Descend to the frozen riverbed of Maligne Canyon, Jasper’s deepest canyon, and discover natural ice sculptures and stunning ice falls. This unique opportunity only lasts a few months each year – from mid-December until April (conditions permitting), so book your tour now! After the Maligne Canyon Icewalk, enjoy a glass of wine and delicious meal at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. The digs and dining are as divine as the scenery!
Disclosure: Pursuit | Banff Jasper Collection hosted us, but all words and opinions are my own.
Maligne Canyon Guided Icewalk
It’s a brisk -12 C outside, but it’s warm and cozy at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen where we meet our guide, Brittany. After filling out waivers, we are geared up with helmets, ice cleats, and insulated, waterproof boots for the icewalk. By the fire pit, Brittany gives us a rundown of what to expect: we will hike a few kilometres, mostly downhill, go on the ice for a bit, hike down to Fifth Bridge, then get shuttled back to our starting point. “Yay, no uphill!” my daughter, Emi, says with a big smile.
We follow the group onto the trail which hugs the edge of the gorge. Brittany explains how the canyon was formed by erosion; water washing away limestone over thousands of years. Another theory is that the canyon was a subterranean cave system (formed by an underground river) which lost its top at the end of the last ice age (retreating glaciers scraped the top off). Either way, water has been at work here, carving and sculpting this cool slot canyon. To this day, water still drains through underground streams from Medicine Lake into Maligne Canyon. It’s an interesting phenomenon that adds to the canyon’s mystique.
At Second Bridge, the canyon’s deepest point, we peer 50 metres (164 feet) down into the depths. Ice and snow adorn the canyon walls, and a log jam reveals the high water point from the 2012 flood. I can’t imagine kayaking here in summer when the river is raging, but people do! Before we leave, Brittany points out nesting sites for rare black swifts. This is why we go with a guide, to discover all the secrets of the canyon!
Between the Third and Fourth Bridges, we get an amazing view of “The Queen of Maligne” and “The Angel.” Popular with ice climbers and photographers alike, these beautiful icefalls tower 30 metres (98.4 feet) above the canyon floor. While the Queen is a pillar of ice, The Angel is a large curtain of ice that is popular with beginner ice climbers.
At “The Grotto” we traverse an ice shelf and take turns venturing into an ice cave. It’s a scene right out of Narnia and I almost expect to hear the Ice Queen’s sleighbells! Instead, I hear water dripping from giant icicles, and the sound of “Let it go” (from Frozen) from the adjacent cave. My kids are channeling Elsa – and doing a pretty good job!
The canyon narrows to a “squeeze” as we head toward Fifth Bridge, providing the opportunity to slide down ice-covered rock. Our group is adventurous and everyone gives it a try (if you prefer, you can go around on the trail but you’d be missing out)! Just beyond are Wedding Cake Falls, also known as Bridal Veil Falls, and a cave. Last but not least, Brittany shows us American dippers feeding in the river. These hardy little birds live here year-round, and are able to feed year-round thanks to warm (+5 C) water trickling underground from Medicine Lake! If the water froze, they wouldn’t be able to access the aquatic insects they depend on for sustenance.
Although it was my third winter visit to Maligne Canyon, I loved it and learned a lot. Winter is definitely the best time to go when the canyon is transformed into an icy world of weird and wonderful ice sculptures.
To book your three-hour Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour, or get more information, visit Pursuit | Banff Jasper Collection | Maligne Canyon Icewalks.
Dining at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen
For the perfect ending to an awesome hike, dine at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. The venue is rustic chic, and the menu is modern smokehouse. Think pulled pork with Canadian whiskey BBQ sauce and bacon jam. It’s as delicious as it sounds! Pair with a beer or apple cider, and take the shuttle back to your hotel! If traveling with kids, there’s a kids’ menu too.
Insider’s Tip: For the best rate, book your lunch or dinner in advance with your Icewalk Tour.
Check out the smokehouse menu at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen.
Know Before You Go
For your safety, Parks Canada recommends going on a guided icewalk in Maligne Canyon. Hazards include deep, cold running water; risk of rockfall; and falling on the ice.
Pursuit’s guided icewalks include loaner helmets, ice cleats, and waterproof/insulated boots; transportation to and from your hotel; and a hot beverage after the hike. Three-hour tours are offered three times a day (including a cool night icewalk).
Children 6 & up are welcome on the tours, and can easily complete the hike since it’s at a moderate pace with lots of stops.
Dress warm and bring your camera!
Where to Stay
The Crimson, Jasper’s newest hotel, has modern, spacious rooms; a pool and hot tub; and great breakfast buffet. Book the Alberta Residents’ package to get free breakfast (seasonal special)!
For More Information
To book your Jasper hike and dine getaway now, or get more information, please visit Pursuit Banff & Jasper Collection.