On our recent trip to Jasper National Park, the main item on our to-do list was definitely the Maligne Canyon ice walk. Maligne Canyon is located about 15 minutes’ drive west of Jasper. During the warmer months, the hike along the top of the canyon gives stunning views of the water rushing through it. But in winter, the canyon is transformed.
The water freezes thick enough to walk on, allowing willing adventurers to explore the inside of the canyon. You can do this walk with a tour group but it’s just as good on your own.
There are a few places to enter the canyon, but we chose to park at fifth bridge (there are six bridges in total over the canyon) and enter from the river. We strolled from our car across the bridge and down into the river bed, to get some pics of the flowing river. It’s not terribly deep, but with much of the upstream frozen solid this is no surprise.
You can’t get into the canyon itself from this way unless you are able to climb up a frozen waterfall, but it’s worth a wander to get a feel for the area and to see some different scenery. After you hit the first waterfall, you can climb back up to the path along the top of the canyon and enter a little further down the path.
From here you can walk all the way up to near third bridge, as long as you’re willing to do a little climbing. Luckily, we were wearing our waterproof pants and jackets, and our warmest waterproof boots. We had also purchased ice cleats, which are strongly recommended, and between these and a general enthusiasm for the task, we had no trouble getting through the hike.
The frozen river has the typical turquoise coloring of many lakes rivers in the Canadian Rockies; the result of suspended sediments from the glaciers which feed them. The variation in colors was apparent in the frozen waterfalls, which ranged from yellow to sky blue to green throughout the walk.
The canyon itself is amazing. The Maligne River has carved out the limestone to a depth of approximately 50m, leaving in its wake a combination of twisted corners, intricate striations and collected debris.
Throughout the canyon, the river has frozen in some seemingly impossible formations. In one section, a whole cavern has been hollowed underneath the ice. The ice above is thick enough to walk on and forms part of the main track, but the cavern below is like another world. The entire walk was incredible, and one that we will not soon forget.
And for fun, here’s a video taken on the day.