Mystic Lake Backpacking
Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Map

Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

Banff National Park
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Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

Distance: 21.5mi
Elevation: 4,800ft
Time: 2 days

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This route is a great out-and-back that can be done as a single overnight or three nights by cutting the mileage in half for a family affair. It takes up part of the Mystic Pass horseshoe circuit by starting and ending at one trailhead. Mystic Pass and Mystic Lake are the highlights of this route.

Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Map

Getting there

From the Town of Banff, merge onto the Trans-Canada Highway westbound. Stay on this highway until you reach Castle Junction and the exit for Radium Hot Springs (93S). Take the exit and turn right. Cross the bridge and come to a junction at Castle Mountain Chalets. Turn right onto the Bow Valley Parkway (1A). Continue for 6km and park in the Johnston Canyon overflow lot. Some hikers will choose to park at Moose Meadows to avoid the crowds.

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When to do


Backcountry Campsites

Larry’s Camp (Jo9), Mystic Valley (Mi22)

Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Family friendly

Older Children only

Route Signage


Crowd Levels

Moderate to High

Route Type

Out and back

Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail
Elevation Graph

Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Description

Starting this trail at the extremely populated Johnston Canyon can be daunting. This factor alone leads many hikers to begin their journey up Johnston Creek from Moose Meadows trailhead. Moose Meadows simply cuts off the canyon portion of the trail and heads straight up the forested trail to the upper falls junction. If your desire to skip the crowds is stronger than visiting Johnston Canyon, take this alternate route.

Whichever route you choose will take you to the Upper Falls junction, where you will follow signs to the Ink Pots. This is a beautiful areafeaturing colourful water features in a scenic meadow. Continue beyond the Ink Pots a few kilometres to Larry’s Camp (Jo9). If you are looking to cut the mileage of this trip in half, you’ll want to camp here. Otherwise, continue on and take a right at the junction. Cross the creek and begin your climb up Mystic Pass. This is an arduous climb, but it brings hikers to a jaw-dropping pass of open alpine meadows, wildflowers, and wild craggy peaks.

Begin your descent off Mystic Pass through larch forest and down into the woods below. You will cross a small bridge and find a junction to Mystic Lake here. From here, you can decide if you would like to hike the 300m to Mystic Lake with all of your gear or head down the trail 2625ft to camp. Many hikers choose to go to camp, get settled, and return to Mystic Lake without their backpacks for some solitude at the lakeshore.

You will return the way you came on day two, taking the gentler side of the pass up and the steep side down before returning to Johnston Canyon.



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