Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park


Maligne Lake is one of the sparkling jewels of the Canadian Rockies, and one of the most popular destinations in Jasper National Park.  The Lake is sandwiched in between two mountain ranges (one of which separates Maligne Lake from the Icefields Parkway to the west), and stretches out for 22 kilometers (14 miles).

The road from Jasper ends at the lake’s outlet, at its northern end.  From here, the best way to see the lake is aboard a scenic boat trip.  Sightseeing tours leave the marina at Maligne Lake’s north end throughout the day, and head south to the often-photographed Spirit Island.  In 2007, Reader’s Digest called the Maligne Lake cruise the best boat tour in Canada.

But unfortunately, I’m cheap, and the $55 (CAD) boat tour was out of my price range, especially since I had pried open my wallet earlier in the day for a rafting trip on the Athabasca.

Perhaps the second-best way to enjoy Maligne Lake is to rent a canoe or kayak, and paddle around on the water.  This, too, isn’t cheap: a rowboat is $30 per hour, and a kayak is $35 per hour.

So, I opted for a walk along the eastern shoreline, where I could watch other people canoeing.

A short walk leads to a nice view.  I selected this spot for a few minutes of meditation.

On the way back, I poked my head inside the historic Curly Philips Boathouse, which was built in 1928.

The boat house is another great place to take a picture — but you’ll have no shortage of such places here.

Since I didn’t take the cruise, or rent a canoe, and I didn’t feel like hiking any of the nearby trails, I just relaxed on the shoreline for a little while, before leaving.

If I had felt like a hike, I was considering the Opal Hills Trail, a steep, 8 kilometer (5 mile) loop into an alpine meadow, or the Bald Hills Trail (10 kilometers or 6 miles round-trip), which leads to some spectacular views.  Unfortunately, the Maligne Lake area doesn’t offer many shorter, easier trails, so if you want to hike, you might want to devote most of a day to the area. 

“Maligne” is a strange name for this peaceful, calm lake, considering that the name derives from the French word for “malignant” or “wicked”.  It’s believed that an early French explorer gave the name to the Maligne River, after seeing its strong current near the confluence with the Athabasca River.  Had he seen the lake first, it likely would have ended up with a much different name.

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