Banff Jasper Collection

Who hasn't dreamed of paddling a canoe across a pristine Canadian lake on a beautiful summer day? Spirit Island is the stuff of dreams, and it's worth considering paddling there on your own if you have some experience, fitness and are a strong swimmer.

How long will it take?

If you're a strong paddler and keen for a challenging day on the water, it should take you half a day or so to get to Spirit Island. Of course, then it's another half-day to get back. Otherwise, plan to camp at one of the campsites nearby.

Tip 1: Start early

Mornings are the best time for paddling, when the lake is most still. Start early, even if you're an experienced paddler. It's a big lake—strong winds and significant waves can and do pick up quickly.

Tip 2: Canoe vs Kayak?

Both vessels make for great adventuring, and both can be rented at the Boathouse at Maligne Lake. Safety should be your first concern. Kayaks will be faster, but will have less room for equipment. They'll also be less steady. Canoes require two paddlers. Both involve some technique, and the team at the Curly Philips Boathouse (where you can rent both) are keen to help you learn efficient and secure paddling.

Tip 3: Camp out

Give yourself two days (canoes and kayaks can be rented overnight), and be sure to reserve a camping spot at Fisherman's Bay or nearby with Parks Canada well in advance.

Two kayakers approach the shore near a tree-covered peninsula.

Tip 4: Take a practice run

If you're all geared up and ready to go, we suggest hitting the waters of Maligne Lake the afternoon before your aimed adventure, so you'll have a chance to get used to being on the open water and ideally get some paddling tips from the folks at the Curly Philips Boathouse at Maligne Lake. They'll help you sort out the effectiveness of a J-stroke and how to balance your weight in a kayak.

If paddling across Maligne Lake isn't your kind of adventure, see our other tips for different ways to get to Spirit Island. Either way, we look forward to seeing you on the lake!

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