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Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon in winter is fantastic place for photographers! This shot is in upper falls, some 20-30 min from parking. Must be careful in order to descend from main trail, as it is often very icy. Walk past the bend towards the cave and you will see this spot.

Aperture: F22
Exposure: 0.4 sec
ISO: 100
Polarazier

Handheld shot
Upper Falls area and most photogenic part of Johnston Canyon

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D2 Easy walk in the canyon. Gentle hiking with moderate elevation to Ink Pots
Snow Factor S2 Slippery and/or icy platforms in the canyon.  Micro-spikes are often helpful.  Snowshoes generally not required for extension to Ink Pots, as trail is usually well-compacted. 
Scenery Beautiful deep canyon with waterfalls and caves.  Emerald pools at Ink Pots meadows
Trail/Marking Excellent Maintained tourist walkway with viewing platforms in the Canyon. Wide trail to Ink Pots and optional loop return via Moose Meadows
Suggested Time 3-4 hr Relaxed pace with photo breaks including Ink Pots extension
Elevation Start: 1450m     Max: 1740 m    Total: ~500 m

Round Trip: ~15 km  (Loop return via Moose Meadows)

Gear Day Hikers are sufficient.  Hiking poles and micro-spikes helpful for slippery sections in the winter
Water Johnston Creek.   Carry 0.5L
Dog Friendly No Please do not bring your dog as this is very busy and congested tourist area

 

 

Gallery

The cave in upper Canyon

Pool in upper Canyon

Upper Canyon

Icefall near the upper Canyon cave

Upper Falls ice-climbing

Skyward inside the upper gorge

Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonUpper part of the Canyon in winter, past the main ice-climber area

Aperture: F22
Exposure: 1 sec
ISO: 100
Polarizer

Handheld - steadied camera on railing
Last icefall before junction with Moose Meadows trail

Ink Pots and Mt. Ishbel

 

 

Summary

Johnston Canyon is one of busiest areas in Banff National Park.  Tour buses and hordes of tourists clog this beautiful area year-round.  It is still very beautiful and well-worth a visit. Try to come early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.  In winter months canyon is generally less busy but it is still hard to have it to yourself.  Upper falls are popular with ice-climbers that often provide quite a show.   Extension to Ink Pots is well-worth and provides glimpse into the fantastic back-country of Sawback Range. Mt. Ishbel looks fantastic late in the day from the meadows!   Optional return via Moose Meadows is longer and has no real benefits except that it avoids the crowds.

 

Park at Johnston Canyon about 7km south from Castle Junction on Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A).  Space is hard to find, even in winter months as lower parking lot is closed.  Follow crowds into the canyon with several photogenic spots including the cave in lower canyon and several platforms further on.  Most beautiful is the bend just before major waterfall in upper gorge / ice-climbing area.  Trail then climbs slightly and joins path coming from Moose Meadows. This junction is signed.  Turn right and hike to Ink Pots in about 30-40 minutes from upper Canyon.  Trail continues to Luellen Lake and Pulsatilla Pass, but this is feasible only as back-packing objective; day-hikers usually turn back at Ink Pots.  If returning via Moose Meadows, be prepared to walk for about 1km back to Johnston Canyon parking.