Mist Mountain Natural Hot Springs Hike

Mist Mountain Natural Hot Springs Hike

A Unique Natural Experience


Trail type
Out and back




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Mother Nature’s Magnum Opus

Aside from exercise and to be out in the wild, away from city life, hikers put in the effort in search of the perfect sight, the perfect view, the perfect place, where Mother Nature has created her masterpiece. There are well known masterpieces to which the path is quite beaten, because it is worth it. But every now and then a new masterpiece is discovered, like a van Gogh found in a dusty attic in Amsterdam. Mist Mountain Natural Hot Springs is one of these discoveries, a scene that seems to have been specially crafted for the Instagram generation, that was until recently largely unknown. In the age of ‘everything, all-the-time’ information, this uncovered gem of a Kananaskis hike has created a pilgrimage-like atmosphere to an increasingly unique natural experience.


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The Mist Mountain Hot Springs trailhead is on the east side of Highway 40, about 15km south of Highwood Pass, and about 200 metres west of the parking area. It must be noted that the road to Mist Mountain is closed from December 1- June 14 for wildlife preservation. Also take note that this path is differentiated from the Mist Mountain Trail which branches off from this trail and goes a further 3km and 700 meters higher to the summit of Mist Mountain. Follow the directions stated below to make sure you get to the Hot Springs.


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The Crescent Map

Be advised this path is newly popular for the reasons mentioned above, so your best bet is to arrive on an off day or early in the morning, for the optimal experience. Once on the trail, the first hour of the hike is an uphill grind, a 450 metre climb in 2.5km, towards the saddle between Mist Mountain and Eagle Ridge. But don’t be discouraged, it quickly levels out to a much more moderate path. After the ridge, follow an easy scree trail to the right which leads to the hot springs. You will know you’re on the correct path as it arcs to the right in a broad crescent moon shape along the side of the mountain. If your eyesight is up to the challenge, you will be able to see the hot springs at the far tip of the crescent. The path from here is narrow, with steep hills above and below (so be careful!) but is otherwise more or less flat and an easy hike. Besides, from here you can get a sense of what lies ahead, and that sense is glorious!

If you didn’t manage to get to the trail early or on an off-peak day, another clue as to the location of the hot springs will be a lineup of people waiting for their turn. This is because the two hot pools are quite small, with one able to fit two people and the other four at the most. Why wait in line for a quick dip in a hot spring? You’ll see.


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To Suit or Not to Suit?

A little foreknowledge is key for the next part, as there are no trees around the pools for privacy. So either wear your bathing suit under your hiking clothes, or…be brave ;)! Strike up a conversation with people waiting in line, or if you’re lucky enough to be there on an empty day, jump right in. The water isn’t so much hot as it is warm like an Okanangan lake in August, and as your turn comes, you’ll settle into your seat and there it is…perfection.


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Nature’s Mona Lisa

That the mountain saw fit to exhale enough of a stream of water to form pools in these tiny cauldrons on its cliffside is miracle enough. That these pools place the viewer front and centre to the most exquisite alpine panorama is another miracle altogether. Vast open spaces are interrupted by jagged peaks, with enough greenery to perfectly offset the bright blue Alberta skies. There are infinity pools and then there are pools where you could search for infinity and never find a more dazzling experience.

Unfortunately, there’s probably a crowd waiting for their turn, so take your pictures and keep your soak painfully short. But look on the bright side, if you were able to experience this habitually, its specialness might wear off. Your short time with a masterpiece gives you the enticement to return, where the experience will be just as breathtaking.


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Kananaskis Mythology

If pictures didn’t exist of Mist Mountain Hot Springs, it would sound like something out of Norse mythology, a place where the Nordic god retreats to his rejuvenating hot pool on the side of a mountain where he contemplates his domain as it lays before him. But it is real– we promise!– and is only a short hour and a half drive from Calgary. We would say keep it a secret, but at this point it’s futile. Just cherish your short slice as you confront one of Nature’s true masterpieces.


Just go, it’s worth it.