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Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots

  • Difficulty
  • 10.7km
  • 550m
  • 2.5-4.5h
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The hike to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots is a great, albeit busy, hike near Banff. The trail winds through the canyon to the Upper Falls. From there continue on to the Ink Pots and the pretty mountain views. In peak season don’t try this route between 9am and 5pm due to crowds.

Getting there

From Banff, head west on the Trans-Canada Highway towards Lake Louise. You can take the scenic route and take the Bow Valley Parkway exit (#1A) and drive along this all the way to Johnston’s Canyon (18.1km) or else take the Trans-Canada all the way to Castle Mountain Junction and driving back 5.5km.

elevation

Total Gain: 450m

About

Type of Hike Out and Back
Crowd Levels Extreme
Route Signage Average
Toilets Trailhead
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds Larry’s Camp
When to Do May through early October

 Detailed Description

Get here early to avoid the crowds and enjoy your time ascending Johnston’s Canyon. Begin your hike by heading upwards on the broad path through the Canyon. As you get deeper, the views are constantly changing. You’ll soon have to start using catwalks that are fixed to limestone cliffs, which allow you to penetrate this canyon, as there is no space for a trail.

The trail approaches the Lower Canyon Falls (1.2km, 30m elevation gain), where you can walk through a tunnel to get an even closer look at the beautiful cascading water.

Continuing from here, there is another 1.2km and 90m of elevation to the Upper Canyon Falls. When you arrive, climb out of the forest and the lower canyon. One viewing area is accessible by a catwalk looking out on the bottom of the falls, while another requires taking a steep trail to a platform overhanging the gorge and looking down on the falls.

From the Upper Canyon Falls, continue on to the Ink Pots, which are mineral springs that bubble up in a meadow surrounded by nearby peaks. This route is a broad path that cuts through the forest. To get to the Ink Pots, head west from the Upper Canyon Falls on a path that links up with the ascent route from Moose Meadows after 5 minutes.

At this junction, go right on a path for approximately 2.5km. The path initially goes through the trees and then narrows before it reaches Johnston Creek Meadows. 500m after the meadows you reach the Ink Pots.

Once arriving at the Ink Pots, there are many great places to relax, eat a snack, and enjoy the scenery. Continue back down the way you came, making sure you don’t accidentally descend the Moose Meadows route – which leads to a different parking lot.

Note: On the map you can see the route to ascend from Moose Meadows. This route is good to use if you don’t want to endure the craziness of going up and down Johnston Canyon. The distance is similar whichever way you go.

Insider Hints

  • You’ll be in a canyon for much of this hike, bring an extra layer of clothing as it can get chilly.
  • Do this very early or late, as this hike tends to be extremely busy.
  • You can bypass the crowds and hike from Moose Meadows to the Upper Falls and then back to Ink Pots.
  • The 1A highway has animals feeding very early in the morning, keep your eyes open for bears!