Distance: A variety of half-day options available depending on where you start; 1-3 hours.
Access: 12km from Jasper townsite, east on the Maligne Lake Road.
I’m not sure how it took me nearly eight years to write a post for Maligne Canyon. It’s been my go to place when friends and family visit, and it has so much to offer in every season. I’ve chosen to highlight this trail in two posts: this one for summer activities, and another for winter options.
With several access points, trail length options, and highlights, I’ll try to keep this as organized as possible so you know all your options and can decide what’s best for you.
Access Point: 6th Bridge > 2 km from the highway 16 turnoff
6th Bridge is just that. The sixth bridge that crosses the Maligne River in this area. It is the first turn off you encounter on the Maligne Lake Road (on your left hand side), and Parks has recently upgraded all the signage in this area, so it’s much easier to spot now. Turn left onto the 6th Bridge road, and follow for a couple kilometers until reaching a small, paved parking lot.
The lot has been re-paved (2017) and new lines painted so it’s easy to see where to go.
The bridge is directly across from the parking lot and leads into the trail system. Cross the bridge on foot and turn right to head south toward the canyon area. Should you head left instead, you will find yourself on the beginning (or end) or the Overlander Trail.
On a map, the trails are part of the #7 system. The trail from 6th Bridge follows the river on a pleasant, wide trail with hardly any elevation gain. It’s quite lovely in the fall when the colours are changing. The great thing about beginning your canyon adventure here, is that most people begin farther down at 5th or 1st Bridge. You may escape some of the crowds by beginning here! Follow the trail to the intersection at 5th Bridge (1.5km).
Access Point: 5th Bridge > 3 km from the highway 16 turnoff
The turnoff to 5th Bridge is a bit farther down the Maligne Lake Road. Again, turn left at the sign and follow for a kilometer or so. The parking lot at 5th Bridge is larger and there are dry toilets and a nice picnic area as well.
This bridge is the largest one, and has been re-done several times over the last few years due to flooding. It provides an interesting view of the widest part of the river and canyon. Cross the bridge and continue until a three-way intersection. Heading left will take you to 6th Bridge, and keeping right will take you to the canyon.
The trail climbs to a lookout right away. You can hang on to the railing on the right side, or keep left and make a run for it. At the top, views open up and you can see Whistler Mountain and others quite clearly. If you keep going, fantastic views of Pyramid also pop up behind you.
The trail also divides here. Keeping left will take you on a well defined horse trail that follows the main trail but at a much higher elevation. You will not come close to the canyon on this route, but you will have some nice views and basically zero crowds. It will spit you out at the busiest part of the main trail after a couple kilometers.
If you decide to follow the masses and make your way along the lower trail to the canyon, you will be rewarded with waterfalls, steep drops, and the powerful Maligne River.
Meander along the trail and take it all in. After the 3rd Bridge, you will come to a seemingly endless staircase that leads up to the last two bridges, the main parking lot, and the Canyon Tea House. It is very crowded up here which is definitely not my cup of tea (hehe), but the views down into the canyon are spectacular. Hold on to your sunglasses and hats as you peer into the depths!
Access Point: Tea House and Main Parking > 8 km from the highway 16 turnoff
Washrooms, food, gift shop, large parking area; you can find all these things from this area. Drive past the turn offs for 6th and 5th Bridge, past the parking lot for the Skyline Trail, past the valley lookout, and over the bridge to the turn off for the Tea House on your left hand side.
If you choose this as your starting point, you have the privilege of going down the stairs first, and up the stairs on your return trip.
The great thing about Maligne Canyon is the option to create a full day, half day, or smaller trip out of it. Most tourists begin at the Tea House and explore the upper canyon before leaving for Maligne Lake. Folks hoping for a longer time in the area begin at 6th Bridge and explore every possible twist and turn on the way.