Travel just northeast of Jasper, off the Jasper Park Lodge access road, and you'll find the Maligne River Valley, which drops from a gorgeous alpine lake down to meet the Athabasca River, cutting a spectacular canyon into the limestone on its way. The chasm of Maligne Canyon gets up to 46m (151 ft.) deep at points, yet only 3m (9 3/4 ft.) across. Hikers may follow a trail down the mountainside that bridges the gorge six times and even rest in a teahouse at the top of the canyon in the summer.
According to First Nations beliefs, spirits were responsible for the way Medicine Lake -- a natural wonder that lies downstream from Maligne Lake -- appeared and disappeared regularly every year. The Maligne River flows into Medicine Lake, which comes into existence every spring, grows 8km (5 miles) long and 18m (59 ft.) deep, and then vanishes in fall, leaving only a dry gravel bed through the winter -- a magic trick accomplished through a system of underground drainage caves.
Next, you'll come to the cerulean blue, alpine waters of Maligne Lake, ringed by towering, white-capped peaks -- one of the park's great beauty spots. The glassy waters are fed by the glaciers in the mountains that surround it like icy guards; it is the second-largest lake in the world to get its water that way. Maligne is known as the "hidden lake," but that doesn't keep the tour buses away, many of them taking the wildly popular 90-minute boat cruise to Spirit Island in the middle of the lake. During high season, the scenic, guided tours leave every hour on the hour from below the Maligne Lake Lodge, an attractive summer-only facility with a restaurant and bar (but no lodging). Tickets for the cruise are C$55 adults and C$28 children. The site is also a popular attraction for hikers, anglers, trail riders, and rafters. All facilities at Maligne Lake -- including lake cruises, fishing, trail rides, a white-water raft outfitter that offers trips down three Jasper Park rivers, and even a shuttle bus between Jasper and the lake -- are operated by Maligne Tours (www.malignelake.com). Offices are located at the lake, as well as a second location in Jasper, at 626 Connaught Dr. (tel. 780/852-3370). They'll also organize a shuttle to the lake from the townsite for C$20 one way.
The chilly Maligne Lake waters are too cold for swimming, but you can rent a boat, canoe, or sea kayak. The lake is also chock full of "nothin' but trout" -- the rainbow and eastern brook variety. Guided fishing trips are available that include equipment, lunch, and hotel transportation, with half-day excursions starting at C$199 per person when at least two people are going (prices rise steeply for single fishers). Stop by the Maligne Lake Boathouse to purchase fishing licenses, tackle, bait, and boats.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.