Stargazing at Maligne Lake © Yuichi Takasaka
Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Ringed by snow-and-ice-capped mountains, the 22 km long lake stretches past serene Spirit Island right to the melt-water channels of Coronet Glacier. An open forest of lodgepole pine and spruce, home of moose, caribou and Harlequin Ducks and many other types of wildlife surround visitors at the north end of the lake. Hiking and, in winter, cross-country skiing trails abound making this a popular retreat at all times of the year.
Maligne Lake was originally known as "Chaba Imne" or Beaver Lake by the native tribes who lived near Jasper. In 1907 Mary Schaeffer, a wealthy Quaker from Philadelphia, learned of the mysterious lake. Following a map obtained from Samson Beaver, a Stoney tribesman, Mary found the lake and later wrote about her adventures, making the area a popular tourist attraction in years to follow.
Spirit Island on Maligne Lake © Caroline Roy
One of the most popular pictures in the Canadian Rockies is the image of Spirit Island in the middle of Maligne Lake. The island is 14 kilometres up-lake and there is no road or trail access. Tour boats or private, non-motorized craft are the only means of reaching Spirit Island.
Travel And Wilderness Campgrounds
It is 13 km to Fisherman’s Bay campground and 21.3 km to Coronet Creek campground. Depending on the weather, experience, total weight, watercraft and physical condition, it can take 3 to 6 hours to get to Fisherman’s Bay and 5 to 9 hours to get to Coronet Creek.
- The lake is usually calm until about 9 a.m., so we recommend an early start on your first day.
- The wind is funnelled by the mountains and can change direction and intensity very quickly. You can expect the wind to come from different directions, or change directions throughout your trip. Sudden storms, cold temperatures and occasionally snow can be expected throughout the whole summer.
- Tour boats travel down the centre of the lake and usually operate from 9 :00 a.m. to 6 :30 p.m. They can create large waves which are best taken head on, bow first.
Maligne Lake Map
- Camping on Maligne Lake is limited to 4 nights in total, 2 nights maximum at each camp. THIS GIVES EVERYONE THE OPPORTUNITY TO STAY IN THIS UNIQUE AND EXTREMELY POPULAR AREA.
- The maximum group size, regardless of the number of sites or permits taken, is 10 people. THIS ALLOWS EVERYONE AT THE CAMPGROUNDS A PEACEFUL AND ENJOYABLE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE.
- You cannot switch dates between the two campgrounds, or decide to stay an extra night, unless the change is made with the Jasper Trail Office prior to the start of your trip.
- A National Park Fishing Permit is required to fish at Maligne Lake. Children under the age of 16 do not require a fishing permit if accompanied by an adult who holds a valid fishing permit. (In this case, the combined catch will not exceed the limit for one permit, which is 2 fish in your possession at any time).
Safety and Wildlife
- DON’T OVERLOAD YOUR WATERCRAFT. YOU SHOULD LEAVE AT LEAST 30 CM OR 12 INCHES OF FREE BOARD (space between the water level and the top of your watercraft).
- The lake is cold and hypothermia (low body core temperature) is a major concern if you capsize (flip over). ALWAYS PADDLE CLOSE TO SHORE AND WEAR A LIFE JACKET.
- If you see that bad weather is coming in, paddle closer to shore, as the wind can change rapidly and create large waves in a matter of minutes.
- Although small watercraft have priority over the powered tour boats, please avoid crossing in front of them: this could put your life and other people’s in danger.
- Please do your part to limit the impact on park wildlife. Give all the animals you see the respect they deserve and the space they need. If they become accustomed to being around people, they are in danger of losing that very thing that makes them special: their wildness.
- Black bears and grizzlies are present in the area. Please follow bear country recommendations; talk to Information Centre staff and get a copy of the Bears and People brochure.
- Food storage lockers are provided at both campgrounds. There is one locker per site. Store all food, garbage, beverages, scented articles and stoves in these bear-proof lockers.
- Campfires are ONLY permitted in firegrates. Firewood is not provided at the campgrounds.
- If you wish to have a campfire, you may collect dead wood along the lakeshore en route, but please don’t collect wood near the campgrounds. Because of the lake’s popularity and the high use of the area, WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU BRING YOUR OWN FIREWOOD.
- It is against the law to cut down standing live or dead trees for firewood or tent poles.
- The firegrates and the picnic tables are for all campers to share!!
- Campground check-in and check out time is 11 a.m.
Quiet time is all the time!! NO NOISE from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Please be courteous and considerate of others. Electric generators are not permitted on the lake or in the campgrounds.
Noise complaints in the past have been related to parties, stereos and non-emergency use of flares. THIS BEHAVIOUR IS NOT ACCEPTABLE OR TOLERATED.
Please report any individual or group that might have diminished your National Park wilderness experience to the Maligne Lake Wardens after your trip or during their routine lake and campground patrols or to the Jasper National Park Trail Office.
Maligne Valley Travel Guide