While it’s generally quite common to find hot springs near rivers, or at lower elevations, have you ever been to a natural (or undeveloped) hot spring with high mountain views? Well, if you haven’t, it’s time to add Mist Mountain Hot Springs to your bucketlist!
Tucked away in the middle of Kananaskis Provincial Park, Alberta, you’ll find two tiny hot pools overlooking sweeping mountain views below. Not only are they a beautiful little hidden gem that few people know about (including locals), they’re also Southern Alberta’s only undeveloped Natural Hot Springs (that you can actually bathe in)!
If you’ve ever been to Ram Creek Hot Springs in British Columbia, they have a similar vibe, although Mist Hot Springs are a lot smaller and take a lot more (physical) effort to get to. In fact, you actually have to hike halfway up a mountain to find them!
If you’re willing to put in the legwork, Mist Mountain Hot Springs can be an amazing little adventure in Kananaskis. Here’s everything you need to know about Mist Mountain Hot Springs.
Also, make sure you check out our guide to natural hot springs in the Canadian Rockies
Mist Mountain Hot Springs Hike Quick Stats:
- Distance: approx 8km round trip
- Elevation gain: approx 490m (to the hot springs), 1264m if you’re summiting Mist Mountain
- Difficulty: moderate
- Time required: approx 2-3 hours
- Difficulty of actually finding the hot springs: quite easy if you know how to use a GPS, otherwise pretty tough.
- Trailhead GPS: 50.522814° N, 114.883516° W
Where is the Mist Mountain Trailhead?
The first challenge is finding the actual trailhead to Mist Mountains. To reach the trailhead, head into Kananaskis along highway 40. If you’re coming from the Canmore direction, pass the trailhead for Pocaterra Ridge and continue a little further. If you reach the Picklejar Lakes trailhead, you’ve come too far.
Use the GPS co-ordinates above to find the exact starting point, it will be impossible to find without it; the trailhead is not marked, and you basically just have to park at the side of the road and find the hole in the trees where the trail begins.
When we last hiked Mist, there was some trail marking tape on one of the branches at the edge of the ditch, and it was fairly obvious where we needed to start hiking.
Note: Enter your GPS co-ordinates before you enter Kananaskis. There’s no cell service once you’re buried in the mountains. Mist Mountain Trailhead is also in Google Maps if you just type it in.
Hiking to Mist Mountain Hot Springs
Once you’re actually on the trail, it’s well worn and easy to follow.
Follow the trail higher and higher until you reach a grassy saddle/meadow. At this point, it should be fairly obvious that you can’t keep going forwards unless you want to tumble down a cliff. At this T junction, take a left and and walk around the mountain, roughly maintaining the same elevation.
Soon you’ll see a waterfall in front of you. Cross the stream beneath it and head up the bank on the other side. It’s roughly at this point that the trail for the Mist summit diverges from the Hot Springs trail. To summit, I believe you start heading up the scree behind (don’t take my word for it though because we haven’t hiked that yet!).
Once you’ve crossed the stream, climb the bank and continue traversing the mountain at the same(ish) elevation. Eventually, if you keep traversing and following the relatively obvious trail, you can’t help walking smack into the hot springs.
The hot springs should be obvious from quite a distance; either because you can see the steam rising from them, or because you can see the bright orange/green algae covered rocks that stand out against the grey. I suggest downloading Topo Canada and following the trail on there (this is how we found it).
Worst case scenario, send me a message and I’ll try to find the GPX file for you.
Mist Mountain Hot Springs Trail Map
How hard is the hike to the Mist Mountain Hot Springs?
Quite honestly, it’s not too challenging or technical. Yes, there’s quite a far bit of elevation gain over quite a short distance, but it never gets too steep. For the most part, the trail is just mud; there’s very little scree until you’re almost at the hot springs.
The hike is roughly about 4km to the hot springs (one way), so it takes between 1 and 2 hours to reach.
When is the best time to visit the Mist Mountain Hot Springs?
Some of Highway 40, which travels through Kananaskis and past the trailhead, is closed between December and June, so aim to visit during the summer months. You could still visit during the other months but would have to cycle the road from the entrance to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (around 30km each way).
Things to know before you visit Mist Mountain Hot Springs
- Mist Mountain Hot Springs are very small. There are two pools that can both fit 2 people at most (one is bigger than the other though), and you’re going to get pretty cosy with the other person. This means that if you’re not the first 3 or 4 people to arrive, you’re going to have to loiter around, waiting awkwardly for your turn.
- The hot springs are on quite a steep, slippery, scree slope. Wear decent gripped shoes.
- There really isn’t anywhere you can change with any privacy, especially if it’s super busy. The slope is quite open without any cover
- The slope has absolutely no protection from the elements. If it rains, all your things will get wet. From our experience, Mist Mountain has that name for a reason (see photos). Bad weather likes to sit in the valley!
- The hot springs aren’t boiling hot. We were fortunate enough to visit on a relatively mild day, but it probably wouldn’t be sufficiently warm to bother visiting in the winter. I’d also imagine the area to be quite a big avalanche risk in winter.
- Kananaskis Provincial Park is bear country. We see more grizzlies in this area than anywhere else. Don’t do this hike without bear spray, and ideally, bring a few friends.
Is it worth the effort to get to Mist Mountain?
If you love hot springs like us, you’ll know it’s always worth the effort to track these places down! If you like undeveloped hot springs, rather than the swimming pool style commercial springs you find in Banff and Radium, then these will absolutely hit the spot.
However, if you time Mist Mountain Hot Springs poorly and get there too late, you’ll find yourself sitting there like a lemon, waiting your turn. Still, it’s absolutely breathtaking, and well worth experiencing at least once. There’s really only enough space for a few people
Where to stay when you’re visiting Kananaskis
Kananaskis is right in the middle of nowhere, so most people either commute in from Calgary, Canmore or Banff. If you’re looking to visit from Banff, you can check out our accommodation guide here.
Turn it into a spa weekend!
Otherwise, the closest place to stay would probably be the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge and Nordic Spa (see rates here, and read our full review here). The Nordic Spa is probably the next best thing (probably a more relaxing experience, honestly) to the natural springs, so why not make a weekend of it and treat yourself to a few more spa treatments while you’re at it!
The Mist Mountain Hot Springs are a challenge to find and hike to, but they’re well worth the effort! They’re a completely unique experience in Alberta that you can’t afford to miss!