Lakes, Jasper National Park
It was our last day, heading back to Calgary, so we decided one last hike would be the Valley of the Five Lakes. We started out from the parking lot - the guidebooks pegged this at about a 3 mile trail. You cut across a meadow, then head over a ridge where the loop portion of the trail begins. I would HIGHLY recommend going clockwise. We went counterclockwise, and there is a point in the trail where a switchback occurs, and it isn't easy to spot - I think many people have missed it and have beaten a different trail which eventually leads back to the main trail. But since we were expecting a loop, this got completely confusing. Eventually, we got back on the main trail and went clockwise, but it was a lot of extra walking and lost time.
Once we did hit the right place, this was a great hike. The five lakes each are a little different - like most of the lakes, they are all beautiful. We were out early, so we had it all to ourselves.
There are a few steep spots, but for the most part, this trail is pretty even and easy.
After the brisk walk through the canyon, we headed on up to Maligne Lake. Before we got there, we did take a side stop at Medicine Lake - for such a long, pretty lake, there is a lack of parking - we ended up crammed next to a dumpster (the last spot) - I can't imagine what it is like later in the day! There was a trail along the lake for a while, but it was mostly closed due to nesting Eagles in the trees. Finishing the drive then up to Maligne Lake, we hit the lodge area. Here, you can purchase tickets to get a boat ride across the expansive lake. We decided to forgo this and just walk a little while counterclockwise along the lake shore. Eventually, we hit a small dock, and decided to head back. There is another trail past the main docks along the lake, but the bugs were getting pesky (and the kids hungry), so we ended up not going down that trail. Like many of the other lakes in the region, these are beautiful...the colors are incredibly striking.
It is famed for the color of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island, one of the most photographed locations in the world. Boat tours run to Spirit Island in the spring to autumn season. The 44 km Skyline Trail, Jasper's most popular, highest and above treeline, multi-day hike, begins at Maligne Lake and finishes near the town of Jasper.
Spirit Island also has 90 minute cruises that depart on the hour. The cost is $61.95 for an adult and $30.00 for a child.
When you are traveling the road to Mount Edith Cavell (about 14km/8.7mi) there are a few wonderful areas to stop along the way to enjoy the beautiful views. Some stops are well marked, others are not like the one for Cavell Lake. While driving the Cavell Road keep your eyes open for the Astoria River/Tonquin Valley trailhead parking which is on the right side of the road and across from the Cavell Hostel. I would estimate about 3km/1.8mi before getting to the main parking lot of Mount Edith Cavell. Park your car there and follow the trail about 300m (600ft) down hill until you get to a small bridge. From here you have great views of beautiful Cavell Lake, well worth a stop but missed by many tourists as they are not aware of it.
Located in the majestic Maligne Valley, this exquisite lake is the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world, stretching 22km (14mi). There are many things to enjoy here, you can just enjoy the beautiful views, hike one of the hiking trails, rent a canoe or kayak, do some sport fishing or take the beautiful 90-minute cruise to Spirit Island (from spring until fall). The 44km (27mi) Skyline Trail which is Jasper's most popular hike. This high and above treeline, multi-day hike begins at Maligne Lake and finishes near the town of Jasper. Other popular day hikes include the Opal Hills and Bald Hills loops. Winter activities include cross-country skiing.
Maligne Lake is fed and drained by the Maligne River, which enters the lake on its south side, near Mount Unwin and drains the lake to the north. Maligne Lake, as well as Maligne River, Maligne Mountain, and Maligne Pass, takes its name from the French word for malignant or wicked. The name was used by French speaking Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801–1873) to describe the turbulent river as he was trying to pass it. There is also the historic Maligne Lake Chalet for afternoon tea, there is a restaurant and the Curly Phillips boathouse.
When you travel the Maligne Lake Road and your end destination is Maligne Lake make sure you take enough time out to see a few things along the way (or on your way back). The first spot you will drive by is beautiful Medicine Lake which you can see from the road. You can stop here and walk along the shoreline if you wish. There are pretty flowers here and you may be able to spot small and big wildlife here.
Medicine Lake is approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) long and is a relatively shallow lake. The lake is part of the Maligne Valley watershed which is mainly glacial fed. Depending on what time of the year you are there might be a lot of water in the lake or there may be only little water in the lake. This phenomenon is due to the fact that Medicine Lake is a geologic it's not actually a lake but rather an area in which the Maligne River (flowing from Maligne Lake into the Athabasca River) backs up and suddenly disappears underground. Summer melt water coming into the lake exceeds the capacity of the sinkholes to drain it. Decreased melt water in the late summer and fall means that the lake's sinkholes can drain the lake faster then the Maligne River can fill it. The underground system is extensive and during the 1970s researchers used a biodegradable dye to determine the underground river's extent. The dye showed up in many of the lakes and rivers in the area to the point where it became clear that the underground system was one of the most extensive in the world.
Aboriginal peoples called the lake Medicine because of its seemingly magical powers, and the United Nations created the Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site partly because of this unique drainage system.
Maligne Lake is located in the Maligne Valley in Jasper National Park, Alberta. Maligne Lake is the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world, stretching 22km (14mi). Maligne Lake and its natural beauty with pristine blue water, breathtaking views and undisturbed wildlife attracts many visitors every year. This beautiful lake and surrounding area is also a great place for hiking with a variety of trails, there is a trail for everyone. Maligne Lake even has a 44km (27.5mi) trail, the Skyline Trail, which is by far the most popular. All of the trails have great views of the lake and surrounding area, so pick one that seems right for you. Personally I haven't done any of the trails at Maligne Lake yet, so I can't offer my opinion on which one is that best. You can rent canoes at Maligne Lake as well and there are guided fishing tours as well.
One thing I can give my opinion on is the Maligne Lake cruise to Spirit Island...the most photographed spot in Jasper National Park. The Maligne Lake Cruise is a 90 minute boat cruise that will take you on the blue waters of the lake with amazing mountain views to Spirit Island. Here you get off the boat for about 15-20 minutes to walk to the Spirit Island viewpoint. The view is fantastic and if you go in the summer time, later afternoon is the best for photos as the sun is behind you. On the way the guide will tell you some things about the history of Maligne Lake with some interesting facts. The boat ride is fun and the views along the way are beautiful as well, but the best views are at Spirit Island of course. Quite pricey, but definitely worth the money in my opinion!
Maligne Lake is a lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. It is famed for the colour of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island, one of the most photographed locations in the world. The lake is located 44 km (27 mi) south of Jasper town, and is accessible by motor vehicle, including shuttle buses from Jasper. Boat tours run to Spirit Island in the spring to autumn season. The 44 km Skyline Trail, Jasper's most popular, highest and above treeline, multi-day hike, begins at Maligne Lake and finishes near the town of Jasper. Other popular day hikes include the Opal Hills and Bald Hills loops. Winter activities include cross-country skiing.
Medicine Lake isn't just your average lake. In the summer time it appears that way, but by October the lake essentially disappears into a few small pools. Indians believed the disappearance was due to "big medicine", or magic, hence the name Medicine Lake. It stretches for kilometers along the highway and is splendid to look at. It is like nothing I have seen before. I saw a picture of it in the summertime, and it is quite an amazing contrast. I could tell you what really happens, but wouldn't it be more fun if you found out for yourself?
East of Jasper town site, on the way to Maligne Lake is a Lake called Medicine Lake. The story goes, that Ancient First Nations People thought that this lake contained special "Spirits" that were responsible for the fluctuations of the lake. This lake was also referred to as the disappearing lake. There are some under ground channels feeding the lake as well as draining it. One of these channels is called the Maligne Canyon. There are times when the lake has virtually disappeared. It was very peaceful. There was nobody on the lake. No boats, no one fishing. With a canoe, you could get away from everyone and have a peaceful day on the far shore……..
Malinge Lake is a highlight of Jasper NAtional Park. This lake, the largest in the Canadian Rockies, is surrounded by towering snowcapped peaks. I don't know too much about hiking near and around the lake, since we didn't hike there. However, a good thing to do there is to take a boat ride to Spirit Island. Spirit Island is one of the most commonly recognized places in the Rockies, and is a scenic spot of worldwide fame. However, the "island", actually a peninsula, looks better in photos than in reality. But the mountains behind it still make the lake a very beautiful scene. If you're going on the boat tour, bring binoculars to spot mountain goats.
Medicine lake is not the most beautiful lake in Jasper, nor is it the most visited ..... but it is very special. Medicine lake is fed from above ground, but drains below ground ... into one of the worlds largest underground lake systems .... depending on the time of year - the lake may not even exist! During early summer the lake is 9 km (5.5 miles) long, 1 km (.62 miles) wide and 30 metres (100ft) deep. But, every fall it mysteriously drains naturally like a giant bathtub with a missing plug.
First Nation's people originally called it Magic Lake. Wolves in the region make it work for their hunting needs and have been known to chase caribou into the muck so they'll get stuck.
This is the stuff of legends ... after all, how many folks can say they've seen a place that mother nature changes her mind a couple of times a year and empties out a lake? I took this picture of Medicine Lake in August .... the seasons are changing ...... Ann75 was there about a month before, and her pictures show a big difference from mine as far as water level. To see what it looks like early in the growing season, with even MORE water than that, check out Babcia's Travelogue on Japser ........
I will say, despite not being a big tourist draw, I loved wandering around the edges of Medicine Lake, snapping pictures and just enjoying the day .....
This is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies. Once named "Sore Foot Lake" by a railway engineer who was looking for a route for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
An explorer named Mary Shaffer found it after him & marveled at its great beauty.
The Island is called "Spirit Island" named by someone who won a kodak competion!!
I think my fellow tourist were just in awe of its great beauty - no competion required.
The Native American people though this lake was inhabited by spirits because often in fall & winter it disappeares altogether.
I can quite believe them - when we visited there was no one there - had this great place all to ourselves - maybe the spirits were there too
This is the highest I've every been without the safety of an airoplane beneath my feet.
The views from the top of Whistlers are spectacular.
Go see what an eagle sees - Who dares wins!
See my transport tip to save your legs.