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Alberta, Canada

Maligne Canyon With Kids. Discovering Jasper National Park

Exploring Maligne Canyon with kids: hiking, ice walking; parking, and tips for travelers with little children. Summer vs winter time in the canyon

Maligne Canyon with kids is a post about “all you need to know before you go”. We explored it with Andrew, 5 weeks old, Erika 3 y/o, and Artem 8 y/o.

Location: Jasper National Park, Canada. 15 min drive from Medicine Lake
Time to explore: 1-3 hours
Parking: busy but fairly good
Check the trail conditions here before you go

A narrow, slot-like feature carved on the floor of a “U-shaped” valley is properly named a “gorge” by geologists, meaning Maligne Canyon is really a gorge.

Maligne Canyon became our most favorite attraction in the entire Jasper National Park (with Athabasсa Falls following). The canyon is so unusual that you start wondering about its origin the moment you see it!

Maligne Canyon: The Origin

Maligne Canyon is both a magic and a mystery. There is a couple of explanation of its origin:

1. The canyon is an unroofed cave. During the ice age, glaciers could have scraped the top of the cave, revealing the gorge below.
2. The canyon was formed by glacial meltwater. It was hollowed out by water that flowed under a glacier, carving the canyon out of the rock.

Perhaps a combination of these processes formed the canyon as we know it today:

Beginning of the Maligne Canyon trail, near the 2nd Bridge. Jasper National Park

Exploring Maligne Canyon with kids

The best way to explore Maligne Canyon is to hike from the 1st to the 4th bridge. This takes around 2 hours out and back.

Maligne Canyon Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada

Tour bus visitors rarely go beyond the first or the second bridge. It takes some effort to climb back from the 4th bridge, but it’s totally worth it: the scenery is constantly and dramatically changing all along the way. 

There is something new and eye-catching around every single turn. It reminds me of the Wild Pacific Trail (Pacific Rim National Park, BC) on Vancouver Island – a trail so exciting and diverse that you would never forget it.

Photos cannot express the sheer fascination you get from this place!

While extremely popular, the trail did not feel very crowded during our visit (unlike Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park).

3rd bridge, Maligne Canyon
3rd bridge, Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon with kids: Tips

The tail can be very slippery and muddy when wet. Considering it a dirt downhill trail, with some stones and roots. We hiked here with newborn Andrew (5 weeks), Erika (3), and Artem (8). I would not want to hike without proper shoes or with little kids right after it rained.

Maligne Canyon Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada
Maligne Canyon Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada

The path is not stroller friendly, wheels will struggle after the 1st bridge. Erika’s balance bike was helpful but more as a diversion than an actual transport – we had to carry it all the way uphill.

Watch after the little ones. Most of the cliffs are fenced, but not all of them. There are hardly any benches along the way, just a couple of them at the Wilderness Kitchen – a restaurant, in the same building with the gift shop near the parking lot.

Maligne Canyon, on the way to the 4th bridge. Jasper National Park
Maligne Canyon, on the way to the 4th bridge. Jasper National Park

It’s may look unbelievable but the enormous “cauldron” on the right below was made by the swishing and twirling power of water, hundreds of years after years:

Maligne Canyon, view near 1st bridge
Maligne Canyon, view near 1st bridge

Maligne Canyon is really deep and narrow. Some places reach 50 meters down and over. The narrowest spots are no more than 2 meters apart.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Maligne Canyon was a little bit hard for our 3 y.o., but her pushbike made it bearable. We call it the “two-wheel stroller”:).

Erika on the "two-wheel" stroller on the Maligne Canyon trail
Erika on the “two-wheel” stroller on the Maligne Canyon trail

Winter at the Maligne Canyon

Winter is cold at the Canadian Rockies: the average temperature is -13 C; -30 C is nothing unusual (-40 C is possible too), and harsh. But breathtakingly beautiful! It is another kind of experience: less crowded, with some places being accessible only during this time of the year. Like walking the canyon:

Maligne Canyon with kids during winter
Maligne Canyon with kids during winter. photo credit: Wilson Hui

Ice walks are a popular activity. For the first time, especially with children, try to go with a guide: they know the routes and the best way to do the walk.

One of the many waterfalls, completely frozen:

Frozen falls at Maligne Canyon
Frozen falls at Maligne Canyon. photo credit: Max LaRochelle

Waterfall ice climbing once was considered as a dangerous and crazy but now quite popular activity at Jasper National Park. Make sure to check the information on the local website about conditions, season length, and avalanches.

Waterfall ice climber at the Maligne Canyon
Waterfall ice climber at the Maligne Canyon. photo credit: Keith Roper

Thanks for reading, we are very glad that you stopped by!

Read next:

Planning a great road trip to Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks on a budget.

Peyto Lake: exploring for the first time with kids. Is it really that blue? Tips, parking, etc.

Bow Lake: an oasis of serenity during summer madness at the Canadian Rockies. Why we loved it so much

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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