Craving a bucket-list experience? An ice walk through a canyon in Jasper National Park is a must-see, with frozen waterfalls and wild views.
Maligne Canyon is a natural wonder year-round, but the ice walk in the canyon is honestly out of this world cool.
Kicking it all off, you begin at the fifth bridge parking lot. After a bit of walking along the trail, you eventually plop down into the start of the canyon. Don’t forget to stop along the trail and admire the mountain views too.
If you decide to forego a tour guide (we highly recommend using one, Jasper Hikes & Tours is a great option) be sure to have ice cleats on. It is SLICK down there!
As you start to get deeper into Maligne Canyon, you’ll come across this massive frozen ice form called Queen of Maligne. Isn’t all that ice just stunning?
If you get the all-clear to advance, you can even duck underneath some of the cliff faces and marvel at the huge icicles and frozen waterfall. It’s hard not to be amazed by the sight of it all, so stand there for a bit and take it all in!
As you venture deeper into the canyon, keep an eye out for fossils along the walls too.
While enjoying the views of the smooth rock, ice, and snow, be mindful of stones or ice above you — you’re in Mother Nature’s territory, and something could come tumbling down at any time. With some of the frozen waterfalls towering at 30 metres, anything can happen. Conditions in the canyon change daily!
If the cold winter months helped create some good thick ice, you can make it a decent amount into the canyon past the Queen of Maligne. If you have a guide, they’ll be looking out for any signs of danger. Remember, in some spots, there’s a sheet of ice, 10 feet of air, and then the ground. How wild is that?
You can walk through the canyon’s winter wonderland thanks to a natural phenomenon. Maligne River flows into Medicine Lake upstream, a seasonal lake that fills in the spring due to meltwater but disappears by the fall.
The water disappears in the lake thanks to an underground cave system that transports the water to the canyon, emptying into the canyon through multiple spots. The water only flows from May to December, allowing for the ice walks.
Lots is still unknown about this cave system, it’s a complete natural wonder.
On the way back from the canyon, stop and have lunch at a stunning waterfall that doesn’t fully freeze during the winter months.
If you are touring with Jasper Hikes & Tours, you may be lucky enough to be partnered up with Suka, who happily trots into the canyon with you and your guide. Suka is a bit of a local celebrity, actually.
The tour company also provides a nice warm cup of apple cider near the end of the tour, so if you’re feeling a bit chilly outside of the canyon you’ll be warmed right up.
So, there you have it. When you visit Jasper in the summer or fall months when the ice is long gone and you look down at the steep, STEEP canyon you’ll be amazed you ever made it down there, let alone walked through and got some amazing photos.
The ice walk is usually operational from early to mid-December until the end of March. We definitely consider it one of the best things to do in the Alberta Rockies, period.
The author of this article was hosted by Tourism Jasper