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5 BEST Maligne Lake Tours in Jasper +Our Favorite Tour and Review!

5 BEST Maligne Lake Tours in Jasper +Our Favorite Tour and Review!

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If you need help choosing the best tour of Maligne Lake in Jasper, then you’ve come to the right place!

Growing up in Edmonton, my family would make a point to visit Maligne Lake whenever we could. It’s one of those places that’s so beautiful that you only need to see it once to remember it forever.

Of course, the best way to experience Maligne Lake is on a guided tour. Taking a tour of Maligne Lake (including a cruise right on the lake!) is the best way to see hard-to-reach places like Spirit Island or spot some local wildlife.

But let’s be honest, not all tours are as good as the next, and if you are going to book a tour, then you need to be sure it’s the best possible one! That’s why we’ve done the work for you in this blog. Having gone many times, we have put together the best tours of Maligne Lake that hit all the highlights and will leave you wowed!

What is Our FAVORITE Maligne Lake Tour?

Bailey sits on a dock at Spirit Island, Canada
At the Spirit Island dock on Maligne Lake
A boat travels to Spirit Island on a cruise from Maligne Lake, Jasper
The Maligne Lake cruise boat

Let’s start off strong with our favorite way to visit this incredible lake. Besides being voted the best boat cruise in Canada (we can vouch for this), the Maligne Lake Cruise is the top tour of Maligne Lake. It’s the most convenient way to get out on the water and experience the magic of Maligne Lake. This out-and-back cruise takes 1.5 hours with 15 minutes spent docked near the famous Spirit Island for sightseeing and taking pictures.

Since Spirit Island is only accessible by boat, this is the easiest way to see it. That is unless you fancy a 4-hour paddle in each direction to get there yourself (my arms hurt just thinking about it!). It’s important to note that the cruise to Spirit Island only operates from the beginning of June through mid-October. Be sure to plan your trip accordingly if you want to take the cruise!  

While the lake is 22.5 km long (14 mi), the cruise doesn’t go along its entirety, but to Spirit Island and back. It’s a great way to learn about the lake since the cruise includes an educated guide with commentary. I’ll be honest, I’m a local and have been coming here for years, but there is so much I didn’t know about until I went on this! Fun fact, the color of the water changes as you sail south because more rock flour that comes off of the glaciers is located there – pretty neat!

Best Maligne Lake Tours

Are you ready to experience the beauty of Jasper? These are our favorite tours that take you to Maligne Lake and beyond!

1. Jasper National Park Tour: Maligne Valley, Medicine Lake, and Spirit Island (Best Combo Tour)

Bailey poses for a photo at Maligne Lake looking over at Spirit Island
Spirit Island is such a beautiful place.
A bridge in Maligne Canyon over a waterfall during summer in Jasper
Maligne Canyon!

To see the best Jasper has to offer without the hassle of driving this 6-hour Jasper National Park tour is one of the best you’ll find. 

There are two options for this tour, one includes the cruise to Spirit Island and the other includes a hike around the Mary Schӓffer loop. Regardless of what you choose, your day kicks off at 8:30 am. There is lots of wildlife to see along the way so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready!

We spent the morning at Maligne Canyon, a stunning geological formation that took our breath away. We were off to a strong start already! There is a great little hike here that goes over the 50-meter (165-foot) limestone gorge for great views of the waterfalls below. The second part of the day involves a scenic drive through the mountains and spotting wildlife on the way to Maligne Lake. This drive is spectacular, and I never get tired of it! 

With a quick stop to admire Medicine Lake, it’s now time for the main attraction, Maligne Lake! We had 3 hours here with time to do either the hike or cruise and a bit of extra time to explore the area. Lunch is not provided, so we grabbed waffles with vanilla maple syrup from the Waffle Hut – so good!

If you think this day sounds like fun, it is! But this Jasper National Park tour is only offered from June through mid-October so plan accordingly. Tickets that include the cruise are $154 CAD per person, and if you want to hike instead of taking a cruise, they’ll cost you $75 CAD each.

2. 5.5-Hour Jasper Wildlife and Waterfalls Tour with Maligne Lake Cruise (Best Tour for Spotting Wildlife)

A grizzly beear on the side of the road in Jasper National Park
We saw a grizzly bear!
A waterfall rushes through Maligne Canyon in summer in Jasper
Maligne Canyon is so cool!

If part of the reason you’re taking a trip to Maligne Lake is to see some wildlife, we think this Maligne Lake wildlife tour is the best choice. With round-trip transportation from Jasper, your guide will make plenty of stops for up-close encounters with the animals of the area as you explore the Canadian Rockies.

The mini-bus you take is comfortable and ideal for making moment’s notice stops on the side of the road to see wildlife. Your guide is an expert in finding various animals along the way and a good portion of your day will be spent doing just this. As an animal lover, I appreciate that this tour delivers!

The 48-kilometer (30-mile) stretch of road between Jasper and Maligne Lake is stunning. Weaving in and out of the mountains, it’s on this road where we always see lots of animals since they aren’t shy about crossing the road whenever they want! On your way, you’ll make quick stops at both Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake for pictures and to learn about their formation before you reach Maligne Lake.

Reaching Maligne Lake you’ll embark on its famous cruise to Spirit Island, the cherry on top of a perfect day, if you ask me! The Maligne Lake wildlife tour is my number-one pick for those who want to see the beauty of Maligne Lake, but spend the majority of their time spotting the various animals of the Canadian Rockies! Offered from June through mid-October, tickets for this experience are $175 CAD.

Related Read: Jasper is a great place year-round, but our list of things to do in Jasper during the summer has 20+ ideas from whitewater rafting to visiting hot springs.

3. Maligne Lake Cruise (Best Tour if You have a Car)

A person canoes around Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Canada
Seeing Spirit Island is a highlight!
A glacier in the mountains around Maligne Lake
You get to see glaciers on the cruise!

For those of you who don’t mind driving and are only interested in the Maligne Lake Cruise, this is the classic tour that offers the famous boat ride to Spirit Island. For a full rundown of the experience, check out our review of the Maligne Lake Cruise. But trust us, you’re in for epic views, a visit to the magical Spirit Island, and a chance to see glaciers!

From Jasper, Maligne Lake is about an hour away. If you’re on the way you might as well stop at both Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake to take in their beauty and spot some wildlife before you continue on!

Depending on when you visit parking can be an issue, like a big one. June and September are overall less busy for Jasper, but it can still get crowded. The earlier you can get to the lake the better because we’ve found that parking is almost nonexistent after 10 am. A great resource we use before we leave is JasperNow which has live updates on the parking capacity throughout Jasper Park.

The Spirit Island Cruise runs from June to mid-October with the earliest departure leaving at 9 am and the last anywhere from 3:45 pm to 6 pm depending on the time of sunset. We have found that the earlier cruises are better because there aren’t as many people and it’s better for calm winds and stunning reflections on the water. Plus then there’s tons of time after to do other great things around the lake! Nothing tops having a good cup of coffee from The View in one of the prettiest places in the world. 

Prices for the cruise are $90 CAD per person.

4. Jasper Wildlife and Waterfalls Tour with Maligne Lake Hike (Best Tour for Active Travelers)

Big horn sheep walk along the road on the way to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park
Big horn sheep on the way to Maligne Lake!

This Maligne Lake wildlife and waterfalls tour is a hiking, history, and wildlife-focused experience for the nature lover in all of us. It’s cheaper than other options on our list since it doesn’t include the Spirit Island Cruise, but instead a guided nature hike by the lake.

I’d suggest bringing some good walking shoes and a windbreaker because a good portion of your day will be spent outside! If you’re staying in Jasper round-trip transportation is offered from hotels in the area.

Bailey looks over Maligne Canyon from the start of the trail near the parking lot
Hiking Maligne Canyon

For the first part of your day, you’ll spend about 30 minutes at both Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake. Fun fact, we learned that Medicine Lake actually “disappears” every year for several months because of an underground cave system that the water drains into. It’s only in the spring and summer that there is enough rain and glacier melt off that the lake fills. In 1950, some locals tried to plug it by throwing mattresses into the lake, but you can guess how that went.

Hiking at Maligne Lake is a blast, and since most people usually go only for the cruise, the trails aren’t super busy. Our guide took us on a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) nature walk to spot animals like moose, elk, eagles, and maybe even a bear. While enjoying the wildlife here is usually perfectly safe always listen to your guide closely and never get too close to anything. Trust me, you don’t want a bull moose chasing you down!

Only offered from May through mid-October this fantastic Maligne Lake wildlife tour is a great deal at $96 CAD per person. 

Related Read: If you’re interested in visiting Lake Louise as well, we’ve laid out all the best stops between Jasper and Lake Louise for you!

5. Explore Jasper Tour (Best Sightseeing Tour of Jasper)

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

If you want to see all of the sights near Jasper in one convenient trip, this Explore Jasper tour is the best option out there. It is important to note that this tour doesn’t include the Maligne Lake Cruise, so if you want to experience that I recommend this tour instead.

This small group tour offers hotel transfer for a seamless experience. The guides are funny, knowledgeable, and willing to pull over to take pictures of wildlife anytime something is spotted. We love the 5-star service! Depending on how often you stop to see wildlife, this tour ends up being around 7 hours.

Deep cliffs and rushing water in Maligne Canyon in summer
Maligne Canyon is a sight to behold!

Each stop you make at Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake is roughly 30 minutes which is just enough time to take in their beauty and get some great pictures. This is a big plus if you don’t want to be on your feet for too long! If you’re someone who is easily bothered by the elements, I suggest bringing a light jacket to be more comfortable when exploring these areas – the weather can change rapidly!

After sightseeing at both of the lakes and stopping plenty to observe wildlife up close we had a delicious buffet lunch at Maligne Canyon. Enjoying some good food in nature is always the best way to end your day! This experience costs $164 CAD and is available from May through October.

Why Visit Maligne Lake?

Bailey walks the pathway along the shores of Maligne Lake looking out at Spirit Island
Spirit Island
Bailey walks the dock at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Canada
Just look at the mountains!

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.

When Mary Schӓffer Warren (the first non-Indigenous person to explore this lake) first laid eyes on Maligne Lake in 1908 she proclaimed, “If Lake Louise is a pearl; Lake Maligne is a whole string of pearls.” Now, I love Lake Louise, so that is quite a bold claim, but I have to agree that Maligne Lake is about as magnificent of a lake as they come. Pictures don’t do justice to the scope of how epic this place really is!

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

Surrounded by massive mountains and glaciers, the azure-blue Maligne Lake is the highlight of any visit to Jasper. The Spirit Island Cruise takes you to see one of the most beautiful and photographed places in Canada if not the entire world, but that’s not all there is to see here. It’s not at all uncommon to spot animals like bears, moose, elk, and eagles along the shore. You’ll be hard-pressed to find nature like this anywhere else in the world, so if you find yourself even remotely close I’m begging you, make the trip!

The cruise to Spirit Island is famous not only for its beauty but also because of the significance of the island. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation believes the mountains surrounding the small island are physical representations of their ancestors. An island surrounded by mountains like this is a natural rarity even for the Canadian Rockies. The Stoney Nakoda people still use it for ceremonies, and even though visitors aren’t allowed to set foot on it, I think knowing what it represents makes it all the more incredible.   

Is a Tour to Maligne Lake Worth it?

A lady looks over at Spirit island from the viewpoint visited on the maligne Lake cruise
What a view!

Yes! It’s the easiest way to get to Maligne Lake from Jasper.

Even after your tour is over, there is plenty to do at Maligne Lake. We love to get active, so hiking the Mary Schӓffer loop is a favorite, but there are tons of other hikes and places to eat as well. Why not enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at The View once you’re finished with your Maligne Lake Cruise? Alberta is famous for its steak, and this is a great place to try it. I doubt you’ll have a meal with a better view anywhere else.

While Maligne Lake is easily the highlight of Jasper, it would be a crime to say that the areas surrounding it aren’t magnificent as well. You might even like some of them more! The tours we recommend make a trip to Jasper the experience of a lifetime. All include expert guides and bring you to not only Maligne Lake but some of our other favorite places in the park as well. 

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 and costs $129 CAD per person. For something a little calmer and family-friendly but just as highly rated, choose this scenic rafting experience for only $89 CAD each.
  • 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. For an extra special treat, spend the night lakeside at the Pyramid Lake Resort.

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. You can check availability and book on Booking.com.

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. You can check prices and availability on Booking.com.

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.

Thanks for reading!

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

Maligne Lake is without a doubt one of the top places to explore in Jasper National Park, so we think it’s worth taking a tour to make sure you don’t miss anything! Whether you want to visit Spirit Island or spot wildlife, there’s a tour that’s a perfect fit for everyone.

Thanks for reading our guide to Maligne Lake tours! If this article was helpful, be sure to check out more of our blogs about Jasper or click on one of the related blogs below.

Our Favorite 33 Activities in Jasper +Places to Eat!

8 BEST Athabasca Glacier Tours to See the Columbia Icefield

Lake Minnewanka Cruise Review – Is it worth it?