For info on the Maligne Canyon trail system as seen in the summer, please see Maligne Canyon, Summer . These trails are still open in the winter, so for information on those, see the summer post. Just know that it’s covered in snow and ice from mid-November to February/March. I highly recommend bringing a pair of snow/ice cleats to maintain traction in the winter. Trails are much quieter than in the summer, but are usually well packed down and signage remains up.
Aside from the trails in winter, the most attractive part of the canyon in winter, is… the canyon. Winter allows for a different Maligne Canyon experience, one that people from all over the world come to see.
The river freezes, water levels remain underground, and the bottom of the canyon is exposed.
In winter, the canyon is an “explore at your own risk” area. Tours are available if you’re wanting some guidance through the frozen canyon, but this blog will walk you through a self-guided experience. You are responsible for your own safety here. Bring ice cleats or crampons, rope, a headlamp, and warm clothing (I don’t hesitate to bring extra socks and mittens).
Starting at 5th Bridge, make your way over the bridge that crosses the Maligne River. A quick jaunt up a hill leads to a high viewpoint of Whistler Mountain and the surrounding peaks. Continue on the lower trail that takes you down to the lower canyon. From here, you’re keeping an eye out for the weeping wall (cascading waterfall on a sculpted headwall) on your right hand side. You’ll have to crawl under or over the guardrail.
Depending on time of year and conditions, you may be able to venture to the right of the waterfall and explore a feature that is not always around. The spray from a small water fall freezes to create a round, clear case around the flowing water. It’s kind of neat, but the real treats are in the opposite direction.
Keeping left at the weeping wall, you’ll navigate the riverbed rocks and boulders while passing beside and underneath the tall limestone walls of the canyon.
Eventually you’ll come upon a narrow chute that can be tricky to get up. There used to be a giant tree that had become lodged in place and you could use it to get up, but it has since been carried away by the summer flow. However you manage to get yourself up and over, reaching the top will reward you with more canyon to explore.
Continuing on you’ll come to the most narrow and towering part of the canyon. Guided tours begin at this part of the canyon. Some navigating of the ice is required (ice cleats strongly recommended) to reach an area that is coveted by ice climbers in the winter months. This section of the canyon is the most fun and adventurous. In the right conditions, the ice on the bottom of the canyon freezes in a hollow manner creating caves you can explore on your belly.
Like most attractions provided by Mother Nature, every year is different. You may find caves, you may not. You might encounter ice stalagmites and stalactites, you may not. But you will find yourself in as amazing a place as ever, and you’ll never want to leave even though you’re cold and kind of wet, and the sun has begun to set at 4:30pm.
Maligne Canyon is a place you do not want to miss.