Home Destinations Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park

by Karen Ung

Mistaya Canyon is a curvy slot canyon on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) that features a waterfall and views of Mount Sarbach. It’s well worth a stop as you drive from Banff to Jasper.

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Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park

Gazing into the gorge as the powerful Mistaya River rushes through, it’s easy to see why it’s so deep. Over thousands of years, water has carved the limestone walls of Mistaya Canyon. Where water and sediment swirled round and round, it gouged potholes creating the curvy canyon we see today.

The Mistaya River flows from Peyto Lake to the North Saskatchewan River which is 4 kilometres downstream. Although the slot canyon is not that large, it’s unique shape and short approach make it worth a stop. Mount Sarbach is the photogenic mountain behind the falls.

Allow about half an hour to walk the trail and take photos. For your safety, observe the falls from the bridge or several metres back from the water’s edge.

Mistaya Canyon Trail at a Glance

  • Distance: 500 metres one way to the bridge
  • Elevation Loss: 35 metres
  • Stroller friendly? No. Dirt trail has large rocks and tree roots.
  • Nearest washrooms: Waterfowl Lakes (pit toilets), Saskatchewan Crossing (flush toilets at gas station /concession / convenience store)
  • Trailhead: north end of parking lot
  • Parking: Mistaya Canyon Parking lot on west side of Highway 93 North (71 km north of the Lake Louise junction, or 6 km south of Saskatchewan Crossing).

Going Further

If you’d like to hike more in the area, you have three options:

  1. Continue past the falls to make a 1.8 km loop with 70 metres elevation gain.
  2. Hike to Sarbach Lookout: 5.2 km one way, 590 metres elevation gain
  3. Hike Howse River Trail: 4.5 km one way, 85 metres elevation loss

Know Before You Go

The river is extremely powerful and there’s a large drop to the riverbed below the falls, so stay well back from the water’s edge. Note that the trail and rocks can be slippery when snow covered/icy, so it not recommended to go beyond the bridge in winter/early season conditions.

A National Parks Pass is required to stop in Banff National Park. Visit Parks Canada for more information.

You’re in bear country! Read our Bear Safety Tips and carry bear spray on every hike. Bears are seen on popular trails any time of day. If you’re hiking in a group and making noise, you likely won’t see one though.

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