One of the premier drives for Jasper wildlife photography is Maligne Lake Road. In fact, this is one of the premier drives for wildlife photography in the entire Canadian Rockies, and wildlife lovers and photographers alike won’t be disappointed spending a few days, or even a week, cruising up and down this road looking for wildlife!
The prime time to embark on this 45 km road, which winds its way from Highway 16 (the Yellowhead Highway) to Maligne Lake, is in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.
The first part of the drive to Maligne Canyon is a prime area to see mule deer, elk, coyote and even wolves, particularly very early in the morning. It’s also a great area for bighorn sheep, especially large rams.
The rest of the drive from Maligne Canyon to Medicine Lake and beyond to Maligne Lake is full of great opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. In spring and summer, watch for black bears and mule deer along this stretch, especially in the afternoon and evening. You may even get lucky and spot one of the few remaining mountain caribou in this area at the south end of Medicine Lake.
The Maligne Canyon area is also excellent for birders. Gray jays and Clark’s nutcrackers frequent the parking lot, while canyon visitors may glimpse an american dipper or even the rare black swift, which nests in the canyon.
In late fall, you may get lucky and find a big bull elk or bull moose along the road. In fact, late fall and winter are my favourite times of year to travel the road looking for wildlife.
As with all wildlife photography in the mountain parks, please respect the park rules and maintain a safe viewing distance from the animals. For deer and bighorn sheep, this means staying at least 30 metres (yards) from the animal, while for larger, more dangerous animals like moose or bears, it means maintaining at least 100 metres (yards) between you and the animal. Do not leave your vehicle if a bear is encountered.
Interested in seeing more wildlife photography from Jasper and the Canadian Rockies? Check out my book, Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies: A Glimpse at Life on the Wild Side, now available online.
And want to get out and see wildlife in the Rockies, but don’t have a vehicle or aren’t sure you want to drive around by yourself? Then sign on with Jasper Vacations in Jasper, or Banff Travel in Banff for one of their affordable wildlife safaris. These guys have the local knowledge and the latest hot tips, and knowing many of their guides personally, I highly recommend both companies.