Shards of ice and crunchy snow crackle satisfyingly under our feet, as we traipse across the open valley. Stepping into a narrow canyon, we gaze at the imposing sheets of ice giving off an ethereal glow in the light of our headlamps. A slight breeze carries the intoxicating scent of lodgepole pine. I shiver, not for the frosty air, but the enormity of it all. Looking up, I realize just how small we are in this cavernous space. We’re right on the floor of Maligne Canyon, the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, about to take an invigorating ice walk beneath frozen waterfalls, some 30 m (98 ft) high.
This is so very different than any other winter activity we’ve ever done. It’s an easy walk for the kids with no steep terrain. As long as everyone in your brood is over six years old, you’re good to go.
Frozen in Time
As much as our family loves peering down Maligne Canyon in summer to view the churning falls, we couldn’t wait to head back in winter. This canyon is a favourite among ice climbers and becomes even more accessible in winter. Our ice walk adventure brings us right into the heart of this geological wonder, one of the most extensive karst systems in the world.
Billions of years have gradually transformed the canyon, and my mini palaeontologists let out hoots of joy as they spot several fossils imbedded in the natural limestone stairs that lead into the canyon. Burrowing deeper into the dramatic chasm, we trek across different crevices and layer upon layer of glinting ice. The further in we go, the more spectacular it gets. And since ice changes all the time, we’ll be treated to a new experience the next time we visit.
Magical Night Sky
Taking a nocturnal canyon tour is one of the best ways to explore this otherworldly environment. It’s a clear night, so we switch off our headlamps, amazed at just how bright the night sky is. We’re in one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves and it’s crammed with more stars than we’ve ever seen in our lives. Thankfully, there are enough shooting stars to go round.
Meanwhile, my only challenge is setting a good example as a parent. I’m dying to whip off my cleats and hurl myself across the ice. But when there’s still so much more to explore I must hold myself back and focus on the adventure ahead.