Exploring the Depths: Maligne Canyon vs. Johnston Canyon

Exploring the Depths: Maligne Canyon vs. Johnston Canyon

Happy goat in Jasper Alberta
3 minute read
written by SunDog Transportation and Tour Co.

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Maligne Canyon in Jasper, Alberta, and Johnston Canyon in Banff, Alberta, stand as breathtaking natural wonders, each with its own unique charm. We will compare these two stunning canyons, exploring their geological features, hiking experiences, and the overall allure that sets them apart. Maligne Canyon vs. Johnston Canyon, which will you pick as your favorite to visit?

Fast Facts:


  • 52°55’13”N 118°0’39”W
  • Jasper National Park
  • Slot Canyon: depth-to-width ratios that typically exceed 10:1 over most of its length.


  • 51.3938°N 115.9478°W
  • Banff National Park
  • Gorge Canyon: a deep cleft between escarpments or cliffs resulting from weathering and the erosive activity of a river over geologic time scales.

Geological Marvels:
Maligne Canyon:

  • Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, reaching depths of over 160 feet. The limestone walls of the canyon showcase the powerful forces of erosion over millions of years.
  • The unique karst topography of the region contributes to the creation of sinkholes and underground caves, adding an extra layer of geological fascination.

Johnston Canyon:

  • Johnston Canyon is renowned for its series of waterfalls and large potholes carved by the relentless flow of Johnston Creek. The most famous are the Lower and Upper Falls, both accessible through well-maintained catwalks.

Hiking Adventures:
Maligne Canyon:

  • Maligne Canyon offers several hiking trails, varying in length and difficulty. The most popular is the Maligne Canyon Loop, waterfalls and a 3.4-kilometer trail that takes you along the canyon’s edge, providing stunning views of the Maligne River and surrounding mountains.
  • In winter, Maligne Canyon transforms into a magical ice-filled wonderland. Guided ice walks allow visitors to get up close and personal with the frozen waterfalls. Touch the ice formations and connect with winter in this unique and exhilarating experience.

Johnston Canyon:

  • Johnston Canyon’s trail is well-developed, featuring catwalks and bridges that cling to the canyon walls, offering a thrilling perspective of the waterfalls and the canyon’s interior.
  • In winter, Johnston Canyon becomes a haven for ice climbers, with the frozen waterfalls attracting adventurers seeking a chilly challenge. Note, access to the canyon is for experienced ice climbers only.

Overall Atmosphere:
Maligne Canyon:

  • Maligne Canyon tends to be less crowded than Johnston Canyon, offering a more intimate experience with nature. The tranquil atmosphere allows visitors to connect with the serene beauty of the surrounding wilderness. End your adventure at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen & gift shop for a delicious snack, meal or souvenir.

Johnston Canyon:

  • Johnston Canyon, being easily accessible and close to Banff, attracts a larger number of visitors. The popularity of the canyon is reflected in the amenities available, including a restaurant and gift shop near the trailhead.

Whether you seek the secluded serenity of Maligne Canyon or the tourist-friendly allure of Johnston Canyon, both destinations promise a remarkable journey into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Each canyon has its own distinctive features, making them must-visit attractions for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. So which will you visit, on this quest to pick your favorite canyon? Maligne Canyon vs. Johnston Canyon… maybe both?