Inside an Ice Canyon

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

In summer, the canyon rushes with churning water. From atop the limestone walls, one can peer down at the piercing greens of the river fed by Maligne Lake, the largest in Jasper National Park.

But in winter, when the water is silenced by its own transformation to crystal ice, the canyon is set to be explored from a whole new angle.

From the inside….

Jasper Maligne Canyon Ice Walk 8

Leading up to the canyon is ice of every shape and shade of blue or green, and the slight rushing of water that was just too stubborn to freeze. We tested the chill with our fingertips, dipped our heads inside small gaps in the ice for a new perspective, and slid our hands along the smooth solid ripples.


Once inside the canyon (which is actually a gorge, at 55ms deep!), light dimmed, the trickling of water diminished, and sheer awe was induced.

That sheet of ice below? That would be the frosted surface of Maligne River, the top layer of it frozen before the water below retreated at the beginning of winter.

Jasper Maligne Canyon Ice Walk 9

Some people prefer their waterfalls frozen. Our eagerness to try such an excursion was quickly diminished by the fact that ice climbing is damn hard.

Jasper Maligne Canyon Ice Walk 7

Up the waterfall or not, the walk alone was an outstanding and unique excursion.

How to do it

The Maligne Canyon is just outside of Jasper and tours run three times daily with Maligne Adventures. It is the most popular winter tour in Jasper and well worth the three hour excursion!It’s also available at night! Check out this account of the Maligne Canyone Ice Walk at Night via our friend Seattle.

Many thanks to Tourism Jasper for their assistance during our stay. As always, all opinions are our own.

17 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • February 27 2014

    That looks so beautiful, although I’m still too much of a pansy to do it.
    Ayngelina recently posted..How would you spend $20,000 on holiday?

  • February 27 2014

    Cool! I’ve always wanted to see that canyon in the winter. Do you need special passes to get in? Can you walk-in? Or need to rappel down?


    • February 28 2014

      You can walk-in! We had a great tour, but you can do it on your own. I would recommend getting crampons though if you go solo.

  • February 28 2014

    This is amazing! I’ve yet to visit a frozen waterfall, but I love the idea of visiting a canyon in the winter. Going on the bucket list!

  • Kadri
    February 28 2014

    WOW, great great pictures. Ice climbing seems so much fun but I think it’s super hard at the same time.

    • February 28 2014

      It is VERY hard. A waterfall might be a little easier than an ice wall (more edges), but still tough!

  • March 1 2014

    Amazing! Stunning photos! Thanks for sharing.

  • Charli | Wanderlusters
    March 1 2014

    Such beautiful photography. What an intimate way to get close to the winter in Jasper. It looks like a great adventure! The more I see of your travels there the more I want to visit and explore the region myself!

  • March 1 2014

    Never ever seen anything like this before! Quite spectacular!
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  • March 1 2014

    I’m a total summer lover and actually try to avoid winter in Germany. But these photos look so amazing and I guess it’s worth wearing warm clothes and go outside to see the beautiful side of winter 🙂
    Stef recently posted..About finding courage and following my heart (and why you should do so too)

  • March 4 2014

    Such a cool unreal place! Pete – did you find it challenging to photograph? I found the light situation there really hard – but then again I don’t normally do HDR. Any tips for photographing a canyon from inside?!

  • March 7 2014

    Love the crampons and the photography is award-winning!
    Maria Falvey recently posted..Chief One Feather

  • That does look hard! I have done “ice walking” on a glacier in Argentina. That was scary enough. I can’t imagine actually climbing with crampons and ropes.

  • March 9 2014

    As usual, your photos are gorgeous. Like Stef, I think I would prefer to visit Jasper in the summer or fall; preferably on the back of a horse! What a trip.

  • This is beyond beautiful! It looks magical. What a great experience. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hammad Tariq
    March 29 2014

    Most amazing pictures. Ice climbing is always hard. Beautifully captured in camera too, especially the frosted surface of Maligne River. Award-winning!

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