Journey to Spirit Island

Imagine a landscape so exquisite, it feels like you stepped inside an oil painting. Brilliant emerald colored water encircled by snow-capped mountains makes Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada the quintessential picture-perfect sight to behold. 

The 14-mile-long glacier-fed lake is the second largest in the Canadian Rockies. At its southern end is one of the most iconic destinations within the Rockies — Spirit Island. 

This small, yet stunning island was made famous by Eastman Kodak in 1960 when they published a photograph of the Spirit Island and it adorned Grand Central Station in New York City for decades. It is a remote island that is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. 

The island is only accessible by boat — either a guided cruise, kayak or row boat. Being out on the water amidst this scenery is definitely worth adding to any itinerary to the Jasper. The cruises are only available seasonally during late spring/early summer to early Autumn.

The Lake Maligne cruise is about 1.5 to 2 hours in length and includes a tour guide who provides natural history information and fun facts about the region and the Lake. The cruises are enclosed and heated, with access to the aft of the boat for pictures, to enjoy the breeze and take in the majesty of landscape all around this gorgeous lake.

Kayaking or row boating to the island sounds like a fun adventure, but with two little ones in tow it wasn’t an option for us. If you opt for to rent a kayak or rowboat be sure to plan for at least half a day excursion to Spirit Island. 

The cruise will dock at the Southern end of the lake and there are well pathed walking trails and view points of Spirit Island. This is only a short stop, but it allows passengers to get off the boat and enjoy the scenery and take pictures.

Be prepared that you’ll only have about 15 minutes off the cruise to enjoy this view and perspective during a Malign Lake cruise offering. There are some specialized cruises for photography that provide a bit more time.

Hiking on the island is not allowed for anyone, no matter how you get here for natural preservation reasons. 

We recommend visiting during clear days and late afternoon for the best lighting conditions. We opted for the latest cruise offering of the day, which was around 5 p.m.

Tickets are $75 for adults and $38 for kids ages 6 – 15. Children under the age of 5 years are free.

For other must-see and do activities in Jasper National Park and Banff, check out the top hikes for families in Banff, and the must-see (and most accessible) waterfalls for family travel in the Canadian Rockies.

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