Everything You Need to Know About Mistaya Canyon
Mistaya Canyon surprised us. Not because there was literally no one else there, but because of how perfectly gorgeous the scenery was after only a couple of kms hike from a major highway. It felt like we had stepped into a movie!
Mistaya Canyon is one of the very many stunning stops along the famous Icefields Parkway in Alberta Canada, which takes you from Lake Louise to Jasper or vice-versa. It is also one of the less popular stops, meaning there will likely be a lot less people there than at some of the other stops like Peyto Lake Lookout or Athabasca Falls. Mistaya Canyon is one of our top 5 favourite stops along the Icefields Parkway.
The Mistaya Canyon stop consists of a short 1.9km loop hike with around 90m elevation gain from the parking lot on the main road. On average, the hike usually takes around 40 minutes to complete, unless you are like us and spend ages taking photos. 😆
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📍 Where is Mistaya Canyon
Mistaya Canyon is located along the Icefields Parkway closer to the Lake Louise end of the Parkway. It is around a 50 minute drive from Lake Louise and a 1 hour 50 minute drive from Jasper. The parking lot is located just off the Icefields Parkway. Use the map below for the exact co-ordinates along with lots of other amazing Icefield Parkway stops.
From Lake Louise
From Lake Louise, Mistaya Canyon is a 75km drive and will take you around 50 minutes. You will need to take Lake Louise Drive to turn left onto the Trans-Canada Hwy (Icefields Parkway). The Icefields Parkway will then take you all the way to the Mistaya Canyon Trailhead and Parking Lot which will be on your left-hand-side right before the Saskatchewan River Crossing.
From Jasper to Mistaya Canyon, it is 158km and will take you around 1 hour 50 minutes to drive. Once you pass the Saskatchewan River Crossing, you will reach Mistaya Canyon where you can turn right into the parking lot from the Icefields Parkway.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
🥾 How Hard is the Mistaya Canyon Trail
The trail to Mistaya Canyon is a gradual descent for most of the hike, but flattens out a bit before the canyon. The walk to reach the canyon is extremely short so it is well worth it. We would rate the Mistaya Canyon Trail as easy.
❗ TIP: If you do the trail as a return hike to the bridge and back, it will be shorter. 😉
🌲 Mistaya Canyon Trail Description
As I’ve mentioned already, the trail starts out with a gradual descent and we actually saw some people turn around near the start of the trail because they got intimidated by the start. The trail has odd roots and rocks along it that you need to watch out for to make sure you don’t trip.
You will reach the bridge in around 10-15 minutes. This is the safest place to view the canyon from. We found Mistaya Canyon picture perfect! The canyon winds it’s way up to the river and then has a beautiful mountain backdrop with pine trees lining either side of the water. The scenery at this spot was just gorgeous.
📌 Mistaya Canyon was form by the raging water and rock debris eroding the limestone rock and carving out what is now the canyon.
We did the trail as a return hike rather than a loop, however, we walked a little further than the bridge around to the rocks next to the canyon to take some more photos. The river was so powerful and we were careful not to get too close to the edge.
🐶 Are Dogs Allowed at Mistaya Canyon
Yes! Dogs are allowed but should be kept on a leash.
⛄ Can You Visit Mistaya Canyon in the Winter
In Winter, Mistaya Canyon turns into a magical Winter Wonderland! Bring along some micro spikes or snowshoes because the trail will be slippery as it is so close to a river. In dangerous conditions during Winter, the Icefields Parkway does close. It is best to check the highway conditions on 511 Alberta or at a visitors centre to make sure that you are fully prepared. There is no cell reception along the Parkway so getting stuck in the middle of Winter would not be a fun (or safe) experience.
If you do decide to drive the Icefields Parkway in Winter, make sure you bring along the following emergency items with you:
- Warm clothing to rug up
- Extra food and water
- Offline maps
- A first aid kit
⛺ Camping Near Mistaya Canyon
The closest campgrounds near Mistaya Canyon are:
- Waterfowl Lakes Campground (11 mins drive)
- Silverhorn Creek Campground (15 mins drive)
- Thompson Creek Campground (13 mins drive)
- Rampart Creek Campground (15 mins drive)
Wildlife to Look Out For
There is lots of different wildlife living in the forests along the Icefields Parkway. Some of the animals that you should look out for are marmots, pikas (no not the Pokemon), Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, elk, black bears, grizzly bears and more!
Tips for Visiting Mistaya Canyon
Toilets: There are no toilets at this stop. The nearest are at the Saskatchewan River Crossing stop.
Leave no trace: Take everything you bring with you back out with you, including rubbish.
Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes.
Bugs and bears: In the Summer bring along bug spray and bear spray.
Safety: Stay away from the edges of the canyon and do not try to swim in the river. The current is extremely strong and dangerous and you will be swept away downstream.
Winter: If you visit in Winter, make sure you bring along micro spikes as the rocks will be extremely slippery with ice making it dangerous.
Parks Permit: You will need to purchase a Discovery Pass for the national parks.
Other Stops Along the Icefields Parkway That You Can’t Miss
If you are already driving along the Icefields Parkway to see Mistaya, you definitely need to make some time to make a few extra stops. There are loads of viewpoints and trail along the drive that you can stop at, but some of our favourite are:
Peyto Lake Lookout
Our all time favourite stop!
Peyto Lake hike is 2.4km return and will take you around an hour altogether which includes some time at the viewpoint. Of course if you are into photography like us, you will need to allow for some extra time to take photos. We found that during Summer, the viewpoint was so busy that there was a little line to take photos at the best spot.
Tangle Creek Falls
Tangle Creek Falls is on of the quickest Icefields Parkway stop that you shouldn’t miss! It will only take you 5 minutes to stop to see Tangle Creek Falls and it is definitely worth it because it’s a stunning waterfall. The waterfall can be seen literally from the highway or you can choose to climb up to see the upper tier of the waterfall which is so powerful that it felt like we had stepped into a wind storm!
Tangle Creek Falls is a stop that you should definitely add to your Icefields Parkway Bucketlist!
Bow Lake is only a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise. The stop doesn’t require any hiking so is a good quick stop to snap a few photos and continue on.
Bow Lake is a gorgeous blue colour with incredible mountains framing it. In the Summer months, you can paddleboard, swim and have picnics by the lake. There are also a number of hikes in the area which you can do.
In the Winter time, Bow Lake completely freezes over and isn’t as beautiful but instead turns into a Winter Wonderland.
Even though Athabasca Falls is one of the busiest and most popular stops along the Icefields Parkway, it is still very much worth visiting. The Falls are insane. I don’t think we have seen any waterfall more powerful!
If you want to visit Athabasca Falls, I recommend planning to go first thing in the morning to try to beat the crowds, or otherwise much later in the afternoon or evening.
You already know how much we loved Mistaya Canyon. The fact that it was so much less popular than a lot of the other stops along the Parkway made it really special plus it was just so wild and beautiful at the canyon. We would love to go back and see Mistaya Canyon in the Winter.
You might also like:
- 14 Amazing Icefields Parkway Stops You Shouldn’t Miss!
- 11 Banff Winter Tours You Need to Check Out
- Little Beehive, Big Beehive and Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike
- Tangle Creek Falls – A Must-See Icefields Parkway Waterfall
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