Valley of the Five Lakes, a hike for everyone

Here it is.  One of the most popular family hikes in Jasper.  Find out when, how, and why you should take a walk around Valley of the Five lakes in Jasper National Park with your family.

Jasper National Park is big.  Well, it’s kinda huge actually. Yet, even with the thousands of amazing vistas, hundreds of kilometers of trails, and dozens of lakes and rivers there are still only a handful of destinations that Parks Canada regularly promotes.  Valley of the Five lakes is one such trail.

If you’ve been there, you’d understand why.  The Valley of the Five Lakes trail is right off the highway, close to town, can be done in under 2 hours, is a relatively easy trail, gives you views across the valley, has an abundance of birds and squirrels to spot, and brings you through meadow, forest, and alongside amazingly turquoise waters.

Red chairs in front of a turquoise mountain lake, text reads family hikes: Valley of the five lakes

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Some quick notes on Valley of the Five Lakes:

  • Most visitors complete the shorter 4 km loop in about 2 hours using trails #9a and #9b
  • Enjoying the walk to the bridge, creek area and back is a 2 km return trip, 1-1.5 hours with little kids, and is all-terrain stroller friendly
  • Valley of Five Lakes is a short drive from town on the Icefields Parkway (hwy 93)
  • This is a busy trail, can be buggy, has lovely lakes, and features both open and wooded areas

A turquoise lake bordered by trees and grasses

How to get to Valley of the Five Lakes

From Jasper Townsite, follow the Icefields Parkway south out of town.  About 9 kilometers along highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway), you’ll notice a parking sign for Valley of the Five Lakes.  Hopefully you can find a spot in the parking lot.

On busy summer weekends it is not uncommon for vehicles to be parked along the highway here.  If you prefer to have a quieter walk, plan to arrive early or go for an evening hike.  On Parks Canada Maps, you’re heading to Parking Lot #15.

There is an outhouse in the parking lot.  There are no outhouses on the trail.

What you’ll find at Valley of the Five Lakes

Well, you’ll find lakes, of course!  Beautiful, picturesque, turquoise, spring-fed lakes.  The lakes are of different depths which apparently accounts for the variation in colours.  We’ve seen deer, loons, squirrels, and many birds here.

Along the open areas of the trail you’ll also be offered views of the eastern faces of Whistlers Mountain (with the Skytram building at the top of the lowest peak), Marmot Mountain (with the ski runs and chairlifts visible), and Edith Cavell (the angular shaped mountain with the diagonal snow lines).

Marmot Ski Hill in the summer with the sun reflecting off the chairlifts
The view of Marmot Basin Ski Hill from Valley of the Five Lakes.

Looking across the valley you’ll see Whistlers Mountain to the right, or towards the north, then Marmot in the middle, and Edith Cavell to the south.

The Valley of the Five Lakes Trail

Year round this is a popular trail with visitors and locals.  In the early spring the trail can have muddy sections and in the winter you’ll usually find that other users have packed down the snow; although, it can be icy in spots.  In the summer you’ll find the trail is mostly hard-packed dirt with some steep rocky and rooty sections.

Checking the trail report is always a good idea to be certain of the current conditions.

Bikes are allowed on this trail and bikers frequently use it to travel along the valley from town through to Wabasso Lake.  At points the trail is narrow and you’ll need to step off the path to allow bikers to pass.

You can rent a small row boat at one of the lakes.  Before you get there, you’ll need to contact Currie’s Guiding for information on availability and pricing.

an empty row boat on the shore of a turquoise lake, at valley of the five lakes in Jasper National Park

This trail is considered a moderately difficult trail because of the steep sections you’ll need to climb to pass over the ridge between the creek and the lakes.  When not climbing the rocky inclines the path is generally smooth and easy going.

As with any trail in the park there can be bugs and there can be bears.  Carry bug spray, water, and bear spray to be safe.

Parks Canada places red chairs in the national parks at picturesque locations and there are some chairs here.  You’ll find them looking out over the first lake.

There are no picnic tables along this trail, but there are many lovely spots for a picnic.

A family out for a walk in an open meadow at Valley of the Five Lakes

Choosing your hiking route

If you’re pressed for time or would prefer a shorter walk, choose the smaller of the two loops (the trail heading right or south from the creek/boardwalk area).  Understanding the trail and knowing which direction you should head can be a little confusing so take a close look at the map.

It’s a good idea to stop and confirm your location on all map signs you meet while on this trail.  This is actually a good thing to do no matter where you’re hiking in the park.

a photo of a map of the Valley of the Five Lake trails in Jasper National Park

For the longer 8 km hike: 

Take the path from the parking lot through the woods for about 1 km. Just past the boardwalk turn left along trail #9.  You’ll have a nice walk through woods and meadows and pass by a boggy, pond area.  Then at the next junction take the path to your right, #9a.  This will loop you back and give you the first view of these turqoise lakes.  Do not take #9b when that junction arrives.  Instead continue on 9a as it completes the loop around the smaller lakes and brings you right back down to the boardwalk and back to the parking lot.

Visiting the lakes on the shorter 4 km loop:

Follow the trail from the parking lot over the wooden board walk and creek area (about 1 km).  Do not take trail #9 to either the left or right.  Instead head up the hill on trail #9a.  The trail has been recently reconstructed here to preserve vegetation.  Trail #9a begins in a wide switchback heading to the right up the ridge.  Ultimately, you want to climb the hill and reach the junction at the top between trails #9a and #9b.  At the junction head straight on #9b to the first of the lakes.  Then follow the loop by turning right onto #9a and the remaining lakes.

Valley of the Five Lakes is great walk for families

This trail has been a favorite with our kids since they were tiny.  The path leaving the parking lot is wide and smooth.  It winds through open woods and is dotted with large rocks great for hopping onto and off of.

A toddler walking along a muddy path

Many a Sunday morning my husband and I would pick up coffees in town then head out to Valley of the Five Lakes for a little family stroll.

When the kids were toddlers, we’d only make it to the bridge and back, but that was a perfect distance and enough adventure for everyone.   At times we’d be pushing one or two kids in our chariot, but more often we’d let them walk and run and play.  When our kids started on their runner bikes (striders) this was a fun trail to head out on.

Our young family’s destination was always the wooden boardwalk bridge.  We’d sometimes cross and share a snack on the benches or rocks on the far side of the creek.

The path past the boardwalk area is not appropriate for strollers or chariots.  You will encounter large rocks and roots that will be very challenging to maneuver.  Some families may choose to leave the stroller at the top of the decline right before the boardwalk and just walk down to explore.

Looking down over a boardwalk in Valley of the Five Lakes

As our children have gotten older they can now manage the 4 km walk without problem.  I believe it took us about 3 hours to complete the smaller loop with our 6 year old.  I would not recommend bringing your children biking on this trail past the boardwalk unless they were advanced mountain bikers because of the steep inclines and declines.

Last notes on Valley of the Five Lakes

This trail really is a family pleaser.  You can choose the short stroll to the boardwalk, the medium walk to see the lakes, or the long hike to take it all in.  Remember to keep an eye on the trail maps and stop for a picture from the red chairs.

What you should do now:

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Looking down over a boardwalk in Valley of the Five Lakes

A turquoise lake bordered by trees, found at Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper

Red chairs in front of a turquoise mountain lake, text reads family hikes: Valley of the five lakes

A dad and three kids approaching a boardwalk over a creek at Valley of the five lakes in Jasper

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