I first hiked Johnson Canyon, one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park, as a university student in 1974 and I’ve been wanting to do it again ever since. On Sunday, I finally did!
The parking lot was already full by mid morning when we arrived and the trail was packed with tourists. Catwalks affixed to the limestone cliffs make the canyon easily accessible to everyone and the 1.1 km trail to the lower falls involves very little change in elevation.
At the lower falls, a bridge crosses the creek allowing both an excellent spot from which to view the falls and access to a water-formed tunnel through the rock to a closer viewing platform.
The crowd thinned out a little as we moved on toward the upper falls, another 1.5 km up the trail. Spectacular views continued to surround us as we followed the crystal clear creek.
There is significantly more change in elevation on the way to the upper falls and by the time we arrived at the bottom our two little grandsons decided that their legs had hiked far enough. Our son and daughter-in-law took them back to camp while Richard and I pushed on. It was a short climb to the top of the falls where we enjoyed great views of the falls themselves and the deep pool at the bottom.
Beyond the upper falls, the trail leaves Johnson Canyon behind and climbs another 3.1 km to the Ink Pots, seven cold mineral springs that bubble to the surface forming small pools in an open meadow. These springs are unique in that they have a constant year round temperature of 4ºC and their basins are composed of quicksand.
I had not hiked beyond the upper falls in the past and wasn’t expecting the steep climb that was involved. Once we’d set out, however, I was determined to finish! The trail seemed to go on forever, climbing higher and higher. Younger legs passed us by, but we pushed onward and eventually reached our goal!
My old knees were a bit achy the next morning, but a soak in Banff’s Upper Hot Springs was all they needed to recuperate!