Maligne Canyon – Perhaps the Best Winter Walk in the Rockies

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Descending into the Canyon with my friend and guide, Randal Riddell

Maligne Canyon

Everyone who has travelled with me is acutely aware of my lifelong love affair with Jasper National Park. For any connoisseur of the Rockies, Jasper is real, wild, beautiful and deeply authentic. In the winter, Jasper is all that, yet even more magic.

Light peeking through into the Canyon. 300+ million years of geologic history

An obvious stop for any visitor to the Jasper area is the Maligne Valley and during the winter months, it is possible for people of almost every ability to take a guided walk into this remarkable landscape.

I’ve trusted this team with many lives 😉

Over the last two winters, I have trusted the guides at Maligne Adventures to lead over 300 of my friends and clients from Just You and Travelsphere into the canyon.

On all the winter trips, climatic conditions govern most activities and walking on ice is clearly weather-related, but in general terms, all our visitors go home knowing they have done far more than they expected and specifically, the ice-walk consistently stands out as a highlight. This is easy to understand. Not many people grow up with as much snow and ice as us Canadian mountain people, and few have ever thought about ‘ice-climbing!’

Ice-climbers behind me

After a journey into the canyon, they have still not ice-climbed, but they have witnessed it firsthand! More significantly, people from less icy climes – from age 25 to 85 – will have walked on ice, deep into geologic history.

This 3-hour excursion may not be for everyone .. but it is close. The company provides appropriate (waterproof) footwear and ice cleats. The informed – and addictively enthusiastic – guides watch virtually every step.

Learning about the Maligne River is interesting. The ‘disappearing’ Medicine Lake is fascinating, but honestly, the frozen waterfalls and deep, limestone canyon is so beautiful as to be breathtaking. Not a word I often use.

In functional terms, I promise to show Maligne Canyon to all visitors who join me in Jasper, but from December through March a guided walk into the icy canyon is a trip of a lifetime.

Just showing off the cleats and boots!

I do strongly recommend using a guide. The canyon is wonderfully accessible, yet almost alien to those either not equipped or not familiar with such an environment. Ice is dangerous anywhere, but with good guidance, Maligne Canyon may just be the best winter outing anywhere in the Rocky Mountains.

This is my last trip of 7 here this winter. It has been a beautiful winter season, so I asked Randal to take me for a walk. The ice was particularly perfect this year. Even though I have stared into Maligne Canyon for over 20 years, it is easy to forget just how incredible a place it is.

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