Johnston Canyon Trail to the Ink Pots

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Distance:
11.5 km
Difficulty:
Easy
Elev. gain:
210 meters
Time required:
3 - 5 hours
Bikes permitted:
No
Dogs permitted:
Yes

Directions to trail head

From the west side of Calgary, drive 116 kilometers on highway #1 towards Banff. Take the Bow Valley Parkway/Promenade (highway #1A exit). This exit is clearly signed listing Johnston Canyon. Drive 18 kilometers on Bow Valley Parkway and there is a sign where you turn right and park. The trailhead is near the washrooms.

Hazards on trail

During the winter the trail can be very slippery. Proper shoes and YakTrax are suggested. The GPS for this track was edited to account for signal loss. The Banff Information Centre is located at 224 Banff Avenue and can be reached by calling 403.762.1550 for updates on trail conditions.

Hike Description

This trail is probably the most popular in Banff. There are a series of catwalks anchored to walls of the Canyon and viewpoints above the river and falls. I went this week to see the Ink Pots which I have never seen despite having been on this trail on countless occasions. Even on a weekday the trail to the Upper Falls is crowded. The majority of the trail is paved and has hand rails. The trail starts near the washrooms and crosses Johnston Canyon within the first couple of hundred meters. There is a giftshop, ice cream shack and cabins on the ridge immediately across the bridge. The trail heads to the right and the Lower Falls (immediately below) are only 1.1 kilometers from the trailhead. The Lower Falls are 10 m (33 feet) high and there is a tunnel at the one side that you can kneel and walk through to get a close up view and feel the spray in your face.



The Upper Falls are 2.7 kilometers further down the trail from the lower. By time you reach the Upper Falls the elevation gain is 120 meters. The Upper Falls (below) are more than 30 m (almost 100 feet) in height.



From the Upper Falls the Ink Pots are 3.5 kilometers. Only a small percentage of people continue on to the Ink Pots. The trail heads up into the forest away from the Canyon and there is only one intersection where you turn right. It is well signed. The trail is described as back country but it is as well worn as a country gravel road. The first 3 kilometers are in the forest and then the trail opens into the Johnston Valley with impressive views of the surrounding mountains and the Ink Pots which are six greenish blue pools that are filled with spring water. The Ink Pots were difficult to photograph but are worth the trip. You can see the spring water bubbling up at the bottom of each Ink Pot.


Follow the link to view the full size image of this hike using Google Earth or go to Google Earth and open the file to explore the area and see photos submitted by Panoramio users.


The GPS track for this hike can be downloaded via the file attached to this post. Go to the "About" page for directions prior to download or use of this data or any information in relation to this hike. Please submit your feedback and let me know your thoughts on the hike. If you have the the GPS data for other hikes in Alberta please send it along with a couple pictures to chris[at]hikealberta[dot]com.



Hike Photos

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Johnston_Canyon_Trail_GPS_Track.gpx14.63 KB

dogs

Hi I had to call the Parks board on the dog situation as we have quite the four legged hiker and we were worried he couldn't come. They said yes dogs are permitted on this hike. My recommendation is though to keep your dog close to you as there are a lot of people and if you have a dog that doesn't like people, leave him/her at home for this one. Other than that it was a great hike.

Canines OK

Thanks for the Comment. I will change the hike to indicate that Canines are permitted.

Try it in the winter

I was just into the Inkpots via Johnson Canyon on Sunday. There are still a few tour groups, but nothing like in the summer! We walked to the Upper Falls and Snow-shoed the rest of the way and only saw four other people on that part of the trail. The ice formations were fantastic and we had the added bonus of watching Ice-climbers on the Upper Falls. The trail in the Canyon can be very icy, but on Sunday it was covered with enough snow for traction. We wore "Yak-Tracks" just in case!

Avoid the crowds

If you've seen Johnston's Canyon before and want to avoid the crowds you can start this hike 1.4kms past Johnston's Canyon. Park at the Moose Meadows parking lot on the right side of the highway at the Johnston's Creek trailhead & hike in from there. It joins up with the Ink Pots trail after all the craziness of Johnston's Canyon. It's 5.4kms to the Ink Pots so similar distance to the main route.
Went in on Saturday on the way over Mystic Pass and didn't see a soul until we reached the Ink Pots.