Johnston Canyon is a popular tourist destination year round in Banff National Park, and for a good reason. It’s a scenic and mild hike through the forest leading to a beautiful set of waterfalls.
The Lower Falls is about a one hour walk roundtrip; the Upper Falls is two hours, including a stop at the Lower. Whether you visit in summer or winter, the views of this natural wonder will take your breath away. I personally preferred my visit in the winter, as the Canyon was quieter and less busy.
Some things to note about Johnston Canyon
- There is a secret cave as seen in many Instagram & Pinterest photos. It is out of bounds. If you are interested in finding it, you can visit this blog post here. We chose not to visit on our hike.
- During the summer, you can do Johnston Canyon wearing pretty much any footwear. In the winter, if there’s mud or snow, I would recommend hiking shoes or something with grip. I opted to use ice cleats, just to be safe.
- The parking lots fill up quickly, so I recommend getting there as early as you can, especially in the summer.
- You can stay at Johnston Canyon during the warmer months. Click here to read more about the cabins and book a stay.
If you’re interested in a longer walk, I highly recommend heading onwards past the Falls to the Ink Pots. Total time is about 4 hours, and it’s also a fairly easy hike. Bring snacks and drinks for a picnic at the end!
My favourite part of the hike is the ice wall in the winter – it’s quite popular with climbers. If you look closely, you can see the river bubbling underneath the icy surface. Banff National Park has been pretty warm this year, so there were spots where the water flowed visibly. The bright, turquoise water is captivating.
What to wear in Johnston Canyon
No matter the season, it is important to wear layers when hiking in the mountains. It could be -10C and you can break a sweat. It’s best not to let that happen because when you cool off, the dampness will make your body even colder. My solution is to wear proper layers.
- Do bundle up – be warmer than you think you’ll want to be.
- Don’t wear heavy clothes – it will slow you down and tire you out.
- Do invest in good fabrics – breathable and moisture-wicking is best.
- Don’t be afraid to shed – take off layers if you’re heating up.
- Do wear a hat – in summer for sun protection & winter to retain heat.
- Don’t hike in uncomfortable footwear – trust me.
I hope you found these tips for hiking in Johnston Canyon (and maybe just hiking in the winter generally) helpful! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below. Have you ever been winter hiking?
Shop my: pom-pom toque (Nordstrom rack, similar) – wool mittens – winter coat (old, similar here and here) – new favourite denim (major sale!)- best wool socks – wool scarf (from Scotland, similar) – best winter hiking boots (last seen here and here)