Only a few kilometres east of Jasper and near to mysterious Medicine Lake, Maligne Canyon is deep, tortured and narrow with heavy stratified sides. While crowded with sightseers near the entrance, the numbers quickly dwindle as a superb hike meanders along the top of the canyon criss-crossing from side to side across six narrow bridges. Gouged from soft limestone, waterfalls tumble and a raging torrent of a river thrashes through the steeper lands leaving a canyon over 50 metres deep in parts yet only a few metres across.
A return hike across all six bridges is around seven kilometres though it is under five kilometres if the last bridge is forgotten.
In winter, a completely different experience sees frozen waterfalls like giant ice-creams. Enthusiastic climbers armed with ice axes and brave spirits climb the frozen Maligne wonder.
The limestone rock gives rise to a remarkable geological history that includes the area being a tropical sea many millions of years ago. In parts, the layering and stratification is clearly evident – it seems extraordinary that an area so far inland and mountainous once sat below the oceans. Indeed, the name maligne granted to a river, lake and canyon comes from a French missionary who used the French word for wickedin describing the gushing river and the difficulty in crossing this natural barrier.
Nearby is the picturesque Medicine Lake, a spiritual place for the Indians. This remarkable lake has no river outlet and is only present in the warmer months. With only a small drainage hole beneath the surface, the volume of melting snow and ice over spring and summer overwhelms the drainage filling the lake and reflecting the beautiful surrounding mountain vista. As the water flows slow into autumn, the drainage catches up until the lake disappears over the colder months. This natural phenomenon mystified the local Indian tribes giving rise to spiritual stories and its modern name.
Jasper National Park and especially the Maligne Road is rich in wildlife. Black bears, mule deer, elk, bald eagles and small squirrels are all regularly spotted along the road or at the lake despite its popularity.
The travel wonder of Jasper National Park is more peaceful than neighbouring Banff National Park and contains stunning views of the Rockies, glorious turquoise lakes, gushing waterfalls from the glacial melt and enthralling wildlife. The Maligne Lake Road is a post-child for the spectacular Jasper scenery.