The drive down to Maligne lake is impressive, past glorious lakes and through mountain passes. The highlight was my best encounter with a Black Bear to date, less than 50 meters from the road but we had time to stop and really appreciate the impressive beast. It still seems strange that they’re so happy eating flowers, rather than the rather naive stereotype of them eating meat all the time, or stealing picnic baskets.
Thanks to the amazing Banff and Lake Louise Tourism scheme for locals known as the Ambassador Pass we got a free ride on the Maligne lake cruise with Pursuit. It’s definitely the best way to see the lake if you didn’t bring your kayak with you. The boat motors at a reasonable pace about half way the lake, to an area that is inaccessible by walking, landing close to the famous ‘Spirit Island‘. It used to be possible to walk onto the island, but the First Nations wanted it to be recognised as a sacred place, and the tour company was happy to oblige. I think this is an improvement, with people walking on the island, it would be much less photogenic, the inevitable paths worn or just people standing on the island would ruin the view. It’s not actually an island, as you can see in the photos, but a peninsular – either way it makes for a stunning photo opportunity, and if you don’t mind being a little late back to the boat a nice place to stop and just take in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Back on the ‘mainland’ there’s a little cafe and gift-shop. Nothing at all special here, but a chance to re-caffeinate if needed. We decided to motor back up the road to the Maligne Canyon for a quick walk, which while brief was very pleasant. A little busy with tourists, but still the way the river has sliced deep into the rock is very interesting, swirls and layers in the rock making some fascinating patterns. Tricky to get a nice photo though, but I hear if you walk further down you can actually get down to the canyon level and take a peek inside.
The food in Jasper was actually pretty decent, with some really nice local options. Although the Jasper Brewing Company Pub was probably the favourite on that trip, real nice hearty pub food options a good beer selection and decent atmosphere.
It’s a long drive up to Jasper, but by breaking it up nicely on the way you can make the drive very enjoyable, I wouldn’t want to do it all in a single day though, and I’d like to take a bit more time and do some more of the hikes in the area.