While it's one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park it's also one of the most beautiful places I've been - the scenes are simply striking.
Johnston Canyon was never on our must hike list for Banff, like the Plain of Six Glaciers, but after sleeping in a bit too late to do our planned hike in an alpine valley we went for a drive to look for something else. Along the Bow Valley Parkway we spotted signs for a hike with waterfalls, looked it up in our guidebook, and decided to give it a go!
The full hike is about 11.6 km (7.2 miles) round trip, but you can choose to do as little or as much as you would like - with three different rewards to keep you going. We opted to end our hike at the Upper Falls, about 3.6 km one way.
Along the first part of the hike, which is paved and wheelchair friendly, you'll see beautiful river and canyon views. The colors of Johnston Canyon are what I found particularly captivating. The vivid green ferns, vibrant red rocks, and crystal clear turquoise waters of Johnston Creek all create a picture that looks almost unreal.
About 30 minutes in, you'll find yourself at the Lower Falls. Where you can gaze into the brilliant turquoise pool and make your way into a small cave that will put you right up next to the falls to get a little spray - wonderful on a hot day.
Continuing along, you'll walk catwalks through the canyons - such a fun and unique experience!
You'll also pass more brilliant colors in both the river and the Travertine Drape (left) which get's it's brilliant colors from layers of minerals and algae.
About 45 minutes after leaving the Lower Falls, enjoying the catwalks and the great colors, you'll find yourself at the Upper Falls. Here you can descend down to get this brilliant view of them from the base, but you can also continue around to see them from the top.
If you continue on from this point, you can follow the trail to a meadow filled with jewel colored pools known as the "Inkpots." There are also a number of backcountry hikes that leave from this point as well.
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