Pyramid Mountain. In the summer you can swim, hike, canoe, and SUP on the lake. In winter, go ice skating or ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

Where to Stay in Jasper to Visit Maligne Lake

The spa at the Whistler Inn in jasper
What a view! This photo is taken from the gorgeous Whistlers Inn.

When compared to Banff, there actually aren’t that many hotels to choose from in Jasper. That’s right, accommodation in Jasper is limited, and therefore it’s important to book your stay as far in advance as possible!

Here, I’ve handpicked some of my personal favorite hotels in Jasper suitable for any type of traveler with any type of budget!

Pyramid Lake Resort – $$$

Pyramid Lake Resort is beautiful, and it is set in an even more beautiful location! Pyramid Lake is the perfect place for hiking, swimming, kayaking, or even skating in the winter. Located about 6 km (3.7 miles) outside of Jasper town center, Pyramid Lake Resort doesn’t cut any corners and it’s a highly-rated hotel. It’s also a popular place to stay for those visiting Jasper on a honeymoon!

Rooms start around $188 CAD and can reach $550-$600 CAD during the peak summer months. Check availability and book online here.

Whistlers Inn – $$

Whistlers Inn is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for a nice escape right in town and only a short walk from popular bars, attractions, and restaurants in Jasper. They also have a rooftop hot tub (pictured above) – need I say more? Prices range from around $150 CAD to $430 CAD. Reserve a room here!

Jasper Downtown Hostel – $

Jasper Downtown Hostel is the best place to stay for those on a tight budget. The central location, shared facilities, and friendly atmosphere make it a great place to stay. They offer budget dorm beds for around $41 CAD, as well as affordable private rooms starting at $117 CAD. You can book Jasper Downtown Hostel on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

For more detailed info on the best hotels and areas to stay in Jasper, read our blog!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Maligne Lake, Canada
Thanks for reading!

Well, now you (hopefully!) have a plan on how to get from Jasper to Maligne Lake. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the province, so no matter if you drive or take a tour, be ready to take a TON of pictures!

If this blog was helpful, have a look at more of our blogs about Jasper. Consider us your personal tour guides to explore the Rockies! Here are a few popular blogs I think you might like:

22 FUN Things to do in Jasper in Summer

Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Review – Is it Worth it?

8 BEST Alberta Road Trip Itineraries (From 1 Day to 14 Days)