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The Canadian Rockies, as you might expect, are home to some stunning, easy-to-access canyons. While canyon walks usually conjure images of sun-soaked, rust-coloured rock formations and flowing streams, it’s a different, but equally beautiful, story in the winter. Ice transforms streams, rock walls and waterfalls into something magical and otherworldly. Brown becomes white; blue turns to emerald; and canyons become wintery palaces. 

Ice walks, which not surprisingly involve walking on ice, are a popular wintertime activity in the Rockies. Most canyon ice walks can be taken on without guidance, but if you are new to ice walking, or don’t own the necessary equipment, it’s a good idea to go with a local outfitter. Depending on the requirements of the walk, a guide company might provide you with warm boots, ice cleats, walking poles, and in some cases, a nice cup of hot chocolate to take the chill off.

To get you started, here are three uniquely captivating canyon ice walks in Alberta's Rockies.

 

Maligne Canyon ice walk

Jasper National Park

Maligne Lake Ice WalkCanadian Tourism CommisionMaligne Lake Ice WalkCanadian Tourism Commission Maligne Lake Ice WalkCanadian Tourism Commission

Duration: 2 hours
WebsiteJasper.travel/maligne-canyon-ice-walk 

Maligne Canyon is the deepest accessible canyon in Jasper Park.  Traveling along the floor of the ancient Maligne Canyon, this ice walk meanders past fossils, ice caves and glittering ice formations.  Spectacular frozen waterfalls decorate the canyon’s 30-metre high walls, and attract ice climbers as well as people looking for a less adrenaline-fueled thrill. For a completely different experience of the canyon, participate in a nighttime ice walk. Headlamps and moonlight illuminate the ice formations in a dazzling spectacle.

 Man with head lamp ice walking at night in Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park.Parks Canada / Ryan Bray

 

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk

Bow Valley

Grotto Canyon Ice WalkDiscover Banff Tours

Duration: 2 hours
Websitetourismcanmore.com/grotto-canyon-hike 

The frozen Grotto Creek winds through a narrow gorge, arriving at His and Hers falls - a spectacular sight in the winter, as they are completely frozen. While the ancient ocean bed geology, the stunted forest and frozen waterfalls are well worth seeing in their own right, the biggest draw for many are the Hopi pictographs, said to be between 500 and 1,300 years old. These historic paintings appear to prove true a Hopi legend about a clan that traveled north to a “land of ice and rock”. 

Grotto Canyon Ice WalkDiscover Banff Tours

 

Johnston Canyon Ice Walk

Banff National Park

Three people walking across a bridge in the snow in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, AlbertaPaul Zizka

Duration: 4 hours
WebsiteClick here 

Because the ice here is dangerously thin, this “ice walk” doesn’t actually take place on ice. Instead,  visitors walk along steel catwalks, suspended above the canyon floor. Walk through a cave feature at the lower falls, and watch ice climbers take on the towering pillars of the frozen upper falls. As you take in these sights, take some time to ponder a perplexing geological riddle:  how has an ancient creek has come to reside in a young canyon, formed from ancient rocks? A shortened version of this tour is also available at night — could you brave walking several metres above the canyon floor, in the dark?
Ice walk in Johnston Canyon at nightDiscover Banff ToursIce walk in Johnston Canyon at nightDiscover Banff Tours

 

Merrell Arctic GripThis ice walks article was brought to you by our friends at Merrell. Go from frozen rivers to snow-packed trails to icy streets without changing boots. How? Vibram® Arctic Grip offers unparalleled traction on wet ice and slippery winter surfaces.


Have you ever been on one of these ice walks? 
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