Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

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After devoting half my day to rafting down the Athabasca River, I decided to spend the rest of the day driving out to Maligne Lake, southeast of Jasper (and one valley east of the Icefields Parkway).  Along the way to Maligne Lake, there are several worthwhile stops, starting with Maligne Canyon — a deep crevasse that’s almost narrow enough to jump across.

From Jasper, take Alberta Highway 16 (the Yellowhead Highway) east.  After just 4 kilometers from downtown, you’ll reach the turnoff to Maligne Lake.  Just 6 kilometers further, you’ll find a side road that runs to Maligne Canyon.

There are six bridges that cross the slot canyon, carved out by the Maligne River.  They’re numbered one through six, with the first one at the highest (but not necessarily the deepest) part of the canyon, near the parking area and a tea house/gift shop.  Bridge 6 is the farthest downstream, near the confluence of Maligne River and Athabasca River.

At its deepest, Maligne Canyon is more than 50 meters deep (164 feet).  In some places, it’s less than 2 meters (6 feet) wide.

Maligne is pronounced “ma-LEEN”.

Instead of heading to the tea house and 1st Bridge first, I took another trail from the parking lot to 2nd Bridge.  I think I took this picture while looking towards 1st Bridge.

As you walk from one bridge to the next, the trail follows alongside the canyon rim, and it goes downhill rather quickly — so keep in mind, you’ll have to hike back uphill to get back to your car.

You’ll see this waterfall below 3rd Bridge, which is about 10 meters (30 feet) above the river.

Same waterfall, slightly different angle.  Photographing these cascades is a little tricky — I had to use a tripod, and suspend my camera over the side of the bridge.

I went just a short distance beyond 3rd Bridge, before deciding to turn around.  It’s not much further to 4th Bridge, but 5th Bridge is quite a long distance away (and 6th Bridge is even further).  I decided I was already seeing the best part of the canyon, and all the extra downhill/uphill hiking would be unnecessary.

You don’t have to start your hike at 1st Bridge.  As you’re driving south towards Maligne Lake, watch for a sign for 6th Bridge.  There’s a parking area at 6th Bridge, allowing you the chance to start your hike there, and walk up the canyon, then back down.  This plan requires a longer hike to get to the deepest, most interesting part of the canyon, but at least the return trip is downhill.

So, I walked back up to 1st Bridge.  Just before the bridge, the canyon is wider, and not quite as deep, and there are some small ponds formed by logjams.

At 1st Bridge, you get a great view of one of the canyon’s best waterfalls.  Again, it’s tough to photograph, and as you can tell, this picture is still a little bit crooked (despite my risky technique that dangled my camera far out over the side of the bridge).

If you think Maligne Canyon is impressive, looking from the top down, imagine seeing it from the bottom up.  You can’t do it during the summer, but in the winter, when the river freezes, you can hike into the canyon along the ice. I did the hike in 2012.  You can check it out here.

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