Valley of the Five Lakes – Jasper Hikes

Valley of the Five Lakes – Jasper Hikes

The Valley of the Five Lakes trail is a super easy, lake-filled hike near Jasper. There are a few different possible routes, but all of them will take you to some beautiful blue, green or turquoise lakes. You can stop for a picnic, a swim or just hike around to take in the views.

This is a popular area, so if you prefer quiet trails, this may not be what you’re looking for. However we visited in the afternoon (after an epic morning hike to Cavell Meadows and East Ridge Summit) and it was perfect for a relaxing afternoon walk.

Valley of the Five Lakes trail map

Valley of the Five Lakes – the basics

Distance: 8.3 km (4.7km for shorter version)
Elevation gain: 245m (160m for shorter version)
Time: 2 – 2.5 hours (You could do the short loop in an hour.)
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials (as always)
Bear spray and swimming things
Facilities: Toiles at the trailhead
Dogs: Dog friendly on a leash
How hard is it? Easy. Perfect for kids and people that don’t normally hike.
Extra notes: Please don’t swim if you are covered in DEET or sunscreen. Bring some extra water to wash yourself off before you take a dip, so you do not pollute these pristine lakes.

Valley of the Five Lakes – getting started

The trailhead is just off the Icefields Parkway, 10km south of Jasper. There’s a car park with plenty of space. From there follow the trail east (away from the road.) Sadly there are lots of dead trees near the start of the trail due to the mountain pine beetles that have infested the area.

You need to hike for 0.8km down to some marshes. If you do the short version of this hike, there is only one hill; You need to go up and down (about 60m) at the start and end of the hike. Other than that this trail is mostly flat.

There is a dark lake near the top of the hill. It doesn’t look very inviting, especially when you compare it to the gemstone-like waters of fourth lake that you can see through the trees.

Fourth Lake

This isn’t part of the main trail, but we found a steep side trail to take us down to a viewpoint on the edge of Fourth Lake. The path you follow is on the opposite side of the lake.

The steep section

This is the steep part of the hike, down to Fifth Lake. I mentioned that this hike is easy, but we did see some people struggle on this little section. If you are not used to steep slopes, just take it super slowly.

Mr Snake

We were expecting squirrel-shaped wildlife, but we also saw this cute little garter snake slithering through the moss by the trail. She was kind enough to stay still long enough for us to take her picture.

Fifth Lake

I should probably mention that these five lakes do not have the most original names. If you follow the route I describe, then you’ll reach them in descending order, starting with Fifth Lake. There is a good spot to go swimming with a pontoon that was full of happy kids diving into the water.

Fourth Lake

It was a hot day when we visited so we stopped at Fourth Lake for a quick dip. The lakes are filled with glacial waters, but they are quite small so not as cold as you might expect. It was a beautiful and super refreshing place to swim.

The path follows the northeast side of each of the lakes.

Third Lake

There are some of the bright red Parks Canada chairs between the Third and Fourth Lakes. We always like finding these chairs at scenic viewpoints, so we stopped to relax in them for a bit.

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Meet the locals

We found a cute little golden-mantled ground squirrel poser next to Third Lake. This is from the leave no trace website as I want to share the best advice: “Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters their natural behaviors and exposes them to predators and other dangers.” If you hike here, please resist their fuzzy charms and don’t feed the critters.

Third Lake is long and thin, and has some really nice views towards Jasper.

The colours of each of the five lakes vary from aquamarine to green. They change depending on the direction you view them and the height of the sun. Just remember to keep turning around to see the ever-changing gem-like colours.

Second Lake

There is a gorgeous viewpoint at the edge of Second Lake. We even saw a lady in the middle of a photoshoot on this part of the walk. You know it counts as an accessible adventure if you can manage it in a long dress and heels!

Continue to First Lake

Most people turn back between First and Second Lake. There is a loop back to the start that is less than 5km long. The small loop will allow you to see all five lakes, it’s just if you keep going to the end of First Lake, the scenery is really lovely. It’s also likely you’ll have it all to yourself.

This is the view from the northwest edge of First Lake. The base of the lake is so full of sediment that the colour of the glacial waters really stands out.

Heading back

Once you’ve reached the end of First Lake, you need to keep going for an extra 600m to find the trail that loops back to the start of this hike. There is a steady incline (you need to gain about 90m in elevation.)

Once you’re at the high point, you follow a ridgeline back to the marshes at the start of this walk. It’s a pleasant walk and very quiet.

Valley of the Five Lakes Panoramas

Here are a couple of panoramas from either end of the trail. The top photo is the area where I went swimming and the lower photo is good for showing off the least busy area at the far end of First Lake.

Valley of the Five Lakes – worth it?

I should probably mention that my favourite opinionated hiking guide, Don’t waste your time in the Canadian Rockies, lists this hike as “Don’t do.” This is because the trail is so busy, forested and because there are so many more epic adventures near here.

The thing is, that (fantastic) hiking book is aimed more at strong hikers who like to explore the most incredible off the beaten track trails. If you are looking for a family friendly hike near Jasper then this is still a fun option. We loved it as a second-hike-of-the-day when we wanted an easy walk and a swim. Sometimes it is nice to enjoy the views without much effort.

Valley of the Five Lakes - Easy hike near Jasper Jasper Hikes - Valley of the Five Lakes Valley of the Five Lakes - family friendly hike near Jasper

47 thoughts on “Valley of the Five Lakes – Jasper Hikes

  1. What a spectacular hike! I love the beautiful colour of the water. Lakeside hikes are some of my favourites so I’d definitely love to try this trail out. Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Thanks Hannah! It’s so different from the lakes in the UK we’re both used to. Those glacial colours always blow me away. <3

  2. My favourite part of Canada. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as far down the Parkway as Jasper (next time). I can never get enough of the turquoise water. An easy hike like this one would be great as you said, just a relaxing walk with a quick dip in the lake to cool off. I would certainly do it and it sounds like its fairly easy to get to right off the Parkway.

    1. Oooh I hope you make it that far up the Icefields Parkway next time. There are sooo many beautiful areas near Jasper.

  3. Five lakes and easy!? What a gem! It looks absolutely gorgeous, especially the lakes themselves. I can’t believe you can just wander to these lakes 🙂

    1. It’s mad isn’t it!? I guess that is why it is so busy. It’s the closest easy hike to some of the big campgrounds in Jasper too.

      Still, the far viewpoint at the First Lake was still super quiet. Those extra couple of km put lots of people off going further.

    1. It’s just a version of pepper spray that you use to discourage bears from coming closer if they get aggressive.

    1. Oooh nice! After seeing your Norway post, I think you might like some of the harder, epic hikes even more, but this one is good when you need to relax. 🙂

      Let me know if you need help planning your Rockies trip.

  4. Your advice is so spot on! The squirrel is cute but don’t feed it, and wash off your toxic chemicals before swimming. This hike looks lovely but if people don’t heed your words, it won’t last. Stunning photos, would love to join you for a hike one day!

    1. Thanks Mel! Yeah, I always worry about the leave no trace part. This area is so popular that we all need to work together to keep it pristine.

  5. You had me until the shot of the snake. I know I need to get over it, but argh! The lakes (minus the first) look so inviting. Definitely a great summer hike.

  6. You’re cracking me up — the lakes are def not originally named! I’ll overlook that, though, since these hikes look so great. I’m always down for trails that take me past so many incredible locations. I can imagine jumping into the lake after a long, hot hike!

    1. Lol yeah, I feel like they should have made a teeny bit more effort on choosing names. But the names can’t stop them from being perfect for a swim.

  7. I am so envious of all of these gorgeous hikes you have close by! I will never get over the scenery, and I’m sure it’s even more amazing in person. How original are the lake names though 😂

    1. 🤣🤣🤣

      After seeing your post about PEI in the winter, you’ve got me wondering what the lakes will look like right now. They must all be frozen over!

  8. Stunning hike the five lakes reminds me of the seven lakes hike in Tajikistan. I would love to do this one

    1. Thanks Gloria! Interesting that it looks similar to Tajikistan! I guess it makes sense if they have forests with glacial lakes.

  9. Love your beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing tips and an authentic opinion of this hike! I haven’t been hiking in the Canadian Rockies yet, but you have convinced me to add them to my ever growing list.

  10. What a treat to see 5 lakes on one hike! Each of them are gorgeous even though the names are basic. Lol. I love that it isn’t too hard with great views and animal sightings. That’s so cool that Canada has those red chairs as I wish we had them in California!

    1. I love finding those red chairs in pretty locations! I didn’t know about them before we moved to Canada, but we have found them sooo many times!

      You’re right though, they’d be fab in other National/State parks outside Canada too.

    1. Thanks Emilia!

      They were pretty shallow at the edge, so you can’t jump straight in…but they are sooo nice for a dip!

  11. I think the best Canadian Rockies destination is Jasper. The valley of the five lakes hike looks challenging and fun. Your images are stunning! I love the turquoise of the lakes. That must have been quite a scare to see a snake however cute it may have been! 🙂

    1. I think it was so warm that the snake wasn’t very interested in doing much…so it was slithering along pretty slowly. That made it exciting to see rather than scary!

      We’d also seen this kind of snake a few times, so we knew it was a harmless one.

  12. We absolutely loved this hike. We were a bit rushed as we were fighting the clock with diminishing daylight, but we managed to enjoy it all the same! Added another set of red chairs photographed to my ‘collection’!

    1. Oooh that is similar to the way we did it! We did a longer hike in the morning, so this was just a mini walk before we got ready to camp.

      Do you have a post about it too Marianne?

  13. This does sound like the perfect string of lakes for a family picnic, and I love that such guidebooks exist! I need one for my region!

    1. Yeah, that guidebook has helped us find so many epic trails. Although to be fair, I seem to love all hiking guide books.

  14. Stunning! Absolutely incredible how clear, clean and emerald green the lakes are. This area is truly a hidden gem, it almost makes you not want to share it with others so it remains your little secret. I visited Jasper when I was a kid, and know a return trip is in order.

  15. Okay, so I know I say this for pretty much every hike you write about but this one is absoluutteeeeely going on my “someday-hopefully-soon” list!!! These photos are beautifulllll. I love how clear that water looks!!

  16. This brings back such fond memories of when we visited Jasper a few years ago. We hiked this trail and I remember that despite getting to the trailhead early, it was still pretty busy. It was still a lovely hike though with such nice views of the lakes. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    1. Oooh I wonder if doing it as the second hike of the day is the best way then!? There were people around when we visited, but it was pretty quiet. It might just be that covid-19 really reduced the normal crowds in 2021.

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