3 reasons to visit Johnston Canyon in fall.

Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest most popular tourist attractions in the Banff area. 30 minutes from the town-site of Banff boasts a spectacular canyon where one can experience not one but 7 falls to admire along your hike. Johnston Canyon is a great place to explore all year round although there are 3 reasons I believe fall is the best time.

  1. Less crowded-  Visiting in fall can be less crowded. Being one of the busiest attractions it can get highly congested during peak season. The paths are quite narrow in areas and there are many people stopping throughout to take that perfect shot. Fall is when the temperature cools off and the chance of snow is likely preventing many tourists do not venture out. A great pair of hikers, layered clothing, water, and a light snack you will be set for an unforgettable adventure. Less chance of your photos being photobombed and slow moving traffic. We were lucky to find a parking spot right at the lodge.
  2. Fall Colors-  The Canadian Rockies are beautiful all year round but nothing seems to be more beautiful than fall. The vast colors of fall make for some great photo shots. The leaves on the ground add to the beauty of the landscape. The mountains usually see a snowfall or two by mid-Oct so the snowcapped mountain adds to the beauty.
  3. Temperatures-  The summer temps can get pretty hot, up to 30 degrees but average in the 20’s. Fall is very comfortable ranging from -2-+14. The windy canyon does give way to shade although the hike can get very exhausting in the heat of the day during summer. The day we went there was just a light snowfall that added to the beauty but did not accumulate on the ground. The sun was out most of the hike which kept the temp comfortable and not too chilly. I found mid-hike I was taking layers off.

Getting there

The canyon is approx 30 minutes west from Banff. Follow Trans Canada HWY  to Bow Vally Parkway, Johnston Canyon turn off. The parkway is a 1.5-hour  scenic drive off the beaten path of HWY#1 that will lead you to Lake Louise. There are up to 10 sites to see along the way from viewpoints, hiking trails, and picnic areas. The road winds and divides along the way. Watch for the treed fork in the road, very pretty.

What to do at Johnston Canyon?

Hiking up to the falls of course although there are numerous other trails to explore in the vicinity. JC has 42 cottage style cabins for rent in a variety of sizes. There is also a coffee/ gift shop and bistro where you can pick up a trinket as well as a bite to eat. If you like to camp there is a 132 site campground across the hwy with nice treed site and showers. No power or electricity sites. Open May 25 – Spt 24.


The Hike

Johnston Canyon consists off 3 main tourist destinations throughout the hike. The lower is most popular therefor busier, the higher you go the less traffic as only the die-hards venture onto the upper falls and onto the Ink Pots. All 3 will take approx 2-3 hours one way. Pay attention to the time of day as you do not want to be venturing back in the dark.

Lower Falls consists of a 1.1 km (30min)  hike which has a slight elevation and is easy for the whole family. The pathway is a paved walking trail that winds along the creek through the canyon. The lower falls is a pool of water with a high narrow waterfall that flows over the rocks. There is a cave alongside that you enter through to get a closeup of the falls. Really cool walking through it. Be courteous and take turns. Room for maybe 6 people at a time.

Upper Falls is a 2.6 km (1 hr) hike. A bit more of an elevation level with pathways that narrow along steep cliffs through the canyon. Still is a moderate hike although areas you may need to stop and take a breather. The falls are a bit grander than the lower one with its width and ability to go underneath it to capture the true experience. Getting right down to the falls can be tricky and caution should be taken venturing down the embankment. Once down to the creek there is cool cave-like formations and a gorgeous view of the flowing creek. Feel what it is like from under the falls here.

Ink Pots this trek is another 2+ km (1 hour +) up to the meadows. Once you reach the meadow it drops down to view 7 mineral spring pools or pots of water that bubble out of the ground. Pathways lead in and around which it is asked to remain on the trails to not disturb the area.

The end of another journey

Banff and area have some amazing scenic trails. Grotto Canyon is another nice hike for the family. Grotto hike can be found just East of Exshaw.

Be sure to bring your camera and capture those wonderful family memories. Kids love taking photos as well. Let them be part of the fun.

Happy Trails

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