The Town of Hinton was named for William P. Hinton, Vice President and General Manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The community was named in 1911 and remained a hamlet for the next 45 years.
Settlement in the area was scattered along a line some twelve kilometres (7.5 mi) in length. A site along Hardisty Creek, is where an aboriginal group from the Jasper area had left members stricken with smallpox while the rest of the group travelled to Lac Ste. Anne to find medical aid for the smallpox epidemic which was ravaging the indigenous population in Alberta. The area was thus dubbed Cache Picote (Smallpox Camp) in 1870. In 1888 Jack Gregg established a trading post at Prairie Creek to serve travellers along the Jasper trail. The creek is now known as Muskuta Creek after an incorrect interpretation of the Cree name by white settlers. The construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway saw the establishment of a construction camp at the mouth of Prairie Creek (at the Athabasca River) in 1908. A trestle was built over the creek and is still in use by CN today. In 1911 the Grand Trunk Pacific built a station house at mile 978 west of Winnipeg. The station was named Hinton, and the community was born. The Canadian Northern Railway also established a station called Bliss in 1914. The Canadian Northern Railway ran north of the Grand Trunk Pacific line and the Bliss station was located about 4 miles east of Hinton in the Athabasca River valley. In 1916 when the Grand Trunk Pacific rail line was temporarily closed, Dalehurst became the postal station for Hinton. Entrance (formerly Dyke), another important centre to Hinton, served as its communications centre. The original community known as Entrance was so named due to its location at the entrance to Jasper National Park and was located on the Canadian Northern rail line north of the Athabasca River from where Entrance (formerly Dyke) is located. The original site of Entrance is now known as Old Entrance.
The Canadian National Railway became the owner of both rail lines, the Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk pacific and various portions of both lines were used by the new mother company. The company, however, abandoned the use of the rail line through Bliss in 1926 and once again the rail line through Hinton was opened.
The population of Hinton experienced a boom during the 1930s when American entrepreneur Frank Seabolt and two partners opened the Hinton coal mine in 1931. Shortly thereafter, a recession caused the population to dwindle to fewer than 100 people, but the town began to rebound in 1955 with the construction of a pulp mill. The mill brought rapid growth to Hinton and a new village was developed and was named the Village of Drinnan in 1956. The two communities amalgamated on April 1, 1957, to form the present Town of Hinton.
In 1986, 23 people were killed in the Hinton train collision.