It was mid-October. A fresh snowfall coated the ground and blanketed the fairy tale-like Rocky Mountains surrounding Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Jasper’s crisp, clear lakes, in hues of green and blue, had not yet frozen. The sky was blue, with casual wisps of clouds. The temperature was fresh enough to help yield off the previous night’s slight hangover. It was the perfect combination for a Valley of the Five Lakes hike.
Jasper holds a special place in my heart. When I turned 18, I left my home of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and moved to Jasper. I’ll never forget the overwhelming sense of freedom I felt on my first night there. I fell in love for the first time and left six months later, working visa and boyfriend in tow, headed on my first trip overseas. After spending four months living and working in London, England, we backpacked Thailand and the Philippines for two months. I went on to live in Jasper again in 2002, to save money for my next big backpacking trip to SE Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. So in October 2020, when I visited for the first time in 18 years with my husband Nick, the warm comfort of nostalgia set in like a cozy pair of pajamas with a glass of red wine.
Our four days in Jasper were a good mix of adventure, relaxation, and fun. We visited Maligne Canyon, an impressive stop for a beautiful hike alongside an incredibly deep canyon. We went for a run around the jade-green Lac Beauvert, frequented multiple restaurants and bars in town, and relaxed and enjoyed the amenities while staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, including the spa, pools, and restaurants. But a major highlight of this trip was the Valley of the Five Lakes hike.
Valley of the Five Lakes hike logistics
The Valley of the Five Lakes hike is located just off the Columbia Icefields highway (highway 93), less than nine kilometres South of the town of Jasper. It’s an easy drive, there is plenty of parking, and the trailhead is right by the parking lot.
I’m no hiking expert, but I’d call the Valley of the Five Lakes hike an easy to medium hike. The full loop is 4.5 kilometres and you’ll want to take your time, with stops to take photos and enjoy the beauty. It took us about two hours. We hiked at a good pace, but stopped to appreciate the views. There are a few steep inclines, but much of the hike is flat or at low level inclines.
It’s worth noting the water in the lakes is so clean, my husband drank it (big risk taker that guy). He didn’t get sick. I thought you might want to know, in case you’re thirsty.
Valley of the Five Lakes hike overview
All five lakes are different, which makes this hike all the more interesting. If you don’t want to see what they all look like, you may want to close this blog now. I had read that lakes three and four are the most beautiful (yes, they have the most boring names of lake one, two, three, etc.). But I took a liking to lakes one and two, and also found five highly enchanting.
Slightly past the trailhead takes you over a bridge crossing Wabasso Creek. From there, choose which way to take the loop (we went left) and you’ll come back around to this bridge at the end of the hike. Upon our arrival at lake one, we were treated to a gorgeous expanse of water, her body a ripple of competing shades of turquoise and deep blue. There was a snow-capped mountain and that wonderful blue sky in the background. There should’ve been a painter with an easel set up.
As we approached lake two, we kind of thought, meh. But, as you get closer, and depending on how the sun is shining on it, it turned out to be the most magnificent. There are multiple viewpoints for this stunner, where the different shades of green paint an intricate mosaic to feast your eyes on.
Lakes 3 and 4 were right next to one another. Three’s transition from turquoise around the edges to dark blue in the centre stole the show. Lake four was a typical Rocky Mountain lake – clean enough to drink from and still lovely.
After four dazzling lakes, whatever lake five held was a bonus. And what it held was possibly the most clear lake water I’ve ever seen. There was a dock to walk out on, and every rock, log, and article of debris could be clearly seen though its pale jade-green waters.
You can’t go wrong with this quintuplet of lakes and I had to stop and wonder how magnificent it might be to swim in these beauties on a hot summer’s day!
After lake five, there was about another half kilometre trek back to the parking lot.
Valley of the five lakes hike: final thoughts
The Valley of the five lakes hike is a Jasper “must do” if you’re into hiking and natural beauty. It’s a great length, not too challenging (but still great exercise), and offers amazing scenery. You can accomplish this hike in a morning or afternoon, while enjoying another activity that same day, since Jasper has so much to offer. Hell, if you’ve partied the night before, you can even complete this hike without getting too tuckered out. We sampled gins, rums, scotches, and tequila cocktails from the fabulous Downstream Lounge the night before. But when the owner is an old friend, these things happen (thanks Soto)!
That leads me to…
Where to eat and drink in Jasper
A hiker’s gotta eat, right?! We sampled many fine food and beverage options in the wee town of Jasper. Our top picks are: Orso Trattoria at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for fine dining, Syrahs of Jasper in town for cozy food and wine, the Downstream Jasper for casual fare and an amazing array of cocktails and spirits, and Harvest Food & Drink for a delicious brunch.
Jasper can be visited any time of the year. While you may experience frigid temperatures from November to March, you can “bundle up” and enjoy some skiing at Marmot Basin Ski Resort, or many other winter activities. Spring, summer, and fall offer fabulous hikes, scenery, climbing, wildlife, and more. Not to mention the townsite of Jasper is charming year-round.
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