Mist Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in the Kananaskis region and offers a significant objective without any technical mountain climbing. There are several routes up to the peak of Mist Mountain with many varying degrees of difficulty. The most straightforward and enjoyable ascent is via the south face and east ridge. This was our choice, as we decided to skip over the Lipsett Col that has high levels of exposure on loose rock.
What’s of most interest is the excellent alpine pass views on the approach, exceptional cirque, and small Mist Mountain hot springs with a great view. Of course, the views from 3,140 meters are pretty great too! The technical aspects and short approach make the mountain accessible to many able-bodied hikers, so it’s easy to understand the popularity.
- The Best Hikes in Kananaskis
- Hiking Tips for the Canadian Rockies
- What to Wear Hiking
- The Best Canmore Hikes
Summiting Mist Mountain
- Length: 9.8km
- Duration: 4 – 7 hours
- Elevation Gain: 1,265 meters
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Best Time To Go: July – September
- Parking: Mist Mountain Trailhead
Mist Mountain GPX Track
Mist Mountain Route Description
Along highway 40 is a trailhead that cuts in through the woods and begins a short approach through the forest to the Nameless Ridge. There is no official trailhead sign, but a wide shoulder pull off 200 meters from the trailhead makes for reliable parking, and if you follow the GPX tracks attached, it’s easy enough to figure out where to park. Additionally, the AllTrails app does provide the correct start of the trail.
The first kilometer or so moves through the woods and is relatively uneventful, but it’s a short approach and passes by quick. Afterward, you come to a vast alpine meadow on the way up to the Nameless Ridge.
The trail here is easy to follow, and it is well worn into the meadow. It’s a substantial uphill climb as you gain around 450 meters in less than 2.5 km to the top of the ridge, but never too steep.
We really enjoyed the Nameless Ridge and the meadow leading up to the col. You have great views in both directions, and there were a plethora of wildflowers in mid-July. If you gain the ridge, you’ll have to backtrack a little as the trail moves to the left or North before towards Mist Mountain.
From here it’s an easy to follow scree trail that climbs towards the cirque on the left, the paths that braid to the right lead off to to the Kananaskis hot springs.
Once in the cirque, we choose to break away from the trail and climb the South face, which is an easy/moderate scramble that gains the False Summit with around 500 meters of elevation gain. Keep an eye out for a small waterfall and an easy weakness in the ribs this is where we began our ascent.
This proves to be a far better route as it avoids climbing the steep scree at the end of the cirque to the East Ridge. We had no difficulty in route finding up the South Face that leads to the false summit.
From the false summit, it’s a short ridge walk to the true summit. As expected, the summit views are vast and provide a fantastic panorama of the surrounding mountains. We were lucky and had warm weather to enjoy lunch on the summit. Don’t be surprised if it’s too cold and windy to do this every day! From the peak, we descended the scree gully directly and skipped the East Ridge.
Mist Mountain Hot Springs
The Mist Mountain hot springs were once a secret. However these hot springs in Alberta have quickly changed thanks to social media posts and groups that have shared the springs. Truthfully, we had the mountain on our list of objectives before even realizing the Kananaskis hot springs are en route. If your goal is to visit the hot springs you may leave feeling a bit disappointed.
The two pools are tiny and capable of fitting a couple people in each. Due to their popularity, this means that there are lines in peak times during the weekend. It’s also on a treeless slope that doesn’t offer any privacy if you have plans to change at the springs. Most notable is the fact that the springs are not hot, instead, they are more of a warm 30C (just a guess).
With the prevalent photos on social media, don’t be surprised to find photographers visiting the spring for the early morning or evening light. Check them out, but just come with managed expectations. Of course, the hot springs do make for great photos, and views are very pleasant!
How Hard is Mist Mountain
As capable hikers, we found Mist Mountain trail to be fairly easy. However, there is some real elevation here with over 1300 meters and a decent amount of distance. Be prepared to be on your feet for at least 5 hours at a walking pace. We’d rate this as a moderate to hard hike that feels suitable for older adults, children, and dogs. You should also be prepared for a bit of hands on scrambling. There’s no serious exposure, but you’ll likely be using your hands a bit.
Mist Mountain Hike Duration
The duration of the Mist Mountain can vary greatly as there is a lot of elevation and route choices. If you stick to our route I would plan for the hike to take between five to eight hours. Of course, everyone hiking time varies, but an average pace falls in the middle of the suggested hike times. We completed in around five hours, but could have easily completed in a shorter time if we trail ran.
When Can You Hike Mist Mountain?
Mist Mountain was good to go around early July this year, but that was fairly late as we had an abundance of snowfall. Generally, the mountain is in good shape from July to September.
What About Dogs & Kids on the Mist Mountain Trail?
The trail is appropriate for most hikers who feel comfortable walking uphill. It is appropriate for anyone of moderate fitness. I’d say kids from ages 10 years old and up. Dogs should be able to handle the trail just fine. Just keep in mind the hike has a lot of elevation so small dogs will struggle with the range while large dogs will handle the trail with ease.
Also, there is lots of scree so perhaps some paw protection would be a good idea. Please remember dogs must always be on a leash in the national park for the safety of fellow hikers, the dog, and wildlife.
Other Kananaskis Country Hikes
There are so many more great hikes in the Kananaskis Country Provincial Park or you can check out some awesome Banff hikes. Both are home to some of our all-time favorite hikes and scrambles in the region. To learn more, we’ve got a post on our favorite hikes in Kananaskis Country as well as our favorite easy hikes in Kananaskis.
Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
- If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach – read our post for beginner hikers in Banff too. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around.
- For long Kananaskis hikes, set a turnaround time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.
- Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.
- In regards to times keep in mind your mountain fitness — it’s much different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.
- It’s also super important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains and it easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences. That being said, all of these hikes should pose no risk if you stick to the trail.
What to Wear On a Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in the wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can easily start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving.
What to Wear On a Hike in the Rockies?
- Down Jacket: A down jacket is an essential in the Rockies. They pack down and fit easily in a backpack. However, despite their lightweight nature, they can offer a lot of warmth which is needed on almost every mountain summit.
- Hiking Pants: Good hiking pants are important in the Rockies as there is a lot of loose scree and rocks that can tear others pants easily. Our favorite hiking pants are the Fjallraven Kebs (Mens and Womens)
- Hiking Leggings: Hiking leggings are great for women in the Rockies. They provide awesome mobility and these ones from Arcteryx aren’t see through and are heavy duty.
- Windbreaker/Rainjacket: An important item to have while hiking is a windbreaker jacket. They come in especially handy on mountain summits when the wind is aboslutely whipping. Arc’teryx Windbreakers are our preferred jackets
- Sunglasses: Proper eye protection is important. Our favorite sunglasses brand is Smith.
- Scrambling Gloves: I don’t go on a hike or scramble in the Rockies witout a pair of rugged clothes to protect my hands. My favorites are from Outdoor Research.
- Trail Runners: Honestly I complete most hikes in trail runners so I can run or jog parts of the trail when I want. My go to trail runners are made by Salomon.
- Hiking Boots: On multi day hikes when I am carrying a large load I turn to proper hiking boots. The Salomon Outline boots are fantastic.
- Wool Socks: Don’t cheap out on your hiking socks. A proper pair of wool socks can make the difference between wet and dry feet.
- Hiking Underwear: The difference between hiking in normal underwear and actual moisture wicking underwear meant for outdoor actitivites is extreme. Yes they are more expensive but they last forever. My favorites are from Patagonia.
- Performance Shirt: The Outdoor Research Echo Series are the best hiking shirts for men and women.
- Hiking Poles: Can save your knees, especially on the descent of some of these steep hikes. Black Diamond is my preferred brand.
- Lightweight Backpack: You’ll need an awesome backpack for carrying all your gear. My favorite hiking backpacks are made by Camelbak.