Valley of the Five Lakes is an incredibly beautiful and easy hike in Jasper National Park. The trail goes around five emerald lakes in different shades and it’s only 5.5 km long so anybody can experience it.
Because Jasper is situated in a large spread out valley, it has not only hikes to the mountain tops but also many hikes with little elevation. Lakes are in every corner of the valley and each one is accessible through maintained trail. Some of them require a full day and some trails lead to a bunch of lakes in the same area. The latter is true for Valley of the Five Lakes.
Plan your trip with our comprehensive travel guide to Jasper National Park.
Only a short drive from Jasper, you can see 5 emerald lakes with different shades of green. For a little effort, the views are spectacular and the whole trip only requires hiking for 5.5 km which is about 1.5 hours.
In this blog post, you will read about how to make the most of your trip, a lot of photos to show you what you can expect, different options for hiking and even mountain biking.
More hiking ideas:
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Valley of the Five Lakes
- Easy hike with few short steep sections
- Family-friendly hike, all fitness levels welcome
- Close to Jasper
- Featuring 5 lakes in different shades
- Ideal place for a picnic
- High chance of wildlife watching
- Featuring famous red chairs
- Lots of wildflowers in summer
- Can be crowded if you arrive in the middle of the day
Where is Valley of the Five Lakes
Valley of the Five Lakes hike is located in Jasper National Park, only 10 km south of Jasper. If you’re driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff/Lake Louise direction, it’s 22 km from Athabasca Falls. Both attractions are popular and our recommendation to see while road tripping the Icefields Parkway.
For more ideas, read our post about 65 adventurous things to do in Jasper.
How to get to Valley of the Five Lakes
There’s no option for public transport or shuttle to the trailhead. Most people visiting the Rockies rent a car because it’s very convenient and helps you to make the most of your trip.
Whichever direction you’re driving from – Jasper or Banff – you will see the sign for Valley of the Five Lakes along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93).
Due to the popularity of this place, I recommend visiting early in the morning or before sunset. Not only to enjoy the hike more but also to find a parking spot. The parking lot is big but gets full by 9 am most of the days in summer.
Valley of the Five Lakes, Jasper National Park
- Distance: 5.5 km (short loop); 9.5 km (long loop)
- Elevation gain: 100 m (short loop)
- Difficulty: easy trail with occasional steep uphills
- Best time to go: accessible all year round!
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up from the lakes), windproof jacket, running shoes (the trail is easy but not flat), bear spray
As you approach the kiosk at the beginning of the trail, you will see on the map that you can do a longer 9.5 km loop if you hike around the First Lake as well. We’ve done the short loop as described below.
We’ve hiked the Valley of the Five Lakes two times already. As newcomers to Canada, the 1st time we were absolutely stunned by the colours. And 2nd time it was a beautiful walk in a familiar area. Even when it was raining, the lakes were still insanely green.
The beginning of the 9a hiking trail goes through the forest. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. You can see all kinds of wildlife here if you look carefully. The last time we’ve seen a moose hiding behind the trees.
Can you spot the moose on the picture below?
In 1 km, the first steep and very short section appears as you slowly reach boardwalk across the Wabasso Creek. Then the trail goes uphill through a meadow to a junction. We went left onto trail 9bwith another downhill section towards the First Lake. It doesn’t matter which way you choose, you will ultimately make a loop.
The First Lake is the biggest one with a little viewpoint on the shore. Afterwards, we continued on trail 9a towards the Second Lake, making a loop in clockwise direction.The Second Lake was a bit brown(ish) when we visited but the Third Lake made up for it. It’s the most picturesque one. The radiant green colour is unbelievable and changes shades from the middle towards the edges.
It’s probably the reason why they put the famous red chairs on the far end of the Third Lake. You can just sit here for hours; stare at the lake in amazement.
The Forth Lake is right beside the third one and is equally pretty and radiant green.
As you approach the Fifth Lake, you will see a small dock and a bench nearby. This looked like a lovely spot for a picnic if it wasn’t raining. The trail loops back towards the junction and back to the parking lot with one small steep section.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, either do the longer loop around the lakes (9.5 km) or continue north on trail 9 towards Old Fort Point in Jasper. You can then circle around and combine it with trail 1, 14a and 12 along the Athabasca River (passing by Wapiti Campground) and back to the parking lot at the Valley of the Five Lakes (around 17 km).
Mountain biking option
You can make a loop on a mountain bike visiting the Valley of the Five Lakes right from Jasper.
Start in Jasper at the Old Fort Point parking lot. Take trail 1 (easier) or trail 9c (harder) heading south. It’s around 10 km to the First Lake. Then, you can either go:
- around the First Lake and circle back the same way
- visit the other 4 lakes on foot (walk your bike) and then head back
- continue on 9a trail towards the highway and take trail 12a and 12 back to Jasper (the easier trail)
Know before you go
- National park entrance
When you enter Jasper National Park, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
As of 2020, the fees are:
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Staying in Jasper National Park
To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Jasper National Park has many of them with picturesque scenery (glacier view anyone?). Read our comprehensive guide about Camping in Jasper National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.
- Road closure
For road closures due to avalanche dangers in Jasper National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Accurate road conditions can be checked here.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Additional reading about the Canadian Rockies
Plan your trip with our suggested Jasper itinerary.
More hikes in Jasper National Park:
Plan your trip to the Rockies:
- Epic travel guide to the Canadian Rockies
- 100 things to do in Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Yoho National Park
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