The magnificent Maligne Canyon hike is almost always the first recommendation when planning a winter trip to Jasper. It’s well worth the visit, as one of several popular winter hikes (or “ice walks”) in Alberta. No matter what time of year, Maligne Canyon is sure to impress with multiple waterfalls and stunning views.
I enjoyed the Maligne Canyon hike in mid-March, though it was only possible to do part of the ice walk. Unfortunately, the days were warmer and the ice was softer, but it was still a beautiful day. For ideal conditions, I’d suggest visiting from December to February for the ice walk experience.
About Maligne Canyon
Location: Jasper National Park
Distance: 5 kilometres out and back
Elevation: 140 metre gain
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must be kept on leash.
Features: The Maligne Canyon hike features 6 bridges and several waterfalls and viewpoints to enjoy. In the winter months, the waters freeze and provide the unique chance to experience the canyon from below.
Finding the Trailhead—Two Parking Lot Options
The Maligne Canyon trail is a short 10 minutes away from Jasper town, with two different parking areas along Maligne Lake Road. I started at the fifth bridge parking area and hiked up the canyon. So this meant a slight incline with a total elevation gain of about 140 metres. Alternatively, to hike in the other direction, there’s ample parking near the first bridge. At this parking lot, you’ll also find a bite to eat at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Finally, if nature decides to call, the outhouse toilets at the trailheads remain open all year.
Note: If you’re planning the ice walk, especially later in the winter, it’s better to gain access to the ice near the fifth bridge. Though it is possible to find access close to the parking by the first bridge. However, when I was there in March, there were official signs warning hikers of dangerous conditions ahead. So only a portion of the ice walk was doable.
Maligne Canyon Hike and Ice Walk
Maligne Canyon is without a doubt one of the most popular hiking trails in Jasper. This 5 kilometre out and back hike with minimal elevation gain is accessible and fun for families and hikers of all skill levels. Who doesn’t love a short hike with multiple waterfalls? So if you’re looking for something uniquely “Jasper,” do yourself a favour and check out Maligne Canyon!
I was quite surprised to find the Maligne River thawed and flowing under the fifth bridge. As I hiked up the canyon, the ice gradually arrived and I enjoyed the ice walk before conditions became less than ideal. This meant the ice thinned out, and ice and rock can fall from above. Guided tours provide ice cleats and helmets for protection.
Even with iffy ice, the hike up the canyon was well worth it. The frozen formations were spectacular. The towering canyon walls are an impressive 50 metres at the highest point—the deepest canyon in the Rockies!
Know Before You Go
If you’re hoping to enjoy the fullness of the Maligne Canyon ice walk, I suggest going mid-winter to ensure the ice is fully frozen. March was a bit too late to walk the whole canyon floor. Even though it’s a short hike, remember to come prepared for winter with proper gear. I’d highly recommend bringing your crampons or micro spikes for the frozen canyon floor.
While you don’t need to book a tour for the ice walk, I’ve heard great things about the experience the guides provide (including pointing out easy-to-miss caves!). If you’d like to know a bit more and want the support of an expert guide, book the Maligne Canyon ice walk tour.
As I mentioned, Maligne Canyon is a super popular spot. If you’re like me and enjoy taking photos without the masses, try arriving in the morning or during the week. But really, whatever time you arrive will do just fine.
Other hikes in the Canadian Rockies that you might enjoy:
- The Johnston Canyon Hike in Beautiful Banff National Park
- The Lake Minnewanka Hike in Alberta Will Surprise You
- Banff’s Tunnel Mountain Hike is Wonderful in Winter
- 5 Easy Hikes for Rocky Mountain Rookies (Plus a Bonus!)
Thanks for reading! Have you visited the incredible Maligne Canyon in Jasper? What’d you think? Did I miss any important info? Leave a comment below.