Banff : Johnston Canyon Trail (The complete guide)

During a road trip in Western Canada, a visit to Banff and its national park is a great classic!

And if there's one must-do hike in this area, it's Johnston Canyon .

Between roaring falls and crystal-clear waters, here is the guide to this unique trail, offering a grandiose spectacle every season.
 

Map of the trail

map of the hike at johnston canyon banff
Map of the Johnston Canyon Trail

 

Trail presentation

banff johnston canyon
Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is a very popular trail in Banff National Park , accessible year-round.

From June, the waters of the river and waterfalls flow freely, while in winter, ice and snow create a completely different landscape one could describe as magical.

During the summer months, the site is very (very) busy, I advise to get there as soon as it opens at 8am, or after 6pm.

The route is composed of 3 points of interest: Lower Falls , Upper Falls  and the Ink Pots .


Characteristics

:footprints: emoji To Lower Falls :

Longueur : 2,4 km round trip 
Durée : 1h to 1h30  
Dénivelé : 50 m
Niveau : Easy

:footprints: emoji To Upper Falls :

Longueur : 5 km round trip
Durée :  2h 
Dénivelé : 120 m
Niveau : Easy 

:footprints: emoji To Ink Pots :

Longueur : 11 km round trip
Durée : 4h30
Dénivelé : 330 m
Niveau : Intermediate
 

 

Stop #1 : Lower Falls


From the parking lot, locate the large wooden arch near the toilets.

After a few meters, you will pass by a restaurant and a charming lodge: this is the starting point for the Johnston Canyon hike.

The start of the trail winds through the forest on a tarmac path, then very quickly you will come to the first footbridge, giving you a view overlooking the river and a real foray into the canyon.

Throughout the course, guardrails secure the hike and interpretive panels are installed.

After 1.2 km of walking, the "Lower Falls" stand in front of you.

You can admire them from the bridge that crosses the river or by passing through a small cave, from where you will have a close up view of the falls.

During high season, given the narrowness of the latter, tourists line up to access it.

 

Stop # 2 : Upper Falls


Retrace your steps slightly and climb a few steps to continue the hike.

Take the opportunity to admire the Lower Falls once again while taking a little height, it is just as magnificent.

This second section of trail that leads to the Upper Falls of Johnston Canyon is often less busy. Many tourists are satisfied with the Fower Falls and immediately turn back, satisfied with their souvenir photo.

You will have to walk an additional 1.3 km to reach the Upper Falls, mainly in the forest.

Two viewpoints on the canyon are arranged, allowing you to see smaller waterfalls, obviously less impressive than the "two stars" of the trail, but just as pretty.

The trail ends with a metal footbridge that is a few meters long, which will take you to the Upper Falls viewpoint.

Now that you are there, you have two options: retrace your steps (you are 2.5 km from the parking lot) or continue to the Ink Pots sources ...

 

Stop #3 : Ink Pots


Fit hikers looking for adventure should continue to the Ink Pots springs, located 3 km past the Upper Falls.

The level becomes slightly more difficult, as it climbs quite a bit.

But once up there, when you leave the forest to arrive in the meadow, I guarantee you that the reward is immense.

You will discover several basins made up of mineral springs that bubble to the surface. The panorama is simply breathtaking.

 

Johnston Canyon in the winter


Entering the depths of Johnston Canyon during winter time is a whole different experience.

From November to April approximately, when the cold kicks in, the water of the cascades stops its course to turn into ice.

That being said, at this time, the trail becomes very slippery: don't forget to bring crampons.

After a snowstorm, the path and the walls of the canyon are covered in a glittery-white coat, it feels like a Disney movie!

 

Rates

banff national park rates 
Parks Canada Discovery Pass

Johnston Canyon being inside of Banff National Park, you will need to pay an entrance fee to access it.

The daily rate is:

 10 $  per adut
 8,5 $ for elders (65 and over)
 Free for children (17 and under)

If you plan to spend several days inside the park or visit others during the year, you can purchase the Parks Canada Discovery Pass at the cost of:

 69,19 $ per adult
 59,17 $ for elders
 139,4 $ per family

 

Access
 

Johnston Canyon is located 30 minutes from Banff on the Bow Valley Parkway (also called the 1A), towards Lake Louise .

There is a parking lot but it is stormed in the morning. During high season, it can be really difficult to find a spot.

: idea: If you plan to go for this hike while staying in Banff, be aware that the Roam bus line 9 will take you there.

 

Practical information
 

  • Dogs on a leash are allowed on the trail.
  • The path to the Lower Falls is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
  • There is a restaurant at the Johnston Canyon Resort  (open during summer only)

 

You now know everything you need to know to go on the Johnston Canyon adventure!

Now, all that is left for you to do is discover this natural wonder for yourself, and then tell us what you thought about it.:;): emoji

If you have any questions or additional information to add to this article, I invite you to leave a comment in the box below.

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey !

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