Maligne Canyon is located near Jasper, Alberta and a fun place to explore all year round. In winter though it’s just a little more exciting. The Maligne river carved the canyon out of the limestone rock and karst formations can be seen all along the canyon. It’s in the Palliser Range. The Maligne Canyon ice walk takes about 2.5 hours and is about 3.5km round trip from fifth bridge. Here’s some pictures if you need more convincing.
Safety First: Please check with a local Jasper Adventure center first, to ensure the ice is safe enough to walk on. They run tours daily in the winter, but use a different canyon when the ice is unsafe in Maligne Canyon. Also make sure you have cleats of some kind. For light occasional hiking you can get STABILicers for $20 or better Yaktrax Pro cleats for $30. You should know that this is for waking on ice, not packed snow. You’ll need it.
The trail itself starts at Fifth Bridge, here. Heading east out of Jasper on the Yellowhead Highway, turn right onto Maligne Road. Continue down Maligne Road until you see the Fifth Bridge parking lot sign. Turn in here and park.
Start by heading over Fifth Bridge.. for winter hiking I recommend staying along Maligne river, as the trail itself climbs along the river and has icy patches in February. The river is very shallow in the winter and it’s easy to pick your way around the rock patches. If you follow the river along, you can get back on the trail in places if you like, there are some areas you’ll have to navigate around. Make sure you listen for hollow sounds on the ice as you walk, and find a way around when you do. As you stick to the river, the canyon walls get higher and higher, so you’ll want to stay in the canyon rather than on the trail wherever possible. Once there, throw on your cleats and have some fun. There are ice climbers climbing the waterfalls usually, so please make sure you DO NOT cross underneath their ropes while they are climbing. Their ice axes constantly bring down ice while they are climbing, The canyon bottom usually has around 4 to 6 inches of ice in it. You need about 1inch of clear ice for every 500lbs of weight to safely walk on it. There isn’t a ton of wildlife around, but you usually see elk, mountain sheep, and the odd mountain goat around.
Here’s a picture of the sign just next to Fifth Bridge, a bit more detailed route map that the general location above. Keep in mind though it’s just talking about the trail itself – in summer conditions.