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Displaying items by tag: From Jasper's Icefields to Maligne Lake: A Panorama of majestic Colors

Alberta   Jasper   At Spirit Island   Credit Jasper Tourism

"You want to see the jewels of Jasper National Park! I suggest you take two tours: one to the Columbia Icefields and the other to Maligne Lake.  They are two gems set in one of the most beautiful spots on earth,"  a resident of the town of Jasper advised when I asked him what were the most important sites to see during our four day stay in one of Canada's most charming parks. I thought of these renowned attractions as we settled down in our luxury abode, the Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge. I was thrilled with its picturesque panoramic setting.  It was conducive to dreaming of traveling to the Columbia Icefields with their glaciers virtually as old as time itself and Maligne Lake, the charming jewel of Jasper National Park. 

We began our vacation by exploring the mountain resort town of Jasper nestled in the bosom of the Rockies.  It is an overgrown village of 4,500 people in the winter and 10,000 people in the summer.  The well-kept buildings, cuddled by towering mountains, have made it an idyllic vacation spot. Its first-class tourist facilities make it easy for visitors to be comfortable and at the same time enjoy the many attributes of Jasper National Park.  Restaurants, art galleries and a selection of shops cater to thousands of tourists who crowd the town, especially in the summer. Whatever the season, travelers can partake in mountain adventure and make contact with the wild animals. Laid back and peaceful, some call it “an alpine paradise.”  It’s an authentic urban center that has a small town aura.  The inhabitants are friendly and welcome visitors;  in the words of a Scottish tourist who went on a tour with us, "It's only a small trading post with a polished 21st century veneer."

Alberta   Jasper   Athabasca Glacier   Credit Jasper Tourism

From this cosy resort travelers begin their Icefields’ tour by driving through the heart of Jasper National Park to the Icefields, 103 km (64 mi) away.   Soon they are surrounded by a vast world of unspoiled grandeur—pine tundra, emerald lakes, deep canyons, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, wildlife and the Athabasca River—one of the most historic and beautiful rivers in Canada.  On Highway 93, known as the “Icefields Parkway” and considered to be the most scenic route in the world, travelers usually stop at Athabasca Falls to gaze in wonder at its roaring waters then further on at the Sunwapta Falls to watch the Sunwapta River tumble into a limestone gorge; a panorama of plummeting waters in a setting of white-tipped mountains and the tree-filled valleys.

By mid-afternoon the tour reaches the Columbia Icefields, a wonder of nature formed by six glaciers: the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle.  Edged by eleven of the twenty two highest mountain peaks in the Rockies and covering an area of 325 sq km (126 sq mi) and averaging 3,000 m (9,840 ft) in height, the six glaciers form a true “Continental Divide.”  Their waters pouring from the Athabasca and South Saskatchewan Rivers into three different oceans: north to the Arctic, east to the Atlantic and west to the Pacific.

Alberta   Jasper   Maligne Canyon  Ice Walk   Credit Jasper Tourism

The first stop is the Icefields Center, a huge chalet like stone building. Opened in 1996, the Center houses interpretive exhibits  located on the spot where the Athabasca (one of the six glaciers) is visible.  From the Icefields Center parking lot visitors can walk to the glacier's edge and gaze at the enormous expanse of crevassed ice.Thousands of tourists take the Snocoach Tour onto the icy slopes of the glacier; a three ton vehicle especially designed and built by a Calgary based company for the Columbia Icefields. The Snocoach takes visitors to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier.


As the Snocoach moves along, drivers and guides explain the intricacies of the awe-inspiring glaciers.  They pepper their talk with jokes such as, “Give me any question and I will give you an answer.”  When no one raises a question he continues, “Mind you, I will likely not give the true answer.”  Most of the passengers are often still snickering when the bus stops at the turn-around below the glacier's head wall.  Here tourists are given a chance to walk atop centuries of accumulated snow, dotted with icy crevasses and ice-fed streamlets. As the Snocoach moves along, the guide points to the edging glaciers advising "See these glaciers, if they continue receding at the present rate, in 650 years they will disappear.” After returning from the 90 minute Icefields’ exploration, visitors return via the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.  

The next day we ended our tours from Jasper by taking the serene Maligne Canyon and Lake Tour.  Our first stop was in an area of a gorge formed by the Maligne River’s swirling and churning waters roaring from the lake, which have worn the limestone rocks in places 55 m (165 ft) deep.  Located 11.7 km (7 mi) from the town of Jasper, it is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies, incorporating an extensive above and underground river system. Continuing on our tour we stopped at Medicine Lake, which has no surface outlet, and disappears in autumn and winter through a series of underground channels, giving rise to the Karst topographical phenomenon—causing the lake to completely drain every year.

Alberta Jasper  Maligne Lake From The Bald Hills

Driving through a deep green forest edged by majestic snow-capped mountains we reached Maligne Lake – stunning in its beauty.  Stretching for 22 km (14 mi) with a depth of 198 m (318 ft), it is the second largest glacier fed lake in the world.  Set in Maligne Valley, the lake, the largest in Jasper National Park, is surrounded by glacier studded mountain peaks. The lake boasts sparkling deep blue waters and for beauty has no equal in the region.  Gazing at this postcard of scenic delight my daughter mused, "It's a scene made by the hand of nature for the camera."

Alberta   Jasper   Black Bear Mom  With Cub   Credit Jasper Tourism

We stopped by the Maligne Lake Day Lodge & View Restaurant from where there is a fine view of the lake and its surrounding white capped mountains. It is said to be the most famous view in the Canadian Rockies.  The docks edging the restaurant (the best eating place on the shores of Maligne Lake) had a series of boats standing by, waiting for customers.  After enjoying lunch, we joined in a 90-minute scenic boat cruise to Spirit Island.  

Spirit Island, known as the icon of the Canadian Rockies located on the southern end of the lake, is a small islet that is wrapped in legends and can only be reached by private boats or cruise vessels.  The stop allows passengers to walk the island and stop at a viewpoint that offers a spectacular panorama of the lake and mountains.

Our guide seemed to love his job as he entertained us with his historic and geographical stories about the lake intertwined with anecdotes and jokes. The scenery around us was eye-bulging and I continued to be entranced with the aura of lake waters caressing the feet of the majestic mountains until we docked on Spirit Island for a short stroll. 

Alberta   Jasper   Bighorn Sheep   Credit Jasper Tourism 

With the departure from Spirit Island our exploration of Maligne Lake ended.  We had come to see why within the Jasper area, there is no competition in the beauty of its setting.   After our tour, the saying that “once you have seen it, Maligne Lake will forever hold a place in your mind” seemed appropriate.

That night, comfortable in our 4-star Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in the town of Jasper, I reminisced about our tour of the Maligne Valley and Lake.  It had been a fulfilling experience.  The sky reaching mountains and surrounding vistas, the colorful lake with its disappearing water and Spirit Island with its romantic legends all made the tour worthwhile and a destination anyone would want to explore more than once.


©Habeeb Salloum

Picture credits (c) Jasper Tourism



How to Get There:

The town of Jasper is situated about the same distance from Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta's capital—about a five hour drive.  Both have excellent air, road and rail connections.  Also, there are good rail and bus connections with Jasper.  However, the ideal way to travel through Jasper National Park is to rent an auto and explore the park.  The roads inside the park are excellent and the viewpoint sites are endless.  In addition, there are excursions offered from both Calgary and Edmonton.


Important Sites, Not Mentioned, to See in and Around Jasper:

Jasper Tramway, the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada.  It transports one to Jasper National Park’s alpine tundra where there are unprecedented views, six mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes, the Athabasca River and the scenic town of Jasper. 

Miette Hot Springs, about 60 km (37 mi) east of Jasper.  At 53º C, they are the hottest mineral springs in the Rockies. However, their waters are cooled to 40º and chlorinated for bathers.

Pyramid Mountain and Pyramid Lakes, just 8 km (5 mi) from the heart of town, it is well worth the trip just to view the beauty of the two lakes in the shadow of the towering Pyramid Mountain.


Top Place to Stay In Jasper:

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge—the hotel, spreading along the curve of Lac Beauvert, a short distance from town, incorporates a golf course and combines the ultimate in luxury with tranquillity and natural beauty.  A village unto itself, it consists of lavish log cabins and cedar chalets.  1 Old Lodge Road, Jasper, Alberta, Canada T0E 1E0.  Tel: TOLL FREE: 1(866) 540-4454  or (780) 852-3301.  Fax: (780) 852-5107.  E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Website:


Some Interesting Tours to Take From Jasper:

Jasper Adventure Centre offers these tours: Maligne Valley, Canyon and Lake Tour—cost with boat cruise $109. 

Miette Hot Springs and Watchable Wildlife Tour  $74. 

The Columbia Icefields Tour from Jasper $129.  Toll Free: 1-800-565-7547.

Maligne Tours Ltd., specialize in tours to the Maligne Valley, Canyon and Lake—cost with boat cruise $103.95.  


For Further Information Contact:

Tourism Jasper, P.O. Box 568, Jasper, Alberta, Canada TOE 1EO. Tel: (780) 852-6236 Website:





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