Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park

Maligne-canyon-jasper-alberta

 Winter Adventure Things To Do in Jasper Alberta Canada

With its Towering Canyon Walls and Frozen Waterfalls the Maligne Canyon Icewalk is a Top Rated Canadian Rocky Mountain Experience.

The Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park is a truly spectacular experience. In fact, it is one of the top winter adventures in the Canadian Rockies. At 50m in height, the canyon walls tower over explorers hiking along its icy base. Around every corner there is a surprise waiting to be discovered. What will be around the next bend, perhaps fascinating rocks or ice formations, an obstacle to overcome, a cave to explore or maybe even a breathtaking frozen waterfall.

The 4th Bridge 50m above Maligne Canyon's base. Photo Credit: PW Guthrie
Enjoying the awe inspiring views in the canyon. Photo credit: PW Guthrie

Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park Is An Accessible Family Friendly Outdoor Adventure

What makes this adventure even better is how accessible it is. Whether this is your first time exploring winter in the Rocky Mountains, you have a young family or are a seasoned outdoors person there is an icewalk experience suitable to your level of expertise. The Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park should be on every outdoor enthusiast and adventure seeker's list of things to experience during the winter in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. 

Maligne Canyon Geology

Maligne Canyon is a slot canyon. This type of canyon is long and deep. Composed of soft limestone, the canyon has been eroded by water since the last ice age. This has created very interesting geological shapes. In some places the canyon is narrower at the top than it is at the bottom. This has some scientists theorizing that Maligne Canyon was once a cave that had its top sheared off by glaciers. Either way, Maligne Canyon is visually impressive.


Maligne River is primarily fed by Medicine Lake. This lake is known as a disappearing lake because the water travels underground for 14km before resurfacing in several locations in the canyon to form Maligne River.

A narrow ice trail leading through the slot canyon. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Maligne Canyon's limestone walls exemplify karst topography. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Jasper National Park in Alberta Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta is located in Canada's northern Rocky Mountains. It is part of the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. As it is situated further away from a major urban centre compared to Banff National Park it receives less tourists and is less developed. This means that the park is more natural, pristine and does not suffer from over tourism. That's not to say that you won't encounter lots of people on the Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park. Being one of the most easily accessible and stunning places to visit in the park, it attracts its share of mountain adventurers.

Peaceful mountain view. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Hiking alongside the Maligne River. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Finding the Start of the Maligne Canyon Icewalk

Starting across the 5th bridge, follow the trail that runs along the river. The start is not well marked as the Parks are trying to encourage people to go with a tour for safety. This will lead into the canyon and the icewalk. Portions of the Maligne River and waterfalls never freeze which makes for an enchanting winter wonderland experience. The early part of the trail follows the river's edge providing views of crystal clear waters contrasting against a snowy, forested riverbank.

Looking Back at the 5th Bridge and the Trail to Access the Icewalk. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Serenity along the Maligne River. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

The First and Second Waterfalls

Follow this path until you encounter your first frozen falls. You can't miss it, because it is right in the middle of the trail and creates a seemingly dead end. Unsure of where to go next to get around the waterfall we climbed up a steep slope to return back to the main trail. As it turns out, had we back tracked a bit we would have seen a trail on the righthand side of the river. This trail would have lead us up, around and actually over the fall. As it was, we followed the upper canyon trail for a little bit before finding a location to pop back down to the river at the second falls. These second falls are where the guided tours begin their icewalk.

The first waterfall and seemingly dead end. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
The second waterfall is only half frozen.

Adventures within the Adventure

Overall the Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park is fairly easy. It is common to see families with young children exploring the area as well. Despite much of the canyon floor being wider than it is up top, there are a few challenging sections and tight squeezes. These make for a fun little adventure within an adventure. 

Tight Squeeze

Scaling the rock is quite slippery, especially when it is in contact with metal ice cleats. This makes the little scramble up and down it a bit tricky but not impossible. My not very glamorous technique, was to first remove my gloves so that I could get a few good hand holds. Since, it was a nice day so I wasn't worried about the cold. Then I basically crawled up on my knees which worked a whole lot better than the people before me who kept trying to use their ice cleats on the rock. Having some experience rock climbing and knowing a few techniques helped as well. 

A tight squeeze and little bit of climbing to get through here. Photo credit: PW Guthrie

Ice Bridge Crossing

This is spot presented us with another little challenge and an adventure within adventure on the icewalk. This is when you hope that your ice cleats are good in good condition. Not only are the ice and rocks slippery to get onto the narrow ice bridge, your hand holds are also smooth and slippery ice. Fortunately, it was easier to cross then it looked. 

You need to be sure footed to cross this ice bridge otherwise your feet will get wet. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Interesting Ice Formations, Frozen Waterfalls and Caves

Maligne Canyon is filled with interesting ice formations like these stalagmites and frozen waterfalls. However, the highlight of the icewalk is being able to explore the cave behind a frozen waterfall. From inside the cave the beautiful colours of the frozen waterfall are on highlighted as the sun shines on it. The cave is big enough for several people to stand up inside at once and also has a couple of fun little entrances and exits to make you feel like you spelunking. 

It's a magical winter wonderland behind the frozen waterfall. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Crawling through the ice cave behind the falls. Photo credit: PW Guthrie

Ice climbing in Alberta

For those looking for something even more daring and adventurous, Maligne Canyon's frozen falls are an ideal playground for ice climbers of all level. There are a number of local companies in Jasper that offer ice climbing lessons. These companies provide all of the gear and expertise needed for an exhilarating ice climbing challenge. To keep everyone safe, be sure to ask permission before passing by the ice climbers. 
An ice climber rappels down the waterfall. Photo credit: PW Guthrie.
An adventurous group taking an ice climbing lesson. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Words of Caution and Safety Tips

The Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park is a natural wilderness area. The surface is slippery and uneven surfaces as you will be walking on snow, ice, and rocks. The ice can be thin. Sometimes shelf ice breaks away. Beneath the icewalk, the river is still flowing It is fast, cold and deep. People have been swept away. Also falling into glacier fed waters during the winter is a hazard of its own. The tours provide helmets as on occasion rock and ice may fall from the canyon above. As with much of the National Park, cell phone service is unreliable. 

Doing the Maligne Canyon Icewalk Without a Guide

Should you choose to do the icewalk, know that you do so at your own risk. If this is a family adventure, be sure to watch the kids. If choosing to hike the ice walk on your own you will need to provide your own equipment and should have some previous experience with winter hiking, especially on ice and near open water.

What to Wear and Bring on your Icewalk Adventure

Be sure to have the proper gear to keep you warm and safe so you can enjoy the experience. Ice cleats are a must, and a hiking pole is a good idea to help with balance and to probe soft spots on the ice before you step on it. Winter gear like snowpants and mitts are important. This it true even on a warm day if you plan on belly crawling through the cave, ice sliding and crawling up and down rocks and ice ledges. Since Maligne Canyon is in Jasper National Park a purchasing a Parks Canada Pass is required.

Be prepared for your icewalk adventure. Ice cleats are a must and a walking pole is nice. Photo credit: PW Guthrie

Jasper Tours

Although it is possible to do the icewalk without a guide, tours are recommended. The tours provide all the equipment needed to keep you safe and the guides are very knowledgeable about the history and geology of the canyon. There are many different options for Maligne Canyon Icewalk tours. Some packages include lunch at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen or are combined with other adventures like a train ride through the mountains, wildlife viewing and photography tours or a foodie tour in the Jasper townsite. 

Wildlife in National Park

Jasper is known for its abundant wildlife. In fact, I believe that I have seen wildlife just about everything I have been to Jasper. Over the years we have spotted deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, bears and even otters. Caribou and wolves, marmots, pikas, and lots of birds can also be spotted in the Park. If you dream of seeing wildlife and want a bit more of a guarantee, then you are in luck. There are a number of outfitters and tour groups in Jasper that provide wildlife viewing experiences. 

Big Horn Sheep in Jasper National Park
A moose sighting along Maligne lake Road. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen

The Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen is located up at the first bridge and is a smokehouse and café. The restaurant has outstanding views overlooking the Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park and is one of the top places to dine in Jasper National Park. The menu is locally sourced and as they say seasoned with 'exploration and adventure'. Sounds delicious.

Open year-round visitors can enjoy the patio during the summer and can stay warm by the firepit in the winter.

Restaurant hours during from January - April are:
- Grab and go - Thursday - Monday 9-4
- Restaurant Lunch service - Thursday - Monday 11-3

Check back for hours at other times of year. 

Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen Gift Shop

 The Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen also has a gift and coffee shop with grab and go pastries and lunches. Lunch options include dishes like chili, soup, salads, deli style sandwiches, and pastries. The gift shop is filled with local, Canadian and mountain lifestyle products. There is also a large selection of Canadian adventure books.

The Gift Shop in the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Folding Mountain Brewing

There's nothing quite like a cold locally crafted beer after spending a day's adventure in the outdoors. We stopped by a favourite spot, Folding Mountain Brewing. It is just outside of the Jasper National Park Gates and 15 minutes from Hinton Alberta. At Folding Mountain, they create some of Alberta's best craft beers, have a fantastic tap house and restaurant all with excellent views of the mountains. Their aim is to be a part of whatever your adventure may be. We are always happy to include Folding Mountain in our adventures. 

Folding Mountain Tap House and Kitchen. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Where is the Maligne Canyon Icewalk?

Maligne Canyon is located in Jasper National Park. It is just about a four hour drive West of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway and is only 11 minutes East from the Town of Jasper.

Map of Maligne Canyon relative to Jasper and Folding Mountain Brewing. Map courtesy My Google Maps.

When is the Best Time to Hike the Icewalk?

The icewalk along the bottom of the canyon is only possible during the winter with January through March being the best times. As the river is still flowing underneath the ice it is important to wait until the ice is thick enough. Some years it is possible to hike the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk in Jasper National Park as early as December or as late as April, but its best to check with the Parks staff or a tour company before heading out during these times.

How Difficult is the Maligne Canyon Icewalk?

The icewalk is about 2-3km long and will take about 2-3 hours to complete. It is considered to be an easy to moderate winter hike. There are some trickier spots that require good mobility with steep slopes and rocky or icy ledges to climb up and down from. 

Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park is a Must See Attraction

The Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper National Park is a magnificent winter adventure that is suitable for both novice and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. The frozen falls and towering canyon walls create a magical experience that is not to be missed. No winter journey to the Canadian Rocky Mountains is complete without exploring Maligne Canyon.

Maligne Canyon Icewalk is a Top Rated Canadian Rocky Mountain Experience.

A Must-Do Winter Adventure in Jasper Alberta Canada

Travel Guide

    • Restaurant, Cafe
    • Winter Attraction
  • Alberta
    • Restaurant

Canada Parks

  • Jasper Alberta Canada
  • Alberta
    • World Heritage Site
    • Waterfall
    • Open Year Round
  • Easy - Family
  • Year Round

Location (Map)

Maligne Canyon, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
×
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Cycling Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff
Summer Road Trip Ideas Near Calgary Alberta
 

Comments 2

Diana Mohrsen on Saturday, 08 April 2023 04:31

This, to me, is really an adventure with a capital A. Your photos really bring your story to life. I can only imagine this on a sunny winter day. It must be magical.

This, to me, is really an adventure with a capital A. Your photos really bring your story to life. I can only imagine this on a sunny winter day. It must be magical.
Janet Guthrie on Tuesday, 11 April 2023 05:39

Thank you Diana, you're feedback means a lot. The Maligne Canyon Icewalk is magical in the winter. The upper canyon trail is amazing year round as well. I hope that you have the opportunity to explore it, maybe next season???

Thank you Diana, you're feedback means a lot. The Maligne Canyon Icewalk is magical in the winter. The upper canyon trail is amazing year round as well. I hope that you have the opportunity to explore it, maybe next season???
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Thursday, 13 June 2024

Alberta Experiences