Mist Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in the 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 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.
- 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
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 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 hot springs on Mist Mountain were once a secret. However, that has 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 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 to be very 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.
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.
Dogs & Kids on the 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.
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.
Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post. We also have an excellent post on tips for new hikers.
For long hikes, set a turn around 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.
On that note, 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 — 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.
Lastly, a GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS. Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we need to our phones. Best $2.50 (per month) ever spent!
What to Wear On a Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in 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.
The goal of hiking clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post! Here are the best hiking clothes for men and the best hiking clothes for women.