The scramble up Eagle Ridge to the Mist Mountain hot springs in Kananaskis is one of the greatest adventures in the Canadian Rockies; or in my case, the biggest misadventure.
My day hiking to the Mist Mountain hot springs looked a biiiiit different than the average hiker’s experience. I’ll tell you all about my misadventure next, but first I’ll go over everything you need to know in order to find these natural hot springs, tips for visiting, recommendations for a successful hike, and of course provide lots of great photos.
Looking for more hikes in Kananaskis Country? Click here.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- How to get to the Mist Mountain trailhead
- About the Eagle Ridge trail
- Hiking to Mist Mountain Springs via Eagle Ridge
- Recommended hiking gear
- What to wear hiking
- Where to stay in Kananaskis
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How to get to the Mist Mountain Trailhead
There are 2 trailheads marked on this map; Mist Mountain trailhead and the Eagle Ridge trailhead. Both are important, keep reading to find out why.
Eagle Ridge and Mist Mountain hot springs are located in Elbow-Sheep Wildland; one of the Provincial Parks in Kananaskis Country. This hike is “deep” in Kananaskis – the drive takes around 2 hours from Banff and the same from Calgary.
There’s no bus or shuttle that goes through Kananaskis, so if you don’t have a car you’ll need to rent one to access the Mist Mountain trailhead.
Something unique to look out for on the way are wild cattle. You’ll find these cuties roaming along Highway 40 frequently within the Elbow-Sheep region!
Where to Park
If you’re utilizing the Mist Mountain trail, there’s a pull-off to the left next to the trailhead (road-style parking). If you’re utilizing the Eagle Ridge trail, you’ll need to park at the Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area which is a little further down the road on the right.
About the Eagle Ridge Trail
- Distance: 6.8km
- Elevation gain: 647m
- Rated: hard
- Type of trail: point to point
- Estimated time: Alltrails says 3hrs, but if you take Eagle Ridge plan for significantly more time
Typically, hikers will utilize the Mist Mountain trail to access the Mist Mountain Hot Springs. The day I hiked though, the trail was closed so I had to detour and climb up Eagle Ridge instead. I’d definitely recommend utilizing the Mist Mountain trail (here’s the Alltrails map), BUT this trail guide focuses mainly on Eagle Ridge for those who are looking for more of an adventure.
You can also summit Mist Mountain – here’s the Alltrails map.
About the Eagle Ridge Trail
The Eagle Ridge trail in Kananaskis is essentially a massive bushwhacking-fest for the first kilometre. The map above says to start this point to point trail at the Mist Mountain trailhead, but I’d strongly advise against it. The ascent/decent on Eagle Ridge is extremely steep, to the point where I’d think it’d be very dangerous to descend. So, if you’re attempting Eagle Ridge, start from the Eagle Ridge trailhead.
After the ascent up Eagle Ridge, users can expect to traverse multiple peaks – this is totally one of those “hikes that never end.” Once you reach the end of the “unnamed” portion of Eagle Ridge, you’ll have to do a quick descent and make your way over to the Mist Mountain hot springs.
Note that significant route finding skills are required for Eagle Ridge and I’d only recommend taking this route if you’re a very experienced adventurer. A satellite communication device would be a great piece of safety equipment for this hike.
About the Mist Mountain Hot Springs Trail
The Mist Mountain hot springs trail is highly trafficked. The trail starts out in a wooded area, then opens up to a beautiful basin between Mist Mountain and Eagle Ridge. After trekking through the basin, users will reach a smaller “ridge” which connects Eagle Ridge and Mist Mountain. At this point, users must hike over the smaller ridge, then across a mountain stream and hike north for a short while more until they reach the hot springs.
- Both of these trails are best hiked from June to October, although I recommend waiting until later in the season (late July/early August).
- If you attempt Eagle Ridge, the hike is much longer and more technical. Make sure you’re prepared with lots of snacks and water; I always bring 2L in my Hydrapak.
- Hike very early in the day or late (for sunset) to avoid the crowds at the Mist Mountain hot springs.
- The Eagle Ridge portion of the hike is essentially untravelled; you won’t come across anyone on the trail. Make sure you’re prepared and take safety precautions (bear spray, satellite communication device, and a preloaded Alltrails map)!
- Dogs are not allowed on this trail.
- Continue reading for more tips on visiting the Mist Mountain hot springs.
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Hiking to Mist Mountain Hot Springs
Literally right away this day started out as a weird/crazy adventure. My friend and I were SO looking forward to finally visiting the Mist Mountain hot springs. This was my last hike in Banff before moving back to Ontario (I lived in Banff, here’s how you can too), so this hike had to be an absolute banger.
As I drove to the trailhead through, I was seeing signs that the Mist Mountain trail was closed due to bear activity. Luckily I’d been looking at the hike up Eagle Ridge the previous day, so I knew there was a different way to access the hot springs… Here’s how it all went down.
Eagle Ridge Trailhead: Bushwhacking
My friend and I ended up parking a couple kilometres down the road at the Mist Creek day use area. From here, we literally just started walking along highway 40 (Kananaskis Way) until we “kinda sorta” found the Eagle Ridge trailhead. And by trailhead I mean we just entered the forest and started bushwhacking – this is where the misadventure began.
From my personal experience I wasn’t able to find a trail. I saw a few trail markers along the way and found a “path” which I think was actually just an animal trail. But, I was more or less left aimlessly bushwhacking, trying to follow my satellite dot on the Alltrails map until I reached Eagle Ridge.
In the bushwhacking section for Eagle Ridge, try to hike northwest (left and back away from the highway). Luckily my friend and I were feeling adventurous this day, however we did contemplate turning back on multiple occasions.
We made it through and found Eagle Ridge, but we did gain lots of scratches and bug bites along the way.
Ascending Eagle Ridge
You’ll know you’ve found Eagle Ridge if and when you see a STEEP and grassy mountain straight ahead. I’m not kidding, climbing (I’m going to use the word climbing rather than hiking) up Eagle Ridge was easily the steepest terrain I’ve navigated – this was even steeper than my climb up from the valley floor of Pocaterra Ridge; another misadventure.
The climb up Eagle Ridge is what qualifies this hike as a scramble. I was on my hands and knees crawling, grabbing onto long grass and the odd plant to maintain my balance and help pull myself up the mountain.
More: Scrambling Trail Guides
Once you reach the ridge though, the views are absolutely wild! Hiking forward you’ll have a direct view of Mist Mountain’s peak and behind you you’ll have a view down the Kananaskis Valley. You’ll find the ridge is super windy though, so make sure you dress appropriately. The day I hiked was warm and sunny, however we had all the extra layers and shells just in case the weather turned on us.
Here are the jackets I recommend taking on every Rocky Mountain hike.
Trekking Across Eagle Ridge’s Peaks
Eagle Ridge should really be called “the hike that never ends,” because oh my god this hike never ends. Since I hadn’t planned on taking the Eagle Ridge route I didn’t look into this route too much. But apparently there are 3 major peaks you’ll need to cross over before finding the Mist Mountain hot springs – who knew!
Major as in a decent amount of elevation gain – there isn’t anything technical about this hike (besides the scramble up Eagle Ridge).
Minus the crazy wind, I actually really enjoyed trekking across Eagle Ridge. Ridge walks have become one of my favourite types of hikes because they allow you to stay on the summit and enjoy the views for a longer amount of time.
Where to Find the Mist Mountain Hot Springs
After the third peak, you’ll need to descend Eagle Ridge. The descent is a little steep – as per the whole steep theme of this hike – but it’s totally manageable. Take your time and bring trekking poles; they’re super helpful on this hike in particular.
Once you reach the smaller “ridge” connecting Eagle Ridge and Mist Mountain, hike down a bit on the side facing north (hiker’s right). The map below outlines the Mist Mountain trail (red) as well as the Eagle Ridge trail (black dotted line) to give you more of an idea where to go.
^I give you this advice now, but at the time my AllTrails map wasn’t downloaded so I had no idea where the Mist Mountain hot springs actually were. I was totally guessing.
You’ll clearly see a trail and how the trail follows across the little ridge which connects to the bottom half of Mist Mountain itself. Along the way you can expect to cross a mountain stream; there’ll be less water in the stream the longer you wait to hike (late July/August rather than early June). You’ll also hike through a little forested section right before you find the hot springs.
The last little bit can get steep, so prepare to take your time, use a few hand holds, and potentially do some butt scootin’.
Soon after trekking through the woods you’ll find the Mist Mountain hot springs! I’m going to quickly go over options for the return hike next, then give you alllll the good tips for visiting the Mist Mountain hot springs.
Return Hike: Mist Mountain Trail
After scrambling up Eagle Ridge, I put safety first and decided it was too risky to descend the same route we ascended. I was genuinely worried that if my friend or I slipped it would be game over and we’d tumble down the mountain.
The sun was also starting to set, so we had limited time to get back to the car. With these two things in mind, my friend and I started our return hike down the regular Mist Mountain trail. There was definitely a feeling of guilt/shame because the trail was closed due to bear activity, so we made lots of noise along the way as not to spook any nearby bears. We wanted to respect the wildlife as much as possible in this scenario and give any bears in the area ample time (via noise) to ensure they heard us coming.
However keeping our safety in mind, we figured this trail was our safest way back to the car.
For those looking to skip Eagle ridge and just hike Mist Mountain… This info is for you.
The Mist Mountain trailhead starts out in a wooded area, then enters an incredible basin squished between Mist Mountain and Eagle Ridge. The hike is considered “hard,” however I’d label it as more moderate. There isn’t anything technical, no route finding skills are required, and the trail is well-trafficked. I’d say anyone with a good level of fitness (regardless of age) would be able to hike this trail.
Unfortunately, the Mist Mountain trail let out even further away from our parking spot at the Mist Creek day use area, meaning we had a loooong hike back to the car. As per the whole misadventure thing, I thought it would be a good idea to hitchhike. We’d been hiking for 9 hours at this point and the sun was starting to disappear, so we needed to figure something out – and hiking wasn’t it.
SO I did that whole put my finger out thing like they do in movies and within a couple minutes a truck picked us up. I instantly felt fear and regret as soon as the truck pulled over – this was my first time hitchhiking and all I could think was “serial killer serial killer serial killer.” Luckily, the man wasn’t a serial killer and he safely returned us back to my car.
BUT WAIT… More misadventure. Upon returning to my car, I found the battery to be dead. Like literally dead! My spirit guides must have been looking down on me that day though because just as I figured out my battery was dead, a man pulled into the day-use area to use the bathroom. This man conveniently had one of those battery kick-start set things (as you can tell I know lots about cars) and revived my battery.
Without hitchhiking, I would have missed that man pulling into the day-use area for the bathroom and I would have probably been stranded in Kananaskis Country overnight. I’m telling you, everything happens for a reason; nothing is coincidence.
And that concludes my misadventures on Eagle Ridge and the Mist Mountain hot springs.
Tips for Visiting the Mist Mountain Hot Springs
Mist Mountain hot springs is a super popular hike in Kananaskis, so to ensure you have the best experience possible here are some tips for visiting:
- The water is warm! Not lukewarm or hot, but a very nice warm temperature!
- The springs consist of 2 cascading pools. They aren’t big, there’s room for 2-3 adults at a time.
- Bring a travel towel.
- Hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon (for sunset-ish) to avoid the crowds. There’s normally a line of people waiting to take a dip in the hot springs which can be kind of uncomfortable.
- Try to hike on a warm and sunny day. The springs are best enjoyed under the sun.
- Wear a bathing suit under your clothes; there’s nowhere to change once you get to the hot springs.
- Bring a tripod for photos. There isn’t anywhere good to setup your phone or do the whole make shift tripod thing. I use the travel tripod from Peak Design (which I LOVE), but is it quite pricey. This tripod is another good quality (but cheaper) option for an “adventure tripod.”
- Bring all sorts of clothing. The weather can change on a dime and you’ll most likely be chilly after exiting the springs. Here’s everything I recommend wearing on a day-hike in the Rocky Mountains.
Explore More Hikes In Kananaskis
Kananaskis is an area just outside of Banff that’s made up of multiple Wildland Areas and Provincial Parks. Kananaskis is my favourite hiking destination in the Canadian Rockies, so I urge you to explore more hikes in the area!
Click here to explore more of Kananaskis.
Featured Kananaskis Hikes:
- Cool Experiences: Yamnuska scramble, Mist Mountain hot springs, Grotto winter canyon walk.
- Ridge Walks: Pocaterra Ridge, Sarrail Ridge & Rawson Lake, Opal Ridge, Tent Ridge, and Wasootch Ridge.
- Summits: EEOR and Ha Ling.
- Incredible Scenery/Lakes: West Wind Pass, Picklejar Lakes, and Grassi Lakes.
Explore Kananaskis Country by Area:
Visit National Parks Nearby:
Looking for more hikes? Click here to explore all of my trail guides.
Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country
Unless you plan on camping, there are very limited options for accommodations within Kananaskis Country itself. Here are a few options for every budget:
- Camping – Kananaskis offers tons of camping facilities scattered throughout the area and they almost always have availability. If you’re one to free-camp, Kananaskis has PLUZ (Public Land Use Zones) and Wildland areas, both of which you can random camp in for free. This is something I have yet to figure out in the Kananaskis region, but if you’re interested you can find more information about it here
- Hostels – Hostels are almost always cheaper than staying in a hotel or air bib. Kananaskis is home to the HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
- Budget Hotel – Crosswaters Resort in Kananaskis Village.
- Luxury Stay – the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the most luxurious getaways in the Banff-region. The mountain lodge is home to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa which has the nicest heated pools and saunas! Alternatively, check out the Mount Engadine Lodge.
- Stay nearby – as I mentioned, accommodations in Kananaskis are limited. Instead you may want to look for hotels in Canmore or Banff.
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!