Hike to the Johnston Canyon Cave

Improvement District No. 9, Alberta

4.4/5
based on 13 reviews

Details

Distance

3.4 miles

Elevation Gain

700 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Tiffany Nguyen

Johnston Canyon is one of Alberta’s many gems. Located in Banff national park, this stunning waterfall hike is a quick 3.4 miles roundtrip.

It’s amazing how much varied scenery you see over the course of the very short 1.7 mile hike. Follow the catwalks through the canyon as the stunning turquoise water flows below. If you’re feeling up for a longer hike, you can continue along the trail to the Ink Pots (makes for a great winter hike!), which is an additional 3.6 miles. To avoid the crowds, it is highly recommended to start this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

To get to Johnston Canyon, simply follow the Bow Valley Parkway west to Johnston Canyon for about 11 miles. You’ll find the parking lot on the east side where you’ll then follow the footbridge to the trailhead. The trail begins immediately past the lodge with a gradual ascent.

Shortly, you’ll come to Lower Falls that has several very unique vantage points. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are a few areas along the trail where some off-trail exploring will take you to some amazing spots. The Johnston Canyon cave is one of the most photographed locations in Alberta. Pay attention between Lower and Upper Falls and you’ll see an easy to follow trail that leads you to this incredible spot. Shortly after the cave, you’ll reach Upper Falls which features an impressive 30 meter drop.

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app

Features

Hiking
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

The cave is super delicate swift nesting habitat, and is CLOSED. Stay on trail. The rangers are vigilant and will levy HEAVY fines on people going off trail to this cave.

Loved this hike but start early cuz it's popular. The main pic on this blog is closed. Not even sure how to find it. While I was there, someone went off trail to take a picture and fell off a cliff and into the canyon. Luckily he wasn't seriously injured (broken ribs and arm), however search and rescue had to helicopter him out of the canyon since they couldn't clear his spine. Could have been much worse. Stay on the trail, friends! Parks Canada is trying to preserve its natural beauty as much as possible.

Going to the cave is a best kept secret! I have hiked the canyon many times and to the ink pots and it is beautiful enough without going off trail. I have never gone to the cave and from the trails already worn you can see how many people have tried. There are signs posted asking people to stay on the path and just like anywhere, this environment is fragile and should be respected. I disagree with posting/informing people of a location that is clearly out of the boundaries set up by Parks Canada.

I hiked this very popular and well-used trail with my parents in August, and on our way down the hill we were confronted by bear 136 "Split Lip". He's the second largest male grizzly in the park and he followed us up the trail (blocking our way down) for a solid two miles. It was terrifying, we couldn't get around him until he decided to leave us alone. But a beautiful hike nonetheless!

I think saying the cave is one of the most photographed locations in Alberta is a bit of a stretch.. Johnson Canyon is a great hike but staying on trail is recommended everywhere in Banff National Park, especially popular hikes like this one.

This is the most breathtaking hike to an amazing waterfall. Near the end of the first falls you can actually go through a hole in the wall and get sprayed by the falls. I definitely recommend going early in the morning as it's a huge tourist attraction and the trail is narrow. To get the early definitely check out the campground across the road. It's a great place to stay but books up fast!!

A great quiet place to get away from the tourist crowds of Johnston canyon. Highly recommended in the winter!

Did this hike as an afterthought on our final day in Alberta -- we were tired but glad we decided to go. It's short and sweet and the famous "secret spot" off the trail is a must have Instagram shot!

Completed the hike to lower and upper falls at around 7am. Had the place to ourselves and it was absolutely amazing. Weaving through the canyon walls on suspension bridges provides excellent views of the canyon, river and various falls. Managed to find the Johnston canyon cave but it took some serious looking! Not easy to spot but lies near the entrance of upper falls on the right. We left the canyon at around 9am and hoards of people were coming in so I recommend getting there early!

Luckily this spot is still not common knowledge to the thousands of people on the Johnston Canyon trail daily, used the directions here to find the cave easily. It was nice to enjoy our lunch and snap pictures without the elbowing up above at the upper and lower falls. There were only a handful of people hanging out around down here when we arrived. If you are hiking at Johnston Canyon, do not miss this gem!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Hike to the Ink Pots via Johnston Canyon

Hike Johnston Canyon

Snowshoe to Rockbound Lake

Hike to Silverton Falls

Snowshoe to Silverton Falls and Rockbound Lake

Hike to Bourgeau Lake