Johnston Canyon: An Introduction

A fter visiting Gap Lake, I returned to Trans-Canada Highway 1; passed the town of Banff; and exited at the Johnston Canyon and Castle Mountain exit to drive leisurely down Alberta Provincial Highway 1A west — which becomes Bow Valley Parkway at that point — towards Johnston Canyon, which is 56.8 kilometers and approximately 45 minutes away from Gap Lake.

Johnston Canyon: An Introduction

The parking lot for Johnston Canyon is located just north of Bow Valley Parkway — simply turn right and drive for a few meters — and just east of Johnston Creek. There was plenty of parking when I visited — but be aware that during the busy season, vehicles have been known to park on both sides of Bow Valley Parkway for at least a kilometer when the parking lot is filled to capacity.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This entrance greets visitors into Johnston Canyon…

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…and almost immediately, visitors are treated to breathtaking views — this one with the Bow Valley Parkway crossing Johnston Creek.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

From the rear of the parking area, simply follow the trail leading across the footbridge to the Johnston Canyon Lodge and trailhead on the west side of Johnston Creek.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I had to stop and watch — as well as listen to — the waters of Johnston Creek rushing under the footbridge.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I could watch and listen to the water for hours — but I barely stepped into the Johnston Canyon area.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This view of the footbridge is facing towards the parking lot.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Being in Canada, I found it slightly odd that the distances are measured in miles on this sign.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The distances are in kilometers on this sign, which estimates that you will need one hour to reach the upper falls and 30 minutes to reach the lower falls.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The trail starts its eventual incline into the canyon.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

You can see how the water of Johnston Creek carved through the rock to help form the canyon over the years.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The trail — which is on the right side in the photograph shown above — becomes a catwalk; and is designed for almost anyone to conquer the rough terrain with its pavement and safety railings.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I appreciated looking at the natural design of this carved canyon wall.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The trail snakes along the side of the canyon wall — parallel to Johnston Creek.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Remnants of glacial ice are easily identified by their bluish color, which is caused by the lack of oxygen within the ice.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The weather vacillated between cloudy and sunny; and the temperature — estimated to be approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit — was perfect for this walk.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The catwalk ambles over the rocky foot of the slope of the canyon wall.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Water you think of this photograph?

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I just thought I would rock on…

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…and go with the flow.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Keep your technology. This is my type of “streaming.”

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

An unidentified woman uses one of the many benches along the trail to contemplate and enjoy the sights and sounds of the waters of Johnston Creek.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

More carving of the rock of the canyon is tirelessly and continuously performed before your very eyes.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

A time exposure of Johnston Creek during the daytime resulted in the photograph shown above.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The trail to both waterfalls of Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest in the Rocky Mountains of Canada — so I was fortunate that there were not many people when I visited, which was during the late morning and into the afternoon.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

To avoid the crowds, you are advised to visit Johnston Canyon either very early in the morning or during the evening.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Although unlikely, ensure that the trails within Johnston Canyon are open — especially after a powerful storm adverse affected the region last week, according to this article written by Dave Whitfield for Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Johnston Canyon is reminiscent of a natural paradise — especially when the crowds are few and far between.

Johnston Canyon Banff Canada

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Summary

At least one future article will feature photographs of the lower falls and upper falls of Johnston Canyon.

Please stay tuned…

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

8 thoughts on “Johnston Canyon: An Introduction”

  1. Preet says:

    Looking forward to reading more- we are taking a similar trip over the busy 4th of July weekend and hoping to gain some tips.
    Thank you

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Wow — I better get moving on some more trip reports for you, Preet.

      Where specifically are you visiting so that I know on which reviews to concentrate for you? Please let me know.

  2. Preet says:

    Thank you Brian.
    We havent made a firm plan for the sights to see but I think I will add Johnston Canyon after reading your reviews. Plan on stopping at lake louise, Peyto Lake, Morraine Lake, Icefields Parkway at the very least. We only have 3 full days- so your reviews might help us figure out what to do and what to skip.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I probably will not be able to get all of the articles out in time, Preet; so here are my recommendations:

      1. Day 1 — Johnston Canyon, Silverton Falls
      2. Day 2 — Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake, which is 36 minutes from Lake Louise off of Icefields Parkway. Return towards Banff to drive to viewpoint on Mount Norquay for views of Banff and the valley before dinner. If you want to see Bow Glacier, you can take one of the lakes and move it to day 1.
      3. Day 3 — Icefields Parkway: Mistaya Canyon; Columbia Icefield to walk on Athabasca Glacier and then the Glacier Skywalk — purchase your tickets at least 48 hours in advance to get lower prices for tickets; Tangle Creek Falls; Goats and Glaciers viewpoint.

      Icefields Parkway takes three hours to drive each way without stops; so I would not recommend going all the way to Jasper. I would go as far as the Goats and Glaciers viewpoint.

      Keep in mind that the sun rises before 6:00 in the morning and does not completely set until after 11:00 at night this time of year there; so if you do not mind very full days with little sleep, you can definitely do everything which I recommended.

      Aside from the Columbia Icefield, everything else is free of charge.

      I hope this helps. If you have any questions, please ask…

  3. Preet says:

    Thank you so much- that looks like a good itinerary for the 3 days we are there.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are welcome, Preet.

      One factor may be traffic and crowds, which could slow you down — but my recommendations for both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake include both walking around half of each lake to the other end as well as hiking a short hike up to a lookout for each lake for incredible views. You should be able to easily do that regardless of how crowded the lakes could get.

      Hopefully you will not be required to park in the overflow parking lot for Lake Louise. It is located off of Trans-Canada Highway 1 several miles from the lake; and school buses shuttle people back and forth. That could slow you down.

      Peyto Lake is primarily one which you can view from an observation area with a spectacular view of its glacier. The hike is perhaps ten minutes from the parking lot.

      If you are not impeded by traffic, lack of parking spaces and crowds, there are other waterfalls and views along the way which you can take a few minutes to enjoy.

      Speaking of enjoy — enjoy your trip; and I will try to get some more articles out for you…

      1. Preet says:

        Ok – that would be great . Also we plan to stay 2 nights in Lake Louise itself.Do you think that would help a bit with driving to Icefields?

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          Yes, Preet, as there are few lodging options between Lake Louise and Jasper; so staying at Lake Louise is as close to the ideal option as possible.

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