• Activities:

    Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    7.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1050 Feet

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
River
Scenic
Waterfall

Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles) round trip. Duration: about 4 hours. Elevation gain: 320 m (1050 feet). Interpretive canyon walk containing 7 waterfalls. Series of cold water springs surrounded by the Sawback range. All skill levels.

The hike through Johnston Canyon to its Upper and Lower falls is one of the most popular hikes to do in Banff - mostly due the little effort required for the great reward.

To start, take the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) - the parking lot and trailhead are clearly marked by a Johnston Canyon sign. After crossing the footbridge, turn right and follow the trail – make sure to read the interpretive signs! There are tons of little tidbits of information ranging from species in the area to how the canyon was formed. After about 2 km, the roar of the Upper Falls should be apparent. Here, the trail branches in two – one to the base of the falls and one to the top. Both are excellent places to watch ice climbers and admire the sky blue ice.

The top of the Upper Falls is where the interpretive trail ends and the hike to the Ink Pots begins. The last sign mentions that the trail to the Ink Pots is for hikers prepared for backcountry conditions – it’s not as intimidating as it sounds! Snowshoes would be useful at this point, but definitely not necessary. The trail is well defined the entire way (3 km and a max elevation gain of 190 m). It’s a beautiful forest trail with glimpses of Storm Mountain peeking through the trees as well as the awe-inspiring Sawback range.

The Ink Pots - the hidden gem of this hike - are cold water springs that are fed at different rates which make them different shades of green and blue. In winter, most of the ponds are frozen over with half-inch long ice crystals. This area was relatively untouched compared to Johnston Canyon (I only saw 3 people here vs. 40 in the canyon), and the powder was about half a foot thick - a really fun place to explore, kick up some powder, and relax while being surrounded by the Sawbacks.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Trekking poles
  • Crampons/ micro-spikes
  • Winter layers
  • Bear spray
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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The waterfalls on the way were great, bug the ink pots themselves weren't worth the extra hike. Although I did take a nap next to the river once we got there.

6 months ago
6 months ago

The views at the top are amazing

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

We just did this hike today, the third week of January with above average weather - and although easy...there are some hills (both up and down) that without proper footwear you will be sliding and slipping. A nice hike with spectacular views!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Turn it into an awesome day trip: pack a lunch, bring a book, and chill out by the river or beside the beautifully coloured "ink pots" when the snow has melted.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

James Hueser Explorer

Some call me the Jerry Macguire of the outdoors. The places special to me should be special to everyone. It is not my intention to hoard the best views around me. It's my responsibility to invite everyone to join, and give them every opportunity to do so.

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