Mist Creek is a grand hike beneath Mist Mountain in Highwood, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Part 1 of 2
The Mist Creek Recreation Area in the Highwood Region of South Kananaskis Country is the launch point for hiking the Mist Creek Trail, then dropping over Rickert's Pass for a tour of Burns Mine and Denning's Cabin, prior to returning over the top of Mist Ridge to the starting point. That is the plan.
On the drive west from Calgary and south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), a brief stop at a roadside exhibit provides information about one of Western Canada's most fascinating stories and unsolved mysteries. Where is the cache of gold hidden? Where is the infamous Lost Lemon Mine?
Perhaps the Lost Lemon Mine is located in these mountains behind the sign. Some claim it may be located near the Crowsnest Pass. Many people have been chasing the legend for decades in search of notoriety and wealth.
The Mist Creek Trail meanders north from the parking area and across Kananaskis Trail where the summit of massive 3,138 m (10,297 ft) Mist Mountain peaks over the densely forested Nameless Ridge. The hike north will track east of Mist Creek through the valley between the east side of Mist Mountain on the left, and the west side of Mist Ridge on the right.
The trail proceeds into cool, dense and beautifully shaded forest for the 10.2 KM (6⅜ mile) hike to Rickert's Pass. Throughout most of this phase of the hike, the route is enclosed in dense forest on beautifully shaded trail with cascading creeks to hike beside or across. Occasionally, the forest opens into densely flowered meadows which provide views of Mist Ridge gauging our progress under the length of mighty Mist Mountain.
The left branch continues on the Mist Creek Trail although Mist Creek is never seen from the valley floor but certainly the creek is over there, on the left, being fed by springs and melting snow from the east side of Mist Mountain. There is also significant water running from Mist Ridge and it is periodically necessary to navigate off trail through marsh land. The hike continues straight when a trail junction provides a branch to the right that would deliver us up onto Mist Ridge.
The following photos will provide glimpses of trail conditions and features as the hike proceeds for about 9.0 KM (5⅝ miles) through the valley between Mist Mountain and Mist Ridge. Elevation gain is predominantly gentle, gradual and periodically interrupted by the occasional foray through a drainage.
When the forest thins, the rate of elevation gain increases and views of the objective begin to appear. The final approach to Rickert's Pass breaks the tree line and climbs a rigorous and consistent grade on long, sweeping switchbacks, first on grassy slope, then for a short distance over good rocky trail past the north junction to Mist Ridge.
The notch containing Rickert's Pass at 2,341 m (7,680 ft) comes into view and the surrounding view is stunning.
Awesome! The drop over the other side is severe.
The steep drop, off the far side of Rickert's Pass, is daunting. While enjoying lunch in the sun accompanied by a refreshing breeze at Rickert's Pass, a plan is discussed. In the distance, Burns Mine and the Sheep River beckon from the valley bottom.
Based on time and the length of daylight available, the hike will continue south along the top of Mist Ridge.