Mistaya Canyon – A Complete Guide

Mistaya Canyon, located at the border of Jasper and Banff National Park is a stunning sight. Your adventure starts with the short walk from the parking lot that descends to an abandoned roadbed. From here, enter a bridge and look out into the canyon as the water rushes beneath your feet. But you don’t need to stay on the bridge to enjoy the view. The entire canyon is open – an enter at your own risk area. Depending on your confidence and sense of balance, you can walk right up to the white water and hang out on the rocks. In addition, several great hikes start at Mistaya Canyon.

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Mistaya canyon views including rushing water, trees and mountains.
The Mistaya Canyon in all its glory.

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The Geography of Mistaya Canyon

The Mistaya River originates in Pristine Peyto Lake, located just a few miles down the road. From Peyto, the river rushes over a flat bottom valley and plunges into the Mistaya Canyon. The swirling water and debris form potholes in the rock. The water, of course, continues its work to this day. The limestone rock here is constantly reshaped by water’s powerful force, although to see the real change you’d have to wait around for hundreds of years. From here, the Mistaya River travels another two and a half miles where it joins North Saskatchewan River.

Visitors at Mistaya Canyon relax on rocks next to the water.
The area is large enough to support dozens of people without feeling crowded.

The Mistaya Canyon Experience

The brilliant thing about Mistaya Canyon is how close you can come to the water. Although signs warn of the danger on the rocks, there is no legal warning and most people chose to take the risk. Watching rushing water from a rock, just inches away from your feet is a thrill. The sound is relaxing enough to soothe you to sleep. The Mistaya Canyon is also a great location for photography and I saw many with tripods. The area is large enough that even with dozens of people on it did not feel crowded.

Hiking From Mistaya Canyon

The moderate Sarbach Lookout trail originates in Mistaya Canyon. Sarbach Lookout, in turn, leads to the very advanced Howse River Trail. From here it is possible to go even further, to Howse Pass. However, that unmaintained trail is very challenging and recommended only to very advanced hikers.

Sarbach Lookout Trail

Two hundred meters from the bridge, follow the trail to the left and into the forest. After a long, steady climb up, you’ll reach the old Sabach Lookout, set in a small clearing. You’ll find that the trees block much of the view here. But if you walk another 200 m to the left, you’ll get to see all of Mistaya Valley – all the way to Mount Murchinson. This hike is 5.2k and elevation gain is 590m.

Howse River Trail

From the lookout point, take the trail to the right and descend into the forest. Here, you’ll walk on the flats where the Howse River and the Saskatchewan river meet. These flats are near the spot where David Thompson camped in 1807. The valley here is peaceful and protected from wind, framed by wildflowers and the rivers.

After the valley, continue another 2 kilometers where you’ll enter the forest again. The track here is rough, and the crews do not maintain this trail. The remainder of the route to Howse Pass is very difficult, mostly due to constant flooding. You should only hike this section if you are a very experienced backpackers and are comfortable finding route.

Mistaya Canyon from the river bridge.
The stunning view from the bridge.

Howes Pass From Mistaya

All together, Howes Pass lays 27 kilometers from the bridge at Mistaya Canyon. Most people who enter the pass do not enter it Mistaya. Instead, they reach the pass via a 13 km trail from British Columbia.

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Viktoria aka Traveltipster

Mistaya Canyon with mountains and forest in the background, a pinterest friendly image.
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6 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    surekha-dreamingloud
    September 13, 2019 at 3:08 am

    It looks so fantastic to watch how the water rushes. Thanks for sharing a video. Bet you enjoyed so much.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Quin Cl
    September 13, 2019 at 2:23 am

    This is really a must-visit place! I love that video of waterfalls which remind me of the Philippines. 🙂

  • Avatar
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    jennifer schreiner
    September 11, 2019 at 8:20 am

    WOW!!! Just breathtaking! Do they offer kayaking or is the water much too rough? Just looks like a spot I would love to take in every sight and experience.

    • TravelTipster
      Reply
      TravelTipster
      September 11, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Not in this area, but plenty other kayaking spots in Banff.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Colleen
    September 10, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    That is gorgeous country. I love all the rushing water and those huge rocks surrounded by that forest. It’s really the picture of nature.

    • TravelTipster
      Reply
      TravelTipster
      September 10, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks so much Colleen! It really is stunning <3

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