Johnston Canyon Canadian Rockies
We planned two weeks vacation in Banff during summer this year. We had lofty ideas of hiking, exercising, and swimming (that’s me – North Nomad thought I had moments of insanity swimming in the Merced River in Yosemite and its surrounds).
Basically, getting back into being fit and healthy people.
The weather had other ideas.
It rained for our vacation. At best it was showers. At worst it was torrential rain with huge black apocalyptic-looking storm clouds covering the mountains. Definitely not safe enough to go walking through mountain tracks.
One day, the showers cleared to fine mist, and it looked safe enough to go for a drive in search of dryer grounds for a hike.
And it was on the trail to the waterfalls at Johnston Canyon that we found glorious sunshine peeking through the clouds.
While you can stay in the Johnston Canyon resort and its rustic cabins, you can also camp, and visit for day trips. The two hikes in the area are the hike to the Upper Falls – 2.7 km/1.7 mi, and the hike to the Ink Pots – 5.8km/3.6mi.
While the Upper Falls walk wasn’t difficult, you’d need to set aside at least half a day to complete the Ink Pots walk. We arrived in the afternoon, so choose the Upper Falls walk.
Our visit was surprisingly busy. We found out later that it’s one of the most popular trails in the Canadian Rockies and hundreds of tourists do this walk on a daily basis in summer.
The trail is one of the less challenging ones in the area. And it’s a beautiful walk on a sunny day.
You start off near the Johnston Canyon lodge, and walk through forest filled with trees, but the density provides dappled sunlight. There’s a short incline for a while, and then the trail takes a decline towards the falls.
Iron bridges have been constructed, which take you across the aquamarine waters. There are plenty of viewpoints to stop and take in the falls, but we gave the Lower Falls viewpoint a miss. There were way too many people crushed into the viewpoint, and a long queue along the bridge to line up for it.
At the Upper Falls, we stopped at a viewpoint at the foot of the falls. They’re beautiful, but honestly, I felt like the beautiful forest and the blue rapids along the actual walk were far more impressive than the falls themselves.
If we had more time, I would have loved to do the Ink Pots walk. Apparently the ink pots are natural, mineral springs that sit around 4 degrees Celsius all year round. I have a bit of a crazy streak when it comes to swimming in cold, natural water and wonder what I missed out on up there! Next time…
Location: In Banff and Lake Louise in Bow Valley Parkway. Approx 90 minutes from Calgary.
Getting there: Follow the Bow Valley Parkway west from its eastern interchange with the Trans-Canada Highway 17.5 km (11 mi) to Johnston Canyon.
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.