We decided to begin our trip with a visit to Johnston Canyon, one of the parks most popular hikes. Perhaps we should have picked another time than a gorgeous Sunday afternoon because the trail was faily crowded, but then again, it was a nice way to ease into our hiking trip. The 5.4-km roundtrip to the Upper Falls takes about 1.5 h, and those who wish to get away from the crowd can keep going on the Ink Pots trail (11.6 km roundtrip), although I've read that the most beautiful views are on the first portion of the trail.
The Upper Falls trail is actually more like a walk than a hike, which basically makes it accessible to everyone. The trail leads through the winding canyon dug by the river, sometimes resorting to wooden boardwalks (amazing cliff-hanging constructions, hats off to those who built them!) when the passage gets too narrow. After 1.1 km, you reach the thunderous Lower Falls. A short walk through a cave allows you to reach a nice view point. Some people turn around at this point, but if you keep going, your efforts will be nicely rewarded once you reach the 30-m-high Upper Falls. Just remember that no matter how tempting the beautiful, crystal-clear water is at the bottom of the falls, it's never a good idea to go off the trail since the current could sweep you down to the Lower Falls, turning your hike into a giant waterslide you most likely would not get out of alive!
While most of the other stops along the Parkway are quick in and outs, you get the opportunity for a nice hike here in Johnston Canyon. You start out near the resort area, and start a trail that rises and falls through the forest and quickly along the river. The walk along the river is very cool - its nestled in next to the mountain. After about 20 minutes, you get to the lower falls. Near the falls, you can duck into a cave and get super close to the roaring water. For the heartier, the trail goes along to an upper falls, unfortunately, we were unable to do that this time around.
Note that in many places in the Rockies, all you need to do is walk a little bit to avoid the crowds. This may be the one exception to that rule. There were plenty of folks on the trail the whole way. Still, a very neat trail, well worth your time.
Johnston canyon is one of the most popular hiking options in the park with either a 2 mile round hike to the lower falls or a 4 mile hike to the upper falls. Its best to get here early as the parking lot fills up and the trail, at least to the lower falls, get congested.
I visited the Canyon in October 2000 and twice in July 2005.
Johnston Canyon is part of the Banff National Park's glacial valleys that are near Cascade Mountain. The canyon flows into the Bow River between Banff and Lake Louise. There are the Lower Falls where the waterfall plunges 10 m into the pothole and this can be reached via a short walk from the Visitors Centre (by Bow Valley Parkway). The Upper Falls is around a km (less than a mile) further via rugged terain and this is three times as long (more than 30 m) than the lower one and there is a viewing platform where you can see the canyon down below.
There isn't a charge for visiting Johnston Canyon (although there's an admission fee to enter Banff National Park).
Johnston Canyon is on the Bow Valley Parkway about half-way between Banff and Lake Louise. The hiking trail snake along Johnston Canyon, formed when glaciers retreated north at the end of the Ice Age.
The canyon can be steep at places, requiring the trail to hug around cliff walls on metal supports. The quick-rushing water go over many spectacular waterfalls, the main ones being Lower Falls and Upper Falls.
Lower Falls is only about 1 km from the head of the trail. A wide, powerful cascades 20-m in height, Lower Falls can be admired from a platform right below the falls. The platform is accessible via a short tunnel through the side of the rocks. You'll be sure to get wet.
Upper Falls is another 3 km away, but well worth the moderate hike. Along the way you'll see several waterfalls and a lush landscape covered with moss and ferns. Upper Falls is a majestic cascades that drop 40 meters into the mossy gorge below. The viewing platform is suspended over the gorge and may be a challenge for the acrophobic.
Johnson Canyon along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), you can hike up to the lower fall, it’s only half mile with good path and handrails. Some of the paths were built on a cantilever catwalk from the cliff above the river, with occasion look out areas. There is a small tunnel lead to the bottom of the lower fall for a close up view of the lower fall, it is very refreshing with the mist on your face when you are that close to the fall.
You also can continue to hike to the upper falls which is another mile climb but it’s well worth it. The upper falls contains two falls with a longer drop than the lower fall.
This is a great hike - the path to the lower falls is paved & wheel chair accessible, so anybody can do the hike to the lower falls. You will find it quite crowded - try to arrive in the morning for the least amount of people. If you continue past the lower falls you will find the rest of the path (which is not paved) to be fairly uncrowded, since most people only go as far as the lower falls.
As you can see from my photos, you can also do this hike in the winter. It can get pretty slippery so good footwear is essential.
The distance to the Lower Falls is approx .5 mile. The Upper Falls are another 1 mile further up the trail. This hike is just gorgeous. In the summer it is lush and green and there is water everywhere.
This was a great walk! the 2.7 kilometer path leads you past 7 sets of waterfalls the highlites of which are classified as the upper and lower falls. The pathway at times is paved while other times is a boardwalk which clings to the side of the canyon's rockface. The beautiful emerald green water coupled with the shade provided by the forest made the walk that much more appealing. The waterfalls are nice but the real sights are the upper and lower falls. Take the time to walk to the upper falls, the walk is great, not easy but not overly hard.
On our way back from Fairmont Hot Springs, we stopped at this trail. There were a lot of people here. Even though there was some snow on the ground, it was a popular place. The trail takes you past two different falls and beyond. Past the falls are some back country trails for overnight hiking, fishing......
We only made it to the first set of falls because we had limited time to explore.
The trail consisted of various walkways that may be scary to some.
I went to the second set of falls this spring (2006). Well worth the time. The trail is 2.7 km one way and has an elevation climb of 50 meters.
These falls are amazing!! You can get really close to them too and feel the RUSH, but be careful as the water on the trail makes it slippery going!
At the the end of the trail that goes to the falls is a cave under the mountain that gets you really close to the rushing water...as close as you'd want to get, without diving in.
Watch for the little diving birds along the way hunting for food. I saw many of them diving into the mountain stream leading up to the falls.
The Johnston's Canyon hike is one of the most popular day trips in Banff.
The first 0.7 mile to the Lower Falls is very easy hiking (even street shoes are adequate) and highly photogenic, but is a "high-use" trail.
The additional miles to the Upper Falls and Ink Pots are a bit more rugged but well-worth the effort, particularly for those who seek a more solitary ramble.
Allow 2 hrs. hiking time one way.
Maximum elevation: 5,400 ft.
this place is a really nice and easy walk on wooden trails so its really something any1 can do
after 1 km ull see the lower falls and if u continue that trails ull get to the upper falls after another 1.5 km or so
the falls r really nice and ull also see a nice weeping rock right next to the upper falls