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When it comes to the best things to do in Jasper, few compare to a memorizing visit to Maligne Lake. Surrounded by stunning mountain peaks, Canadian pine trees, and glaciers, Maligne Lake is truly one of nature’s finest creations.
I’ve personally visited Maligne Lake three times now and try to do something different every time. And what I’ve come to realize is visiting once isn’t even enough. The reason?
Well, there are actually a ton of awesome things to do at Maligne Lake, and to do them all you’re going to need more time! However, I understand most people won’t visit more than once. Luckily though, you can hit some of the best highlights in one day.
To help you decide which activities to do, I’ll share with you the 8 best things to do at Maligne Lake. Some of these activities only take 20 minutes and others will have you hiking through the backcountry for up to four days!
Things to do at Maligne Lake, Jasper
1. Maligne Lake Cruise
The famous Maligne Lake Cruise is easily one of the highlights of Maligne Lake. The cruise is accessible to everyone, only takes 1.5 hours, and visits many of the highlights on the lake.
Expect to see a few glaciers, Spirit Island, and many more mountain peaks you can’t see from the car-accessible side of the lake.
By far the most impressive part of the cruise is visiting Spirit Island. This famous island is known as one of the most photographed places in Jasper National Park and after visiting for myself, I can see why – it’s really that stunning!
Our cruise began with around an hour’s journey out to Spirit Island. On this part of the cruise, we learned all about the lake, the mountain peaks around it, and spotted a few glaciers. Our guide on the cruise really knew his stuff and the commentary was interesting and entertaining.
Once we docked near Spirit Island we got off the boat and took a short walk up to a viewpoint of Spirit Island.
From this viewpoint, we could not only see Spirit Island but also the huge mountains around it. The view is one of the best I’ve seen! We spent around 15 minutes enjoying the views and taking photos from the dock before we boarded the cruise again and headed back.
On the cruise back we headed outside onto the back deck of the boat to enjoy the views again, but this time in the fresh air. We also learned about native traditions on Spirit Island and why it’s so important.
Overall, the Maligne Lake Cruise was a highlight of our Jasper trip and is a must-do at Maligne Lake!
You can prebook your Maligne Lake Cruise online in advance to secure your spot!
2. Mary Shaffer Loop
The best free way to enjoy the views of Maligne Lake is to take a relaxing walk along the Mary Shaffer Loop. The loop which starts from the car parking lot follows the edge of the lake to a viewpoint before turning inland and looping back around to where it started.
You can choose to either complete the full loop or hike to the viewpoint and turn around to walk along the lake again. Personally, I suggest the latter as the views on the edge of the lake really are the highlights of this trail.
Be sure to find the famous Jasper National Park red chairs. These are located all around the park with two located along the Mary Shaffer Loop. I got spooked by deer whilst sitting in one and thinking it was a moose at first, I got quite the freight!
The full Mary Shaffer Loop is just over 3 kilometers and takes around 45 minutes to complete. Along the way you can see deer and even moose if you’re lucky! Both times I’ve done the trail I’ve seen deer, however, moose never seem to show their faces! For that, you’d be better off hiking the next thing to do at Maligne Lake on this list!
Mary Shaffer Loop is also great for snowshoeing in the winter months! Since snowshoeing is one of the best things to do in Jasper in winter, rent some in town and then head out to Maligne Lake for a winter adventure. Maligne Lake is also much less busy during winter, but equally as beautiful!
Related Read: Thinking about visiting Jasper over the holiday season? Read our blog all about Jasper in December including all of the unique and seasonal things to do!
3. Moose Lake Loop
As the name suggests, Moose Lake Loop is both a great place to spot moose and enjoy a stunning hike. The trail is short at only 2.7 kilometers return and starts from the end of Maligne Lake Road.
From the car parking lot, you’ll begin by walking along the edge of the lake on the opposite side of Maligne Lake to the Mary Shaffer Loop. After a short while, you’ll turn inland and make your way towards Moose Lake. Along the way be sure to check out some of the stunning Alberta wildflowers, along the trail there are plenty!
Once you reach Moose Lake you need to keep quiet if you want any chance of spotting moose. Moose tend to scare easy and if they see or hear you it’s likely they’ll move on. Unfortunately, I never saw any and in my opinion, you’d need to leave early in the morning before others hike the trail to get a good chance at spotting one.
After visiting the lake the trail continues on until you reach a T-junction. Here, turn right and follow the trail until you meet an access road at which you’ll turn right again and head back towards the car parking lot.
Overall, the trail is super easy and with the chance to see a moose, it’s worth checking out!
Getting there: To reach the trailhead you’ll need to drive past the first Maligne Lake car parking and cross the bridge over the Maligne River. From here, follow the road around till you see the next car parking lot. The hike is signposted from here.
4. Canoe on Maligne Lake
Throughout the Canadian Rockies, you’ll find canoes paddling the breathtaking alpine lakes. It’s one of the most popular activities in Canada and a great way to enjoy any lake all while leaving as little of an environmental footprint behind as possible.
At Maligne Lake, it’s no different and on any summer day the lake is filled with canoes. Form the water you can paddle throughout the lake and enjoy unspoiled views of the mountains and surrounding glaciers.
Maligne Lake is actually 22 kilometers long so it is impossible to canoe the entire lake in a day. However, along Maligne Lake there are lots of backcountry campsites you can use to break up the journey and make an epic adventure out of your visit.
One of the most popular trips is to Spirit Island. To reach the island you’ll need to paddle over 14 kilometers so the most popular thing to do is to stay at the Fisherman’s Bay campground to break up the journey. It’s still a lot of paddling but is doable over the two days.
At Maligne Lake, you can either bring your own canoe or rent one from the docks along the lake. Canoe and kayak rentals start at $75 for an hour and are $200 for a day. If you rent for two days it is $400, however, longer rentals are discounted.
5. Waffle Hut
Yep, that’s right! Maligne Lake has its own Waffle Hut serving up amazing fresh waffles all with spectacular views. The Waffle Hut is a must-visit especially on those colder days when you’re looking for a warm place to relax and fuel up.
As you can imagine, the delicious waffles are best served with Canadian maple syrup and fresh Canadian berries. My recommendation is to get waffles with the maple vanilla syrup – it is to die for! They also serve savory waffles with things like egg, sausage, and even turkey just in case you don’t have a sweet tooth!
For coffee lovers, you can also enjoy cappuccinos, expressos, lattes, and a range of teas!
The waffles at the Waffle House cost around $9 CAD, however, if you want their fried chicken waffle it will cost $15. Overall, it’s great value for the quality of the ingredients and the spectacular views of Maligne Lake from the restaurant window!
6. Bald Hills Trail
If you want to enjoy one of the best views of Maligne Lake then Bald Hills Trail is a must. This 10-kilometer return trail takes you high above the valley only to stare down at Maligne Lake and the mountains around you.
The trail is very popular and is considered one of the best in the area. Although the trail follows the old fire road which isn’t that scenic, there is a short cut, that although much steeper, is much more spectacular.
To find the shortcut keep an eye out around 2 kilometers in for a sign. This indicates the hiking route. In wet weather or when hiking with children, it would be best to take the old fire road for safety reasons.
There are options to continue hiking further, but Bailey and I were satisfied with the views without hiking on. Although reasonably short, I’d allow 4 to 5 hours depending on your fitness level to complete the trail.
7. Skyline Trail
For those looking for the ultimate trail to conquer in Jasper National Park, the Skyline Trail is it. This 48 kilometer-long point to point trail either starts or ends at Maligne Lake and takes you high above the valley floor.
Along the trail, there are 6 different campsites to break your trip up over 2 to 4 days. The most common route involves spending 3 nights on the trail staying at Little Shovel, Tekkara, and the Signal campsite. Because of the popularity of the trail, you do need to book the campsites well in advance.
The recommended direction to hike the trail is from Maligne Lake to Maligne Canyon. In this direction, the trail is easier and also allows you to take in the views better. You will need two vehicles (one parked at either end) to complete the trail or there is a shuttle available that you can book in advance.
Unfortunately, Bailey and I didn’t have enough time to hike the trail. 2020 has been a crazy year so we are hoping to get out and explore the trail next summer. However, if you consider yourself a hiker and are heading to Maligne Lake then consider booking a trip on the Skyline trail.
8. Enjoy a Lakeside Coffee or Glass of Wine
Last but certainly not least on our list of things to do at Maligne Lake is to stop at The View restaurant. The View is Maligne Lakes only restaurant and with a stunning outdoor deck, it’s the perfect place to sit back and relax during your visit.
The restaurant serves amazing food and drinks ranging from AAA Alberta steak to Rainbow trout as well as a selection of wines.
As the name suggests, the outdoor deck really does have the best views of Lake Maligne, and for those wanting to recharge, it’s the perfect vantage point.
For the restaurant’s location and quality, I found the food to be well priced. Expect to pay around $35 CAD for a steak or $28 for a giant burger.
Personally, Bailey and I just stuck to a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunshine and breathtaking views. It really was the best way to finish our visit to Maligne Lake.
Renting a Car in Alberta
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 the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.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 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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
Maligne Lake really is one of the highlights of Jasper National Park and a must-visit on any trip. From the famous cruise to Spirit Island to the simple pleasures of waffles with Canadian maple syrup, there really is something for everyone at Maligne Lake.
Even after visiting more than once, I still can’t wait to visit again and tackle my last Maligne Lake bucket-list item, the Skyline Trail!
Thanks so much for reading our guide to the best things to do at Maligne Lake. If you found this blog helpful then be sure to check out our other Canada blogs or these related articles below!