Winter seems to have the ability to completely change the face of any landscape it touches. Rolling prairies teeming with wildlife become vast frozen tundras, trees become bare, and lakes become blocks of solid ice. When you come from a place that’s primarily warm this transformation can make you feel like you’re on a completely different planet. That’s exactly what it felt like when I visited Jasper National Park in Canada and took a Maligne Canyon icewalk. The views were completely out of this world.
Maligne Canyon was shaped over time by the two primary factors. The glacial movements in the area carved out large chunks of rock and exposed hidden caverns. Then the waters of the Maligne River that flow out of nearby Medicine Lake slowly ate away at the relatively soft limestone. The result is a canyon that is about 160ft (50M) deep and about 7ft (2M) wide. You can take an interpretive hike around the top of Maligne Canyon, but if you want to climb down into the bottom to take an icewalk you have to go with a tour company. We set out on our trek with Maligne Adventures and had a fantastic time.
When you first arrive at the site of Maligne Canyon it seems to be just another wooded area in the Rockies. That changes the second you start making your way down the trail.
As you begin to make your way down along the length of the canyons, you cross several bridges that give you a glimpse of what lies ahead.
If you take a moment to look into the nooks and cracks you can see tiny frozen waterfalls.
With just a few more steps though, you get to see some truly spectacular sites.
After a few more minutes of hiking the trail we began our descent into the canyon, and entered a whole other world. Icicles and other formations appeared on every surface. Each of them more unique than the snowflakes that first fell to create them.
Throughout our hike, our guide pointed out the beautiful formations and lead us deeper into the canyon. Even though we were wearing the ice spikes they provided, it was very easy to slip if you took a wrong step.
Despite the harsh Winter and a landscape that was still mostly frozen, there were signs of plant life beginning to emerge for the Spring.
Our guide took us as far into the canyon as was safe. In the hard winter you can go much deeper and walk up to the base of the large waterfalls, but at this point the melt off had begun and the ice would only support us for so far. Either way the views were incredible.
What I found most stunning though, were the colors and patterns that were showing up on the exposed rock faces.
When it was time to depart the canyon, our guide had one more treat in store for us. Taking us back past where we initially entered the canyon, we went through a few tight turns and then came out into this Winter oasis.
After we relaxed for a few moments, it was time for us to make the hardest part of the journey. We had to leave this land of beauty and enchantment and return to the world around us. If you find yourself in Jasper National Park, don’t leave there without exploring this incredible natural wonder.
Details for the Maligne Canyon Icewalk
616 Patricia Street, Jasper, Alberta