I signed up for a Discover Banff Tours ice walk through Johnson's Canyon which was the highlight of my trip. The scenery is astonishing and the guides were tremendously knowledgeable and entertaining.
Johnston Canyon to Banff is like Maligne Canyon to Jasper. They are both very popular and close to town center. I hiked them both and loved them both. The trail in Johnston Canyon is more moderate except funner. The trademark of Johnston Canyon trail, in my opinion, is the catwalk. A good portion of the trail is on a steel catwalk attached to the canyon wall hanging over Johnston Creek. As seen in photo, without the catwalk it's impossible to walk through the steep gorge. This also provides constant shade in hot summer.
Johnston Canyon trailhead is located at Johnston Canyon Resort, 25 km north of Banff townsite on Trans-Canada Highway #1A (scenic route). The resort's parking lot is reserved for its guests; other visitors have to park farther out. The resort has an ice cream stand right at trailhead. Its ice cream tasted the best after the long hike.
The falls are ok, but there are more stunning ones up in Jasper and over in Yoho and Kootenay. I think Johnston Canyon is popular because it is close to both Banff townsite and Lake Louise and it is accessible to almost everyone regardless of age or fitness.
I have to give some credit here to the visitors of the Canadian National Parks. For the most part, they are willing to get out of their cars or buses and do a little walking. In the States, you don't see visitors to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone too willing to walk to the sights. Therefore, it is very easy to leave the masses behind in the U.S. In Canada you have to walk that extra mile to lose the company of strangers.
One of the most popular dayhikes in Banff. The trailhead is just off the Bow River Parkway and there is a popular resort at the beginning of the trail. If you seek solitude you will have to follow the trail well past the falls. The lower falls are about a mile up the trail and the going is slightly uphill, but very easy. We saw people from age 2 to 85 on the trail.
After getting yourself wet in the Lower Falls, it's another 1.6 km to the Upper Falls. It's well worth the effort because the water of Upper Falls is a completely different beauty. Compared with the Lower, the Upper Falls is more elegant than powerful. It drops from a tall wall into a pool like a bridal veil (see photo).
The view to the Upper Falls is partially blocked from trail by a rock wall. But you can walk up to a platform extended over the pool. That's where I took my picture. This concludes your Johnston Canyon hike. The trail continues further to Ink Pots.
Johnston Canyon has 2 main waterfalls. The Lower Falls is 1.1 km from trailhead. The Upper Falls is 1.6 km further from Lower Falls. Both are beautiful and worth visiting. Between the two there are many smaller, unnamed falls and cascades to make your hike interesting.
The view to Lower Falls' thundering water is partially blocked by a rock wall. To see the falls in its entirety, you have to bend down and walk through a tunnel to the other side of rock wall (see photo). Prepare to get wet. It's fun.
Be sure to take in Johnston's Canyon! It's a great walk for any season of the year! You will experience the thrill of walking next to a gorge surrounded by a spruce and pine forest. The smell alone is exhilerating!
It's a 3 km railed path to the Lower Falls, and a total of 5 km to the Upper Falls. If you are so inclined for more exercise and scenery, you can continue on to the Ink Spots at the top.
A paved trail and exciting catwalks lead into this canyon and to two thundering waterfalls. it is 1.1 km to the Lower Falls and 2.7 km to the Upper Falls.
Follow the self-guided interpretative trail along Johnston Creek for views of water erosion in action. A 5.6 km (3.5 mi) walk will take you to the Ink Pots. Six cool springs bubble out of the ground year-round. The glacial sediments in the springs create beautiful aqua colours.
The trail beyond the Lower Falls is less crowded. Hike 1.6km more to reach the Upper Falls, which is 30m high.