The springs on Mist Mountain have gained popularity on the internet for the novelty of natural hot springs accessible to hikers. But is the trail really worth the hype? Continue reading to decide for yourself.
The hike is just off Highway 40, in the south end of the park. It is almost a 2 hour drive from Calgary, os be sure to budget the drive into your timeline. Look for flagging tape to note the beginning of the hike, the trail begins right off the highway and is not particularly well-marked, but once into the trees the trail is clear and established. This is a 6.4 km trail, out-and-back (12.8 km total), with 555 m of elevation. Give yourself plenty of time if you want to relax at the springs.
We began the hike at noon, after getting slightly lost on the drive due to construction and road closures. We completed this hike at the beginning of August, before the bear closures. Always check trail reports and reviews before heading into the backcountry, as closures due to animals do occur, and can be lifted or placed at any time.
It was a beautifully warm day, sunny the entire hike. We reached the top of the pass at about 1:30 and stopped to eat our lunch. However, after reaching the top of the pass the wind became quite significant. The terrain after the pass becomes less stable, a scree slope that can slip out from under foot if you stray from the established trail. I would recommend bringing poles, as we found them useful for this section of the hike, offering extra stability. Keep an eye out along this section of the trail as we found a number of fossils embedded in the rocks here!
The scree slope curves around and crosses a creek. There are a number of paths along the slope here, we found that the lowest trail was the most direct to the springs. If you wish to continue to the peak, you will stay on the left side of the slope and head upwards, away from the creek. If you wish to visit the springs, continue following the trail that descends slightly along the side fo the mountain.
The springs are visible once you exit the patch of nearby trees. Descend along the trees, then cut across following the path. You can cut straight across the rocks after emerging from the trees, however we found, after taking that route, that the return trip along the lower section was far easier to manage.
When we arrived at the springs, we were greeted by several groups. While it seemed as though our time in the water would be limited, if at all, based on the number of other hikers present, there was a system of rotation that allowed everyone to enjoy both of the two small pools.
Definitely bring a swimsuit for this hike! You want to enjoy the springs you travelled all this way for. While coverage is minimal for changing (there is a sparse bush nearby), the experience of being in the springs is not to be missed.
We had a snack before changing, and then were given our chance in the pools. The water was very clear, and a pleasant warm temperature, not hot by any means, but very nice in comparison to the glacial lakes and streams otherwise found in the mountains. There is some algae along the rocks, which is slippery so watch your step!
We began the hike back around 3:15 pm. We took a few detours, and ultimately made it back down by 6 pm. I will admit, I am not a quick hiker coming downhill, as my knees are not fans of the descent.
I would consider this to be an intermediate hike, certainly doable for most groups, but with significant elevation to the pass, and some more technical terrain beyond it.
This hike is only open from June to December, as the highway is closed during the winter months. It is not recommended to hike Mist Mountain after October, however, as the potential ice and snow makes the hike both more difficult and less enjoyable (Not that winter hiking isn’t fun! I just wouldn’t recommend this trail for off-season hiking).