Sunday Hikes: Mistaya Canyon Trail

Dad and I were driving up the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park having a grand ol time but a little sleepy so we decided to make some coffee and hike to Mistaya Canyon  to wake us up a bit! The hike to the canyon is only half a kilometer (third of a mile) making it feel like nothing. However the reward is for that measly fraction of a mile is a canyon worth a solid five mile hike! Not really knowing what to expect we walked down the trail and onto a bridge that crosses the canyon. 

What makes this slot canyon so cool isn’t the size but the unique way the water has formed it. The quick moving Mistaya River corkscrews down into the canyon, smoothing out its walls and creating a canyon reminiscent of those in Antelope Canyon, Arizona! 

After marveling at the canyon and the mountains behind it we decided we wanted an it more of a hike so we followed the Howse River trail into the woods. After leaving the canyon we didn’t really have any insane views just the quiet woods all to ourselves (which is quite nice after going to Lake Louise and it’s ten million hourly visitors). Anyways we hiked for a bit before reaching a nice fallen down tree to sit on and enjoy a snack and then we turned back for the Icefields Parkway! 

Also it’s hard to get good pictures of a slot canyon but I tried so I hope you like them. 

Fun fact: Mistaya means Grizzly Bear in Cree

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes:  Lake Agnes Trail in Banff NP

Lake Louise

Josh and I were able to spend the last few days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.  The hike I was most looking forward to in Banff was the Lake Agnes trail in the Lake Louise region of Banff.   

Lake Louise is an extremely popular area so Josh and I were fortunate to be able to get one of the last parking spaces in the upper parking lot.  We really didn’t want to have to take the shuttle in.  After a short walk we arrived at Lake Louise which was rapidly filling in with tourists seeking that perfect selfie in front of the vivid turquoise waters of Lake Louise.  I grabbed a quick pic and headed to the trailhead with Josh.

The Lake Agnes trail is notable because it features amazing views of three lakes and finishes at a tea house on the shores of Lake Agnes.  The trail is 3.4 km one way which equates to approximate 4 1/4 miles round trip.

The beginning of the Lake Agnes Trail

We started up the trail as it wrapped around the side of Lake Louise.  The trail is an incline the entire length — 385 meters which is 1263 feet.   On our left there was a vivid contrast of the turquoise lake through the green fir trees.  At the far end of Lake Louise the trail switchbacks a few times and then continues its incline until reaching the shores of Mirror Lake.  

Views of Lake Louise through the trees – this picture captured the turquoise color of the water the best

Mirror Lake was much smaller than Lake Louise.  Behind Mirror Lake is the aptly named Beehive Mountain.

Beehive mountain with Mirror Lake in the foreground 

The trail continues to the right and joins in with a horse trail.  I’m not sure why folks don’t bag their horses as the trail through this portion was completely covered in their excrement.  Luckily this doesn’t last long as there is a tie off area for the horses after a short distance.  We came upon a small waterfall and then ascended two flights of stairs to come to the shores of Lake Agnes.  Lake Agnes was clear and turquoise just like Lake Louise.   It was of good size compared to Mirror Lake.  

Waterfall just before the staircases up to Lake Agnes

I had pictured the tea house looking like a Japanese pagoda for some reason.  Instead it was made of wood logs.  The tea menu was extensive and they offered light lunch fare as well.   Suprisingly, the tea house took both US and CA cash.  No credit cards.   

Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Tea House

We took an alternate route around the far side of the waterfall which came out at Mirror Lake (and bypassed the majority of the horse area).   The descent down was quick and easy and we encouraged those struggling on their way up that they didn’t have much farther to go.

Josh and I agreed that the best part of this hike was the strikingly turquoise water.  It is probably the most iconic hike in the area and I highly recommend it despite the crowds.  rk