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Hiking in Johnston Canyon, Banff

Located on the Bow River highway, just 30 minutes drive from Banff town, Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular natural attractions in Banff National Park.

The overhanging canyon walls and steep limestone bedrock, carved by thousands of years of water erosion, make the scenery quite dramatic. Add in waterfalls, lush forests and the deep pools of Johnston Creek, this really is a beautiful place.

One of the reasons for its popularity is how accessible it is – experiencing Johnston Canyon’s Lower falls is an easy hike along smooth trails and catwalks, making it ideal for families and people of all fitness levels and ages.

There are three trails you can take, each one becoming progressively harder and longer in distance – that does, of course, mean that the trails also become less busy the further you go, see below for further details on each trail:

The Lower Falls

The trail to the Lower Falls is fairly flat and smooth, making it very accessible for all ages and abilities, even pushchairs. The trail starts from the car park on paths which wind slowly up through forest, before extending out onto catwalks besides Johnston Creek and up into the canyon. The Lower Falls are 1.1 kilometres along the trail and take just 30 minutes to reach from the car park. If you want to get a closer look, go through the short tunnel through the rock to a viewing platform a couple metres from the falls – prepared to get wet!

Trail to the Lower falls

The Upper Falls

After reaching the Lower Falls, you can continue on the inclining trail to the Upper Falls. This part of the trail is a little steeper as it climbs out of the lower canyon, through the forest. From the car park, the trail is 2.6km one way and will take roughly one hour to reach the Upper Falls, depending on how long to take to stop and admire the Lower Falls on the way up.

The Upper Falls are 40 metres tall and drop into a deep pool. There are two good viewing spots – the first is via a platform looking to the bottom of the falls, and the second is via a platform overhanging the gorge, looking across to the top of the falls – to access this second platform, the trail does become even steeper, but manageable for most with reasonable fitness.

The Upper Falls

The Ink Pots

The longest trail at Johnston Canyon is the Ink Pots. The trail is called the Ink Pots because of the seven green coloured mineral pools sitting on an open meadow at the top of the trail. If you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy a much quieter trail, then this is the best trail for you. It is a further 3km from the Upper Falls, (so 5.6km one way from the car park), and you will have to ascend further through the forest, but once you reach the Ink Pots, the trail flattens out into the valley of the meadow.

Whilst the meadows offer expansive views across Johnston Creek Valley, the pools are not particularly spectacular in comparison to the falls. However, we enjoyed this extension to the hike as it was nice to have the trail almost to ourselves and take in the scenery.

Strolling through the meadow valley at the Ink Pots

I would really recommend this walk – yes it does get busy, particularly at the Lower falls, but if you plan ahead and arrive early in the day, you can miss a lot of the crowds. Another great hike is the Lake Agnes Tea Trail, at Lake Louise, which you can read about, here.

For other recommendations of the best things to do in and around Banff, see my post, here

My Two week Canadian road trip

Two weeks is not a lot of time to see Canada but I managed to squeeze in three main destinations in my two week road trip. See my itinerary for two weeks in Canada, travelling from Toronto to Banff and then onto Vancouver.

All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.


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