Maligne Canyon: Must-Visit Place in Jasper National Park
Maligne Canyon is a wonderful place in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. When planning your itinerary, you must include the hike along Maligne Canyon on your list. This activity is suitable for every type of traveler - for the elderly, families with kids, and backpackers as well. Read our guide on visiting Maligne Canyon with tips on how to get there, what to see and what to pack.
Visiting Maligne Canyon both in summer and winter will be the highlight of your trip to Jasper National Park.
The deepest canyon (up to 50 meters at certain points) in the Canadian Rockies offers amazing photo opportunities and awe-inspiring views, and we are not afraid to say every traveler will appreciate the raw beauty of the canyon no matter if the magnificently colored water is roaring and swirling down the canyon or if the water is frozen and you can walk inside the canyon while enjoying the peaceful stillness.
Maligne Canyon is a place you can visit all year round - we traveled to the canyon twice, once in September when it was sunny and once at the beginning of July when it was raining all day, but both visits were absolutely wonderful, and it did not even matter we've already been there as the level of water and the flow was different each time which created a completely new experience.
Maligne Canyon is for sure not an unknown destination - it is one of the most-visited places in Jasper National Park for many reasons. Except for simply being a beautiful natural sight, Maligne Canyon lies on the way to famous Maligne Lake and is close to the favorite hiking trails like Opal Hills trek, and one of the most important reasons is that the canyon is easily accessible, and easily walkable paths along the canyon attract crowds.
Are you plan on visiting Maligne Canyon? Keep on reading as we will share everything you might find helpful for your upcoming trip.
WHY MALIGNE CANYON?
The expression maligne comes from a French word and means malignant or wicked.
We've heard two versions of how the canyon got its name.
The first one refers to the turbulent river which flows from the equally named Maligne Lake. The second version says that a French man tried to traverse the canyon with his horses and they were swept away by the swirling water, so he told his friends that the canyon is wicked and the name stuck to the canyon only in his maternal language, therefore Maligne.
Maligne river originates in Maligne Lake which is for sure a place you should not miss when in the area.
From Maligne Lake, the river flows underground via Medicine Lake and then the water reaches the narrow canyon and picks up speed. It is so narrow, especially at the upper part of the canyon, that you can even spot two rocks suspended between the canyon walls at some point.
HOW TO GET TO MALIGNE CANYON
Maligne Canyon is located only a short drive from Jasper town center.
Follow Yellowhead Highway in Edmonton direction and then turn right to Maligne Lake Road which will take you to the canyon in a couple of minutes.
When turning from Yellowhead Highway, you will drive across the bridge over Athabasca River, where you can at times see herds of deers or other wildlife who come to the river to drink.
The Canadian Rockies are best seen and explored when you have a rental car, although you can take a shuttle from Jasper which runs along the Maligne Lake Road.
MALIGNE CANYON HIKE
Although you can for sure only park your car on a parking lot, cross a bridge, have a look on the canyon and carry on to your next destinaton, according to our opinion it would be a shame not to walk a bit around.
When you look on the map you will find out there are several places where it is possible to start the walk The traditional starting point is at the main Maligne Canyon Carpark near the First Bridge, but it is also possible to park near the Fifth or the Sixth Bridge. To walk the full loop along the canyon allow yourself 2-3 hours as the trail is 3.7 kilometers long one way and there are many photogenic spots along the path.
You can always decide to head back when you have enough walking and views, or you can take the shorter, inner loop which leads closer to the river.
The path is well-marked and easy to follow (take a picture of the map at the beginning of the trail), and you can admire the narrow canyon, the rushing water beneath you which carves its way through the limestone and creates cascades and waterfalls.
At some points, mostly between the first and fourth bridge, the trail will reward you with outstanding views of crystal clear pools that have eroded into the rock. Also, look for nests hollowed into the rock by birds.
To avoid the crowds, it is worth to visit Maligne Canyon early in the morning before tour groups arrive.
IS IT BETTER TO VISIT MALIGNE CANYON IN SUMMER OR IN WINTER?
We've visited Maligne Canyon only in summer and during early autumn, but if you are traveling in the Canadian Rockies during winter, you should definitely put the canyon on your bucket list.
We do not think any season is better as every time in the Canadian mountains has its magic. Maligne Canyon in summer is absolutely stunning with an incredible number of photo opportunities as you can walk the path along the river and cross the bridge from time to time.
On the other hand, when the river in winter freezes, you can climb down to the canyon, walk on ice, and enjoy the exceptional opportunity to see frozen waterfalls and everything around hidden under the snow.
It is highly recommended to walk with a guided tour for your safety.
WHERE TO STAY IN JASPER
The closest town to Maligne Canyon is Jasper, which is for many travelers a base for visiting Jasper National Park.
Because of its popularity, and considerably small size, if you plan on traveling to the national park, it is necessary to make a reservation well in advance, especially in the main season between May and October.
We've handpicked three best accommodation options for every traveler.
Budget | Mount Robson Inn - It is almost impossible to find budget accommodation in the Canadian Rockies when not camping. This hotel is reasonably priced and offers clean facilities and excellent breakfast.
Mid-range | Jasper Inn & Suites - Convenient location, indoor pool, onsite restaurant, and clean and tidy rooms should convince you to stay here.
Luxury | Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge - You will hardly find better accommodation in Jasper. Beautiful surroundings, comfortable rooms, and great service are the main reasons to stay here.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR HIKING ALONG MALIGNE CANYON
The Maligne Canyon hike is pretty short, and those of you who plan only taking a couple of pictures do not have to carry many things in a backpack because the parking lot is nearby.
However, here are five essential things you should have ready to use.
Rain Poncho | It can start raining any time of the year in the Canadian Rockies, so pack a light and foldable rain poncho.
Canon M50 | Camera is must-have, especially when you plan on exploring the Maligne area more thoroughly.
Hiking Boots for Him & for Her | Although the trail along the canyon is not somehow technical, we found wearing hiking boots in Canada very comfortable. It is a must to have hiking boots when visiting in winter.
Water Bottle | There is a teahouse near the parking lot which is a bit pricey, so bring your filled water bottle.
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