The Queen Elizabeth Ranges, named to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, is a set of mountains in the Canadian Rockies that sit on the southeastern side of Jasper National Park in Jasper, Canada.
There are just 35 named peaks in the range. However, the most notable peaks in the Queen Elizabeth Ranges, including Maligne Mountain, Mount Paul, Mount Mary Vaux, Mount Charlton, Samson Peak, and Mount Unwin, form the iconic backdrop of the infamous Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, making them some of the most admired and photographed mountains in the Rockies. In fact, the Queen Elizabeth Ranges nearly encircle Maligne Lake, bordering this Alberta icon on the east, south, and southwest.
Maligne Lake is approximately 14 miles long and 318 feet deep at its lowest point. In addition to being surrounded by high-altitude Queen Elizabeth summits, the Charlton-Unqin, Maligne, and Coronet glaciers are visible from the shores of Maligne lake. The Lake is known for its incredible self-sustaining population of rainbow trout and brook trout, and is a popular destination for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking and camping.
Mount Unwin, which sits at 10,722 feet in elevation, is the highest and most prominent peak in the Queen Elizabeth Ranges. Interestingly, Unwin sits just 8 miles from Mount Brazeau, an 11,385-foot massif that was initially proposed to be part of the Queen Elizabeth Ranges. However, the Geographic Board of Alberta opted to exclude Mount Brazeau and instead included other notable peaks like previously mentioned Mount Unwin, Mount Charlton, and Mount Mary Vaux, as well as Llysfran Peak.
Several of the peaks in the Queen Elizabeth Ranges are named after interesting and important people from the era in which they were discovered. Mount Mary Vaux, for example, was named after a world-renowned artist and naturalist, Mary Vaux Walcott, who happened to be a close friend of Mary Schaffer, the first non-native to visit and ‘discover’ Maligne Lake. Mount Unwin is also named after Mary Schaffer’s guide and companion, Sidney Unwin, who climbed the peak in search of the elusive lake.
Although several easy and moderate hiking trails are available to day hikers and travelers in the Maligne Lake region, summiting the tallest Queen Elizabeth peaks should only be attempted by experienced alpine climbers and mountaineers.
The Mary Schaffer Loop is an easy, well-maintained, 3.2 km loop that follows a paved path beyond a historic boathouse and offers visitors an interesting look into the history of Malign Lake and the infamous explorations of Mary Shaffer. The trail passes through stands of pine, spruce, and subalpine fir and is family-friendly. Visitors will appreciate views of the crystalline Maligne Lake, as well as the incredible Queen Elizabeth peaks.
Bald Hills isn’t for the faint of heart, but visitors looking to immerse themselves in the splendor of the Queen Elizabeth summits will appreciate this 10.4-mile footpath. The trail was once a fire road and climbs steadily through an open forest of lodgepole pine before reaching panoramic views of Maligne Lake, the Maligne Valley, Bald Hills, as well as Samson Peak, Leah Peak, Opal Peak, and other notable Queen Elizabeth peaks. During summer months, visitors will appreciate incredible alpine meadows covered in wildflowers and can spot caribou or other wildlife.
A relatively strenuous ascent, Opal Hills is a 8.2 km footpath that leads visitors to awe-inspiring views of the Maligne Valley and surrounding craggy, alpine summits. The trail ascends quickly and steeply from the parking area before crossing a vast meadow and continuing on through dense forest. Once beyond the treeline, the trail will level out and pass two piles of landslide debris from Opal Peak. Opal Hills is known for its stunning scenery and alpine wildflowers.
The only major city and resorts near the Queen Elizabeth Ranges and Maligne Lake is Jasper. Nestled amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, Jasper offers visitors easy-access to iconic glacier-fed lakes, pristine forests, and the Jasper SkyTram, which reaches the summit of Whistlers Mountain. Just an hour outside of the Maligne Lake region, Jasper offers visitors a plethora of potential places to stay, dine, and relax while they pursue epic adventures in the Rockies. Major mountain resorts like the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and Pyramid Lake Resort, offer a variety of upscale amenities and options. However, there are also a number of privately-owned cabins and accommodations available. Jasper serves as the ideal basecamp for any outdoor adventure and sits nestled beneath the towering Canadian Rockies.