Johnston Canyon is easily one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park. The paved trail is fairly mild making it perfect for families and hikers of almost any fitness level. Open year round; this hike boasts stunning views of the turquoise creek and multiple waterfalls along the way. Johnston Canyon is a great choice for anyone looking to see the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies!
Johnston Canyon is located along the Bow Valley Parkway about 20 kilometres off of Highway 1 between Banff and Lake Louise. From either of these popular mountain towns, you can expect a short but sweet 30-minute drive to the trailhead. There is also a daily bus from Banff to Johnston Canyon in the summer months. For the schedule and fares, check out Banff Roam Bus Service To Johnston Canyon.
The trail begins immediately behind Johnston Canyon Lodge and is highly trafficked. What does that mean for you? Well if you want to beat the crowds and ensure you get a parking spot; go early and preferably on a weekday. Tourist buses usually start showing up around 9 AM and it can get pretty packed after that.
After a short incline through the forest, the trail descends and gives you spectacular views of Johnston Creek all the way to the Lower Falls. This part of the trail consists of sturdy iron catwalks attached to the side of the canyon walls. Watching the crystal clear water flow from above is incredible!
The Lower Falls
The Lower Falls are about 1.1 kilometres into the hike with an elevation gain of only 30 meters. Even with a ton of time factored in for photos and stops, this portion takes less than 30 minutes. The lower falls can be fully viewed from the catwalk bridge that crosses the creek. You can also choose to get up close and personal (and a little wet) by going through a tunnel in the canyon bedrock to the far side of the falls.
The Upper Falls
After another 1.5 kilometres of catwalks and well maintained trails, you will arrive at the upper falls. This portion of the trail has an elevation gain of 120 meters and will take another 30 minutes from the lower falls. From here, you can experience the bottom of the falls by a bridge leading to a small viewing platform (prepare to wait in line to get on the platform if it’s a busy day). You can also access a viewing platform above the upper falls by continuing on the main path for a short, steep climb.
Hiking to The Ink Pots
If you’re up for a longer hike and want to ditch the crowds, you will love the trail to the Ink Pots. “The Ink Pots” are several bubbling pools of green-coloured mineral springs located in a stunning meadow about 3 kilometres from the Upper Falls. This portion of the hike takes another hour and the elevation gain is a bit more substantial at around 450 meters.