Maligne Canyon Ice Walk At a Glance
See the Parks Canada Map here.
Starting from the trailhead near the restaurant, with ice cleats or microspikes on, look for little fossils just past the fossil interpretive sign. Going further, observe potholes scoured from the canyon walls by rushing water over thousands of years. Head down the stairs to First Bridge and watch your step as it’s slippery!
From First Bridge, you can see ice falls. Continue on to see bigger ones! By the time you reach Second Bridge, the canyon is at its maximum depth of 50 metres.
|Ice falls and potholes in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park|
Near Third Bridge, there are several ice falls frequently visited by ice climbers. These are the ones you will visit on the canyon ice walk!
|Ice Falls at Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park|
By the time you reach Fourth Bridge, the canyon has widened and the walls are less vertiginous. Stay left at the fork to stay close to the river, and watch for a canyon access sign on your left. If you get to Fifth Bridge, you’ve gone too far.
|Maligne Canyon – Canyon Access Point
Enter at your own risk!!
From the canyon access, head up the canyon back towards First Bridge. Depending on conditions, you should be able to go as far as Third Bridge (the trail is somewhat sketchy beyond with hazards overhead and underfoot). Take care on uneven and inclined surfaces and go slow to prevent slips and falls.
Near Fourth Bridge, you will notice several ice flows, including ice coming out of a cave. While it would appear that Elsa has been at work, there are several underground streams from Medicine Lake (15 km away) feeding the ice. This water rejoins Maligne River downstream later in the year.
|Ice flows at Maligne Canyon|
|Ice cave at Maligne Canyon|
Carry on to a beautiful “grotto” festooned with moss and natural ice sculptures. We could’ve stayed in this splashy spot all day looking for naiads, but the ice falls beckoned.
|Grotto in Maligne Canyon|
|Natural ice sculptures, Maligne Canyon|
The falls are a short walk up the canyon. They appear bigger from the riverbed, and different colors depending on how the light hits them. We spent a long time exploring in and around the falls.
|Maligne Canyon Ice Falls, Jasper National Park|
Turn back after the large ice falls, or if conditions look unsafe (see below).
|The turnaround point – the canyon floor was collapsing|
Return the way you came, and continue down the river bed towards Fifth Bridge, to Wedding Cake Falls. Fed by springs, these falls do not freeze in winter.
It is another 1.6 km one way to Sixth Bridge.
|Wedding Cake Falls, Maligne Canyon|
Alternate (short) route
If you are short on time and just want to do the ice hike, start from Bridge 5 and head towards Bridge 4. The canyon access is between Bridge 5 & 4.
- Warm, waterproof hikers
- Microspikes or instep crampons (ice cleats not recommended as they do not do well on uneven terrain)
- Rock/snow helmets recommended
- Extra clothes, socks and mittens
Know Before You Go
- Powerful forces of nature shaped this canyon over the past 10,000 years.
- The highest parts of the canyon are 50 metres above the river!
- The narrowest sections of the canyon are only 2 metres wide!
Source: Parks Canada
Where to Stay
There are several accommodation options in the town of Jasper or nearby Hinton. We enjoyed Jasper Park Lodge’s attractive and newly renovated rooms on our visit.
Maligne Canyon is a magical must-do winter walk in Jasper National Park! Put it on your bucket list!