50 Walks and Hikes in Banff National Park: Johnston Canyon
By : Brian Patton and Bart Robinson1st edition
6.5 x 4.5 inches
- Tunnel Mountain
- Sulphur Mountain
- Johnston Canyon
- Sunshine Meadows
- Bourgeau Lake
- Lake Louise Shoreline
- Lake Agnes
- Larch Valley
- Parker Ridge
Johnston Canyon Trail
LENGTH: 2.7 km (1.7 mi) one way
ELEVATION GAIN: 135 m (440 ft)
WALKING TIME: 50 minutes one way
STARTING POINT: Johnston Canyon Resort, 17.5 km (11 mi) northwest along the Bow Valley Parkway from the Trans-Canada Hwy.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME: a prospector who came to the area in the 1880s
Walking to the two main waterfalls of Johnston Canyon has been fashionable since the first road to Lake Louise was completed in 1921. The canyon’s popularity led to the construction of canyon-clinging catwalks and cliff-mounting staircases, which improved safety and enhanced the visitor experience. Today, the trail to Lower and Upper Falls is busier than ever, and you’ll have to arrive in the evening or early morning to avoid the crowds.
The trail through Johnston Canyon passes many waterfalls.
Beginning from behind the restaurant and gift shop at Johnston Canyon Resort, the trail begins as a wide paved path climbing gently through the forest. It then descends and stays close to Johnston Creek all the way to Lower Falls. Along the way you pass over sturdy iron catwalks attached beneath overhanging canyon walls, where the turbulent waters of the creek flow beneath your feet. LOWER FALLS is reached after 1.1 kilometres (0.7 miles). A bridge across the creek serves as the main viewpoint for the thundering cataract, but a short tunnel through the canyon bedrock allows passage to an even more intimate vantage point (albeit a wet one). Back on the main trail, you continue up the canyon via more catwalks and broad, well-graded trail. There are many viewpoints overlooking the canyon and a small waterfall. Along this section of trail, solitary, slate-grey birds called dippers, or water ouzels, are often seen bouncing up and down on streamside rocks and diving into the rushing water to feed.
At the 30-metre-high (100-foot) UPPER FALLS, there are two viewpoints: the bottom of the falls is reached by a metal catwalk leading to a viewing platform while a short, steep climb on the main trail takes you to a cantilevered platform overlooking the top of the falls. Rock slabs near the brink of the falls are fenced, people still clamber through to be near the creek. Always take care on this trail, especially with children, and never cross fences for a closer view.
Beyond Johnston Canyon are the Ink Pots.
OPTIONS: Only a small percentage of those who reach the Upper Falls continue a further three kilometres (1.9 miles) to the INK POTS. Above Upper Falls, this trail climbs out of the canyon and at the two-kilometre (1.2-mile) mark crests a ridge before descending to open meadows and the seven cold mineral springs. While the springs are unique (they have a constant temperature of 4ºC/39ºF and their basins are composed of quicksand), many hikers find the extended journey above the canyon a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully open views of the Johnston Creek Valley from the log benches set around the ponds offer some consolation. Allow just under one hour to reach the Ink Pots from the Upper Falls.
This text is from 50 Walks and Hikes in Banff National Park.