Johnston Canyon in the Winter

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 beginning of Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park
The start of the trail.
Hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park in the winter.
Johnston Canyon in the winter - exposed stream through ice.

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.

Lower Falls in Johnston Canyon
Arriving at the Lower Falls.
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls in the winter.
Visiting Johnston Canyon in the winter.
Inside the cave at the Lower Falls in Johnston Canyon.
Inside the cave at the Lower Falls.
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls in the winter, Banff National Park, Canada.
View from above.

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.
Visiting Johnston Canyon in the winter. A scenic hike in Banff National Park.
Hiking in Banff National Park in the winter.

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!

Johnston Canyon in the winter.

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.

Upper Falls
Visiting Johnston Canyon in the winter. Traveling to Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls in the winter
Looking down at the Upper Falls below.
Observation deck at the Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park.
On the Upper Falls Observation deck.

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.
What to wear when hiking in the winter.
Staying warm outside in the snow. Canadian winter style.

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?

Traveling girl photo from behind, hiking in the winter.

Interested in more winter hiking adventures? Click here. If you’d like to read more about Banff, you can find my other posts here.

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)

Hiking in the winter - Banff National Park.


  1. January 16, 2019 / 5:21 pm

    This hike looks beautiful in the snow!! I’d love to see what it looks like in the Summer too

    • catekittlitz
      January 16, 2019 / 5:27 pm

      Hopefully I can head back this summer and get more pictures! I always enjoy a trip to the mountains ?

  2. January 16, 2019 / 5:41 pm

    This place looks straight out of a fairy tale! I don’t even likr winter and snow vut wouldn’t mind visiting here!

    • catekittlitz
      January 16, 2019 / 6:03 pm

      It’s a place where you can forget that winter is cold and dreary!

  3. February 17, 2019 / 11:56 am

    This place is gorgeous! Definitely will try it when I get the chance.

    • catekittlitz
      February 20, 2019 / 3:47 am

      Thank you! Hope you get to go 🙂

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