Mistaya Canyon Hike (Icefields Parkway) Banff National Park

I’m so happy that I chose to take the scenic route from Golden BC to Calgary AB – with a detour to the magnificent Mistaya Canyon on the Icefields Parkway scenic highway. The weather forecast looked not so great in Lake Louise and Banff, so I opted to drive north on the spectacular Icefields Parkway towards Jasper.

Mistaya Canyon was the reason I chose to drive the extra miles and spend more time on the road. And I think Mistaya Canyon is totally worth the effort. It’s a must see place in Alberta! That’s why I included Mistaya as one of my Top 5 Stops on the Icefields Parkway.

After visiting Mistaya Canyon I turned around and drove back towards Banff and onward to Calgary.

 

Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

 

You’ve probably already seen photos of Mistaya Canyon and the Mistaya River BUT you’ve got to see it in person to really appreciate the beauty of both the canyon and the river. To hear the river bouncing along the rocks when it flows through the canyon is amazing. The Canadian Rockies are totally gorgeous!

 

Mistaya Canyon scenic view in Banff

One of the most scenic views in Banff – Mistaya Canyon is magnificent

 

Where is Mistaya Canyon?

Mistaya Canyon is in Banff National Park but it’s about a 1 hour 30 minute drive from the town of Banff to Mistaya Canyon along the famous Icefields Parkway towards Jasper.

Did you know? Mistaya is the Cree word for Grizzly bear.

The map below pinpoints Mistaya Canyon as well as Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, and Calgary to help give you some perspective on the location.

 

 

Mistaya Canyon info board

At the Mistaya Canyon trailhead there is an info board and a map

 

The Mistaya Canyon is carved by nature. Over hundreds of years the water and rock debris eroded the limestone rock and created magical sculptures over time.

The Mistaya River  originates in Peyto Lake and joins the North Saskatchewan River a couple of miles downstream at Saskatchewan River Crossing.

 

Mistaya River info board

Info about the Mistaya River is posted at the trailhead to Mistaya Canyon hike

 

Is it crowded at Mistaya Canyon?

Probably. But when I visited midday on a weekday in July it was not crazy crowded like Lake Louise. The parking lot is a lot smaller than at Lake Louise so there are only so many people that can get to Mistaya Canyon.

 

Mistaya Canyon scenic view in Banff

One of the most scenic views in Banff – Mistaya Canyon is magnificent

 

Parking was no problem when I visited, plenty of spots available. There were several other people at Mistaya Canyon, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

 

Tourists enjoy Mistaya Canyon Banff

Tourists enjoying the spectacular views at Mistaya Canyon Banff

 

The simple way to avoid the tourist crowds – go EARLY! Get to Mistaya Canyon right around sunrise. Tour buses do not start that early, and most people don’t get up so early.

 

Mistaya Canyon bridge overlooking the Mistaya River and Canyon

Mistaya Canyon bridge overlooking the Mistaya River and Canyon

 

Can I bring my dog to Mistaya Canyon?

Yes! Dogs are allowed on the trail at Mistaya Canyon – but they must always be on leash.

 

Forest along the river at Mistaya Canyon Trail Banff

A short walk through the forest leads to Mistaya River and the Canyon

 

Getting to Mistaya Canyon

From Banff

  • Take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West towards Lake Louise and continue for 57 km (35 miles)
  • Take the exit for highway 93 North towards Rocky Mountain House and Jasper and continue for 70 km (42 miles)
  • Watch for the sign for Mistaya Canyon and turn left into the parking lot.
  • Total driving time: about 90 minutes

 

Mistaya Canyon parking lot

Mistaya Canyon parking lot is located right next to the Icefields Parkway

 

From Lake Louise

  • Take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West towards Lake Louise and continue for 2 km (1 mile)
  • Take the exit for highway 93 North towards Rocky Mountain House and Jasper and continue for 70 km (42 miles)
  • Watch for the sign for Mistaya Canyon and turn left into the parking lot.
  • Total driving time: about 1 hour

 

Mistaya River Banff National Park

Mistaya River in Banff National Park is amazing

 

From Calgary

  • Take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West towards Lake Louise and continue for 173 km (108 miles)
  • Take the exit for highway 93 North towards Rocky Mountain House and Jasper and continue for 70 km (42 miles)
  • Watch for the sign for Mistaya Canyon and turn left into the parking lot.
  • Total driving time: about 2 hours 45 minutes

Mistaya Canyon from Calgary is almost a 3 hour trip one-way so you could easily do this as a day trip in the summer when the days are longer. Remember you will likely be stopping at other places along the Icefields Parkway so get an early start if you want to do Mistaya as a day trip from Calgary. If you want to stop at Peyto Lake my advice is to get there as early as possible – it is more crowded than Mistaya Canyon.

 

Mistaya Canyon trailhead

Mistaya Canyon trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot

 

Mistaya Canyon Hike Info

  • Distance: 1 km
  • Type of hike: Out and back
  • Elevation change: 58 m (190 ft)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: Allow about 10 minutes each way for the hike

Anyone in decent shape should have no problem walking the short trail to Mistaya Canyon. It’s only a half kilometer each way. Unless you have mobility issues or difficulty walking on uneven surfaces the walk to Mistaya Canyon is super easy.

 

Forest along the river at Mistaya Canyon Trail Banff

A short walk through the forest leads to Mistaya River and the Canyon

 

Signs at Mistaya Canyon remind visitors to take caution due to the potential fall hazard at the canyon. You are responsible for your own safety. Please keep a watchful eye on children at all times.

 

Mistaya Canyon potential fall hazard

Signs warn about the potential fall hazard at the canyon

 

Tips for Visiting Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway

In FALL 2019 restrooms will be installed at Mistaya Canyon trailhead. The trail will remain open during the construction work, but part of the parking lot will close.

The earlier you get there in the morning the better your chances of avoiding crowds of tourists from the tour buses on the Icefields Parkway. Get to Mistaya Canyon around sunrise and you should have some time to enjoy it without the crowds.

 

Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway scenic stop

Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway scenic stop

 

Remember to buy your Parks Canada pass – you can purchase the pass in advance of your visit – check here for prices and buy your pass now

Check the weather forecast. When it rains the clouds may linger lower and you won’t see the mountains – that’s what happened when my sister and I drove back from Jasper last year :/

Check trail conditions on the Parks Canada website. Sometimes trails close due to wildlife, weather conditions, or construction.

 

Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway Banff

Mistaya Canyon Icefields Parkway Banff

 

Wear footwear with excellent traction if you plan to walk around on the rock surface.

If you bring your furbaby – always keep your dog on leash.

Visit during off season or when the weather is not ideal to avoid biggest crowds. During shoulder season – just before or after high season – the weather may not be sunny and warm. But Mistaya Canyon is still worth a visit and there will be fewer people during the off season travel times.

If you visit during high season on a weekend be patient and expect to wait for a parking spot.

 

Mistaya Canyon Banff Alberta Canada

 

Have FUN exploring the Canadian Rockies!

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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