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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.