Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park. While the trail doesn’t offer much in the way of grand vistas, there are two main waterfalls along the route with plenty of smaller cascades in between. In the summer, a cool mist can blow off the waterfalls. In the winter, the waterfalls transform into beautiful icefalls and there’s a good chance you’ll observe ice climbers at the upper falls. On top of that, it offer a range of hiking distances:
- about 20 minutes to reach the lower falls, elevation gain about 30 meters
- about 45 minutes to reach the upper falls, elevation gain about 125 meters
- a couple of hours to reach the beautiful hanging valley beyond the upper falls, where scenic highlights include majestic vistas and colourful Ink Pots.
A few weeks ago I walked to the upper falls in the company of four other ladies from my taekwondo club. The trail was extremely icy and not everyone in our group had ice cleats. If you visit Johnston Canyon in the winter, invest a bit of time (and money) to borrow, rent or buy some kind of traction assist. I wore a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes and loaned another pair to one of the other ladies. They worked really well, even on the inclines and declines!
Since not everyone in our group was equipped with ice cleats, we moved along at a relaxed pace, which meant I had plenty of time to photograph details that captured my attention…
The scenic highlights are the waterfalls…
We stopped in Banff for lunch afterwards, making for a slightly longer than half-day outing. We decided then and there that we’ll make a return visit, starting earlier, packing lunches and aiming for the Ink Pots next time out!
Total hiking distance = approx. 5 km
Net elevation gain = 125 m
We moved at a relaxed pace, so our total time on the trail was about 2.5 hours. The parking lot was just about empty when we arrived at 9 o’clock, but was full to overflowing when we returned shortly before noon.