#54 to #56 – The Maligne Canyon Falls

#54 to #56 – The Maligne Canyon Falls

March 4th, 2018 – It was quite some time without seeing a waterfall, so we thought we’d take a break from skiing and finally go where we had planned ever since the first winter – the Maligne Canyon.

Getting there is pretty easy; a simple Google Map search can take you straight to the parking lot…

Here’s a zoomed in view…

So if you’re coming from Edmonton, you’ll turn left on Maligne Lake Rd before Jasper.  There’s a sign…

Once you turn you’ll immediately see the bridge to cross the Athabasca River…

There’s a bit of a fork just after the bridge and signs will tell you to keep to the left on Maligne Lake Rd.  If you have cell service let Google Maps do the work to get to the parking lot.  If you don’t, it’s approximately 6.6 km from the Yellowhead.  You’ll cross one more bridge (crossing Maligne River) and there’s a sign saying “Maligne Canyon” to the left…

Turn left and you’ll make your way into the parking lot.  I sure wish there was a website telling us how to get there because we tried 2 other roads before finding our way there…then again there probably is; I sort of prefer the “discover for ourselves” approach so don’t research that much before a trip, but I’m guessing if there were good directions for only one area in Alberta, Maligne would have been one of them.  It was neat in one of the wrong roads though, which was the one just before this turnoff; it took us to the Maligne Lookout.  From up top we couldn’t see a waterfall (at least at that time) but we could hear voices from way down in the canyon.  Couldn’t see anyone, but sounded like a secret party going on somewhere unknown to us.

As an extra resource, here’s a zoomed in map showing where each bridge is located…

Once you’re there you’ll find the information booth…

Plus some more information boards…

That left board actually shows where the bridges are too.  As another safeguard, you’ll constantly come across the directional signs…

I’ll go in the order we took, although you may want to do it differently yourself depending on the time you have.  We followed the path to Bridge #2.  It’s very touristy so easy to follow…

You’ll quickly come to Bridge #2.  Here’s what it looks like looking down…

Looks very similar to Athabasca Falls area!  It’s hard to tell from a picture how far down it goes, but here’s a better pic of below…

You can see the log jam, the massive logs looking like toothpicks down there.

After you cross the bridge you can go left to Bridge #1 or right to Bridges #3-5.  We went right and made our way downstream, knowing eventually the path must get low enough to be able to access the river and walk on it.  Here’s a pic looking back at Bridge #2…

Although at the time we thought we were at the 1st or 2nd waterfall, as you approach Bridge #3 you’ll see the top of Lower Maligne Canyon Falls (the 3rd waterfall going downstream)…

Just past that is Bridge #3…

We didn’t “feel the spray” that day, but will go back in the summer to try 😉   Here’s a look at the frozen Lower Maligne Canyon Falls from the bridge…

And here’s another looking from a bit further downstream…

This was our destination, but we weren’t aiming to be on top of it.  We put our new super ice spikes on our boots for an ice walk, not a bridge walk!  We continued downstream anticipating river access.  Within a few minutes we ran into some ice climbers, but we were still on the high side of things…

Yep, definitely still too high!  I’m a little hazy on where exactly Bridge #4 was in relation to where you go down, but I believe we skipped past it without crossing (still looked too high and the main path continued on the same side) and then shortly after it you could see the river up right next to the path.  At that point you’ll see a little gate/door…

So make your way down there.  Downstream looked nice enough to skate on…

 But our adventure took us back upstream…

There are lots of photo opportunities available…

And plenty of areas to explore…

I should mention there are tours available.  They guide you safely (including helmets which would be recommended) and very informatively.  Here we sneak past one of the tour groups across a very sketchy stretch of the water/ice walk…

Always be careful in anything you do, but especially at this point during this time of year.  The water wasn’t deep where they’re standing, but just a few feet further is very clear but deep water…

Once you cross that frozen log you’re pretty much in the clear, at least from going for a potential swim.  At this point though you will definitely want good ice cleats/spikes, and would be smart to have a helmet.  Walking further into the canyon is amazing but a rock or falling icicle could definitely be a problem.

You’ll quickly come into some breathtaking canyon spots…

The colours are amazing!

While summer has its perks of having flowing water and gushing waterfalls, it’s rewarding in the winter knowing that you can only see these sights at this time of year when you can walk on the river.

Shortly we found the base where the ice climbers were…

You can see in that picture that you come across little “ice hills” as you make your way upstream; that’s where the ice spikes come in handy.

These spilled-over ice walls weren’t waterfalls, but were quite spectacular…

There were a few for the ice climbers to choose from…

We didn’t climb them but we did go in for a closer look…

Beware of kids…

Here are a few behind-the-scene pics…

Definitely an ice wonderland!  This was about as far as the tour groups went, but we weren’t going to be satisfied until we got to the bottom of the Lower Falls.  We pressed on through the ever-tightening canyon…

Once you get to where few others are, you become a bit nervous on how safe the ice is.  There were areas of open water, soft ice, hard ice, ice hills – and combined with the narrowing canyon and lack of other people you can’t help but be a little on edge.  Slowly and carefully we made it to spots where even the sun couldn’t go…

One of my favourite areas was the “secret chamber of logs”; a cavern with hardly any light and a log jam trapped there for who knows how long.  Would make either a cool outdoor party spot, or a massive bear/wolf den…

After this tribal looking fortress of solitude, the canyon continues to narrow but there’s a crack open to sunlight…

Shortly after we came across an ice hill too big for the kids to make it…

Dana first tried to see how bad it was, but quickly slid back down getting a little bruised and battered.  I knew we were close so I left them behind and sacrificed myself to go the few more metres to the finish line…

Just past the ice hill was a seemingly impassible section…

Upon closer inspection there happened to be just enough room to squeak by…

The final stretch was a little sketchy…

But finally made it to the bottom of Lower Maligne Falls…

Didn’t get a very good picture from the bottom; I let a photographer take my pic and assumed he would have gotten the whole waterfall in it, but no such luck!

Back to Dana and the kids I went.  They were waiting in the log jam chamber…

Then back past the ice walls…

And back across the sketchy water hole…

Although it was a fun day, we were missing something – at least a couple more waterfalls!  I thought we would have run into 2 of them pretty quickly and then eventually into a 3rd.  There was even a 4th but I knew we didn’t have time to get to that one today.  But where were the other two?  I asked all the random people we came across and none seemed to know.  Not even this lovely couple who said they come here multiple times each year, nor the old ice-climbing guide who thought they were climbing on the only waterfall around.

I figured they must be just upstream of where we started, at least according to the relative map.  Once we got back to the original bridge (#2), instead of crossing towards the parking lot we continued on the path to Bridge #1…

In hindsight it even says “Premier point”, which should have been a clue.  Not sure why the 20 other people we talked to never knew about it, but we were on to something – at Bridge #1 was Maligne Canyon Falls!

As you can see some ice climbers were trying to conquer it.  It was massive; we’ll definitely have to go back in the summer to get the full effect!

According to Google Earth, we still had one more in the area only about 100m away.  We ventured upstream and sure enough spotted Upper Maligne Canyon Falls…

From that perch we could see a path leading to the top of Maligne Canyon Falls, which must be from the ice climbers…

Here are a few more pics from the day…

In this next pic you can see the very necessary “bear claws” we were wearing…

And so concluded waterfalls #54-56, the Maligne Canyon Falls 🙂


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