Maligne Lake is the largest lake in the park and the second largest glacial-fed lake in the world. We considered kayaking there, but the lake is 14 miles long so we figured we’d see a lot more of it on a boat tour, which we purchased as a package with the Jasper Sky Tram.
The weather was a bit cloudy as we started out on the road to the lake. But the road is known for its beauty and for its abundance of wildlife.
Along the way, we checked out Medicine Lake, which is flooded in the summer and disappears in the winter. There is no visible channel for the lake to drain through, it drains from the bottom through sinkholes, then follows an underground cave network and surfaces in Maligne Canyon (more on the canyon later). Early Indians believed spirits were responsible for the lake’s disappearance, thus its name.
Bighorn sheep are commonly spotted in this area, and further along the way a couple of females with babies were wandering in the middle of the road. The adults apparently have no fear of humans (or have been fed by humans) and walked right up to various cars’ windows to peer inside.
It’s impressive to see how nimble these animals are, even the babies hop up and down the cliffs. And, as with all babies, they were adorable.
The weather was still a bit cloudy during our 1½-hour interpretive boat cruise to Spirit Island, nine miles away. But the lake is framed by magnificent mountain peaks and glaciers and is probably beautiful in all types of weather.
Spirit Island, our destination, has a very short trail with several overlooks of the lake and its surroundings. Unfortunately, people are not allowed to explore the island outside of the trail. But the views were awesome.
The Athabasca River became a familiar sight as we traveled to and from our campground. It flows through the valley and you can pretty much see it all the time. Seeing the river always felt like coming home.
We went on several sunset drives north on the Yellowhead Highway, also known for an abundance of wildlife. One evening, we spotted a coyote running across the road. And on the other side, three pups ran up to her. The pups were not tiny babies, but they were very playful and very cute.
These trails were extremely crowded, almost uncomfortably so, since we had Angel with us. But we reached a couple of the viewpoints. We also walked between two canyon walls that the waterfalls flowed through before the water eroded another channel and changed directions. Very cool.
On another sunset drive we spotted a bull elk with seven point antlers. Munching away at the flowers and grass. This area was a good spot for elk. We saw several handsome young bulls.
One of our favorite hikes was the Valley of the Five Lakes. And, yes, this trail goes by five lakes, each of which is a slightly different color due to their different depths.
On this hike we found the red chairs, part of a Parks Canada program that placed two red chairs in various scenic spots in the national parks.
We first discovered these on Cape Breton Island in the Maritimes last summer and were very excited to see more. What a cute idea.
Which of course was followed by Second Lake. You get the picture 🙂
It was a really steep and rocky cliff, but the top was flatter and grassy with lots of trees. The sheep started to climb up and I was terrified watching them all negotiating their way up to the top. They even slipped a few times sending small rocks and dirt down the cliff. But they always recovered and all made it to the top, where they munched happily.
One of our last hikes was along the top of the Maligne Canyon, formed by the fast flowing Maligne River. Touted as “one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies”, it is a 165-foot deep limestone gorge. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
The trail switches from side to side, crossing six bridges. There are three trail lengths; the short trail crosses bridges one through three, the intermediate trail continues to bridge four, and the long trail continues to bridges five and six.
Jasper National Park is enormous and we literally only touched the toe of the glacier there, but it was spectacular!