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.

Frozen water at Maligne Canyon hike in Jasper
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Walking on the frozen Maligne River in March.

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.

Read more: 5 Easy Hikes for Rocky Mountain Rookies (Plus a Bonus!)

About Maligne Canyon

Frozen waterfall at Maligne Canyon hike from above
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Looking down from above on the frozen wonder.

Location: Jasper National Park
Distance: 5 kilometres out and back
Difficulty: Easy
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

Elk on Maligne Lake Road in Jasper
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Grazing elk on Maligne Lake Road.

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.

Read more: The Johnston Canyon Hike in Beautiful Banff National Park

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Maligne Canyon is very well marked with ample signage.
Fifth bridge at Maligne Canyon hike
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Crossing over the fifth bridge at the trailhead.
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The water flowing into Maligne River comes from nearby Medicine Lake.
Maligne Canyon hike map at trailhead
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Choose your own adventure at Maligne Canyon.

Maligne Canyon Hike and Ice Walk

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The stunningly clear Malign River flowing under the fifth bridge.

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!

Read more: Banff’s Tunnel Mountain Hike is Wonderful in Winter

Maligne Canyon hiking trail in winter
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The packed and icy trail leading up the canyon.
Maligne Canyon hike in winter
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Left the main trail to the ice walk.
Maligne Canyon hike inside the canyon
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Finding the canyon walls… getting higher and higher!
Maligne Canyon hike and rock climb
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A small section to climb. Watch your step!
Two people enjoy Maligne Canyon hike
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The Maligne Canyon ice walk in March.
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Still lots of ice in mid-March.
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Ice stalagmites formed in a cave along the canyon.
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Magical winter scene at Maligne Canyon.
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Exploring the rock formations inside the canyon.
Maligne Canyon walls
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Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in the Rockiesup to 50 metres!
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Lots of fun inside these walls!
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Some visitors enjoying the canyon from below.
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Stunning frozen waterfall inside the canyon.
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There are 6 bridges built across the canyon walls.
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On the return trip, back to the fifth bridge.

Know Before You Go

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Sign warning of unfavourable conditions ahead in March.

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.

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Grab a bite to eat at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen.

Other hikes in the Canadian Rockies that you might enjoy:

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.

Maligne Canyon Hike in Jasper National Park via @outandacross
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