Lots of hikes in Banff, Canada feature stunning mountain views and milky turquoise alpine lakes, but hiking Johnston Canyon gives you a completely different glimpse of the Rockies. The memorable experience of walking the catwalk over Johnston Creek is sure to set this hike apart in your mind. Here is why a hike in Johnston Canyon is definitely worth a stop on your visit to Banff.
Many travel blogs tell you to get to the parking lot early, and I’m sure that is necessary in many cases. I am also here to tell you that we made it to the lot at 10:30am on a midweek morning in late June, and had no trouble parking, so it is not always the worst case scenario. Before you set off on the trailhead, feel free to use the extremely well-maintained restrooms in the lot. Follow the signs along the river towards the Lower Falls, and off you go!
Hiking Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
One of the things that makes this trail so popular is its relative ease due to the paved walkways and minimal elevation change. The hike to the Lower Falls is only a ½ mile but it is remarkable because the majority of the hike is on catwalks bolted into the rockfaces. These elevated walkways provide incredible views of the river from all different vantage points. Enjoy the beauty of the creek while looking down from the top of the falls, or by walking right at the level of the rushing water.
Each twist and turn surprises you with another stunning view. There’s even a spot where you can pop into a little hideout for an up close and personal view of the waterfall. Be prepared to get wet if you do this! And be prepared for mud on the trail; I was very happy to have my waterproof boots.
After pausing to enjoy the view at the Lower Falls, I recommend continuing on another mile to the Upper Falls. The crowd thins out a bit, and the Upper Falls are beautiful as well.
Into the Forest
Finally, for those hikers looking for a little more, you can take the trail about another 1.5 miles to the Ink Pots. This trail takes you away from the flowing water and up through a dense forest. Make sure to pack layers if you decide to attempt this hike. It was quite cool once we got deeper into the trees, and I was happy to have a hat and gloves.
After winding your way through the forest, and up some steep ascents, the trail finally spits you out into a peaceful alpine meadow. I was certain we would see a bear; it seemed like the perfect habitat for them, and we had heard one had been spotted here just the day before. Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing it, but here is your reminder to carry bear spray on your hikes in Banff!
The Ink Pots
Clustered in the meadow are the Ink Pots, five picturesque cold water mineral springs. Enjoy a quick stroll around the springs to check out the different hues of blue before grabbing a seat on a log for a quick snack. We were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains in the distance when there was a clearing in the clouds.
Overall, this hike to the Ink Pots was beautiful. That being said, I don’t think hiking to The Ink Pots is a must, especially if you are tired from hiking the day before. If you have limited time and energy, I would just do the Lower and Upper Falls; you will be more than satisfied. As always, make sure to check the latest information on road closures, weather or trail closures before heading out. You can find more information at the Banff website.
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I found the pictures of this hike on this blog to be stunning,
The extra information on this post was helpful when planning my trip.
9 thoughts on “Hiking Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots”
As someone with IBS…THANK YOU for including a mention of the restrooms!! I’m always hesitant on a hike until I know for sure there are facilities there haha. TMI aside, the hike looks very beautiful! Can you…touch the ink pots?? Hypothetically speaking of course…
My friend and I couldn’t stop talking about how Canadians really nailed it in the restroom department; we were so impressed with how clean they were, and they had skylights! I think you can touch the ink pots? hypothetically speaking…There wasn’t anything posted warning you not to?
I really enjoyed reading this post. This hike sounds amazing to do. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for taking the time to read it!
Banff is on my list! I can’t wait to hike the Johnston Canyon trail! It is so beautiful!
Go! It is amazing! And the beaver tail pastries are so good! 🙂
While there are lots of places for hiking in Canada, I’ve heard a lot about the beauty of Banff. Can’t believe I’ve never heard of Johnston Canyon – it looks so impressive and definitely worth a visit!
I think it gets overlooked because it isn’t the classic mountain lake view, but I really liked this hike!
This is such a lovely hike isn’t it? I’ve been to the upper falls a couple of times, but we never made it up to the ink pots (we always seem to visit on days when we have other hikes planned too… I should really spend more time there!)
If you can, go back when the falls are frozen, it is so flipping pretty!