The Best Way To Access Canada's World-Famous Spirit Island Is This Popular Lake Cruise

The Canadian Rockies are incredibly photogenic. Moraine Lake, with its turquoise waters dwarfed by peaks, is so beautiful it was once on Canada's $20 note. The aptly named Emerald Lake, located in the breathtaking and underrated Yoho National Park, offers a shot of the wooden lodge and red canoes so typical of the Rockies. However, both of those iconic sights are given a run for their money by Spirit Island in Maligne Lake. This small island sits in aquamarine waters, enveloped by majestic mountains. It's a view that will stay in your mind forever and is definitely up there with the most Instagrammable travel destinations.

The catch is that Spirit Island isn't easy to reach, as it sits over eight miles up the 13-mile-long lake, and there are no footpaths or roads leading there. The best way to access Spirit Island and capture one of the most famous pictures in the Canadian Rockies is by luxury lake cruise. The Maligne Lake Cruise takes you on a picturesque journey along Maligne Lake to Spirit Island in a glass-enclosed, heated boat. You get to stay warm and dry while enjoying panoramic views. As you cruise, your guide will give you fascinating insights into the natural wonders and cultural history of the area.

Cruising to Spirit Island

First things first: Spirit Island isn't actually an island all year round! In fact, it's connected to the shore most of the year, only becoming an island when spring snowmelt makes the water levels in the lake rise. However, as we said, there are no footpaths leading to Spirit Island, so whether it's connected to the shore or not, you can only reach it by water.

There are two options for cruises: 90 minutes or two hours. Both reach Spirit Island, but the longer one allows you more time around the island and a stop to enjoy the views at gorgeous Pincushion Bay. Jemma Lovie, who reviewed the cruise on Google, wrote that they were "speechless" at the beauty of Spirit Island. They also praised the guide, who told them about the history of the area in an "informative, respectful but engaging manner." 

Another happy cruiser, How it is Liz, wrote that they were able to get off the boat near Spirit Island and "take impressive photos of the magnificent scenery." (Note that you can't walk on Spirit Island, but you will have a good chance to take photos.) If you need any more convincing to do this cruise, take some advice from Denica Beale, who wrote "10/10 experience, a trip to Jasper isn't complete without the Maligne Lake cruise!" 

Other things to do around Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake is huge, frigid, and the Canadian Rockies' largest natural lake. It reaches depths of up to 315 feet and is one of the coldest lakes in the Rockies. Why are we telling you this? Because there are other ways to reach Spirit Island, but they're far more challenging and less comfortable than the cruise.

It's possible to canoe or kayak on Maligne Lake and make it all the way to Spirit Island and back within a day. However, if you're heading out there under your own arm power, it's a much better idea to book a campground and stay overnight so you can really enjoy the paddle. There are three maintained campgrounds along the lake; the closest one to Spirit Island is Fisherman's Bay Campground, a 15 to 20-minute paddle away. Fisherman's Bay is also, unsurprisingly, a great place for fishing.

If you'd rather take in the sights of Maligne Lake from dry land, consider doing one of the many hikes in the area. For the best views of the lake, head up the Maligne Lake Viewpoint trail. This challenging, steep route takes you high above the tree line and offers sweeping views of the whole lake. The 2-mile Mary Schaeffer Loop is a short, flatter hike that hugs the shoreline of Maligne Lake before looping around to the start. However you choose to explore, you'll definitely want to add Maligne Lake to your road trip through Canada.