Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
2 days
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
34.6 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
1,463 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

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.

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Route Description for Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail

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 800 m 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.

Getting to the Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Trailhead

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.

Route Information

  • 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

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Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail Reviews

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