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.
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:
Exploring Maligne Canyon with kids
1. Hike to the 1st-4th bridges
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:
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).
2. 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.
2. 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.
3. Watch after the little ones. Most of the cliffs are fenced, but not all of them.
4. 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 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 was a little bit hard for our 3 y.o., but her pushbike made it bearable. We call it the “two-wheel stroller”:).
3. 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:
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:
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.
4. Maligne Canyon essentials
- After the rain, the trail will slippery and muddy.
- Time to spend at the Canyon: 1.5-3 hours.
- Take mosquito repellent, and wear long sleeves, long pants for the best protection.
- Make sure to take a water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, sunhat, and sturdy shoes.
- Stroller: useless, better take baby carrier.
- Always check the trail conditions, hours, and restrictions before you go.
- If you liked Maligne Canyon, you can also check Johnston Canyon at the Banff NP.
Thanks for reading, we are very glad that you stopped by!
Planning a great road trip to Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks on a budget.
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