Whilst exploring Canada and the Rocky Mountains you’ll be hard pressed to find somewhere that doesn’t offer you a lake to walk around, river to canoe in, wildlife to observe or breathtaking view to feel humbled by. They are around every corner making it unsurprising that this incredible country is such a popular travel destination for everyone from mountain climbers, hikers and backpackers seeking out another adventure to families and couples looking to enjoy the great outdoors.
Hiking to the Mistaya Canyon
During our visit to Banff National Park in Alberta we headed along the famous Icefields Parkway when leaving Lake Louise for Jasper National Park. This not only offered spectacular scenery but numerous points of interest along the drive, one of which being Mistaya Canyon. Formed by the Mistaya River the Canyon is just a short 0.5 km from the highway where there is ample parking before starting your short hike.
Despite it being a short distance hike don’t let this fool you that the hike is easy! From the car park the trail falls steeply down the hill which does of course make the hike easy on the way there if not a little unstable under foot however be prepared for some serious thigh and calf burn, panting and complaining from all members of your party on the way back up! It’s inevitable!
Eventually you reach the bottom of the trail where things flatten off a little and at this point you will be able to hear the rushing water in the distance and smell the dampness in the air.
The first thing to greet you is a foot bridge that crosses straight across the canyon with the river rapidly flowing far below. I’ve got to admit, due to the rock formations of the canyon here being so deep it’s actually very difficult to see a lot of the river in the canyon (despite being able to hear it) and you’ll certainly be hard pressed to be able to take a good photo of the canyon.
Our visit was in September so perhaps if you head here in the Spring when there is snow melt and greater volumes of water running off the mountains into the river you’ll experience something even more special with a lot more water present.
Once you cross the bridge you can follow the trail for a short distance further down to the river level. As this is upstream of the canyon where the river starts to narrow there are a lot of rapids and very fast flowing water, the noise is incredible. If you are coming here with children I would strongly advise against taking them here as it is incredibly dangerous with no barriers (look at our photo below) – it would be very easy for them to get too close to the edge and fall, especially if the rocks are wet. You do of course have the idiots desperate for social media likes seeing how close they can get to the edge for a selfie.
We decided like many others at the canyon to bring a packed lunch with us and so we found a perfect spot looking up the river where we had a bite to eat and took in the incredible power of the water along with grabbing a few photos.
Having eaten it was back up to the car park and as mentioned at the start of this post, it’s a bit of a killer hike on the thighs – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Have you been to the Mistaya Canyon or planning a trip? Let us know in the comments!