In Banff National Park, the place to see lovely cascades is Johnston Canyon.
|Walkway through the canyon|
A trip to Banff would not be complete without a trek through this narrow gorge. A popular dayhike, it winds through the canyon on sturdy catwalks. Following Johnston Creek, it passes numerous gushing waterfalls. Energetic visitors can continue on to the Ink Pots, a group of greenish-colored mineral springs.
|Lots of waterfalls!|
If there's a waterfall to be viewed, you can bet I'll hike to it. On the fourth day of our Banff vacation, my hubby and I decided to check this canyon out.
|Very narrow gap|
Due to it's fantastic scenery, Johnston Canyon has a reputation for drawing crowds. Wishing to avoid the masses, Roger and I rose super-duper early. Our plan worked wonderfully. For the first couple hours, we practically had the place to ourselves.
|Rushing blue water|
After traveling through the forest on an asphalt path, we entered the canyon proper. Near-vertical walls of limestone rock towered high above. The clear, gray-blue water of Johnston Creek burbled through a narrow gap in the canyon's walls. To allow access to all, a walkway had been affixed to one side of the cliff.
|Looking down on Lower Falls|
After covering a mere 0.7 mile (or 1.1 km) we came upon the first cascade, Lower Falls. A 33-foot (10 meter) beauty, the first thing one notices when approaching the falls is a large, deep green plunge pool. A catwalk suspended across the creek provided a great viewing platform. To experience Lower Falls up close and personal, one could also crawl through a tiny tunnel to a spot within a few meters of the gushing water. But, be warned, you will get wet!
|Lower Falls peeps between the rocks|
Since I didn't want to risk soaking my good DSLR, I opted to photograph Lower Falls from the bridge deck. Not a bad view!
|Amazing rock formations|
After taking in Lower Falls, my hubby and I continued along this amazing catwalk trail through the canyon. I've never been on such a well-built walkway. It hung on the side of sheer cliffs, bridged the rushing creek, and wound around trees, boulders, and other obstacles. If not for this path, Johnston Canyon and it's many sights would be inaccessible to all but the most die-hard rock climbers.
Upper Falls was another 1.5 km further. Meandering through the canyon, we passed many small, unnamed waterfalls. The clear waters of Johnston Creek were a delight, splashing off boulders, dropping from overhangs, and churning past narrow points.
|Suspended above the water|
We climbed higher, past a zone of thick trees. And then I heard a rushing roar.
We'd arrived at Upper Falls! Although the splash pool wasn't as scenic as it's little sister, this cascade was the big girl in the waterfall family. Measuring nearly 100 feet (30 meters) in height, she towered through a well-worn gap in the rock.
|This falls generates its own rainbow|
After ooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the lower catwalk, Roger and I climbed to an upper viewpoint. A platform suspended over the gorge gave a dizzying perspective. And - best of all - huge volumes of water flying through the air combined with mid-morning sun to create a lovely rainbow.
Most visitors only travel up Johnston Canyon as far as the Upper Falls. But for the hardy hiker, more good stuff awaits. Six cold water mineral springs, called the Ink Pots, were located another 3.5 km (a little more than 2 miles) further. A unanimous decision, Roger and I chose to extend our hike.
|Wonderful valley near the Ink Pots|
Our trail left the canyon, and began to climb through dense forest. Constantly on the lookout for wildlife, Roger spotted a grouse family perched on a downed tree trunk. Other than that, it was a hot, boring trek. The tall canyon walls had effectively blocked the sun, keeping temperatures mild. But now exposed to the midday heat, we were feeling the effects.
|The Ink Pots|
Winding up a canyon wall, the land suddenly opened up into a wide, beautiful valley. Mountains rose up from all sides. Green forests carpeted the floor. And in the middle of it all, sat a bunch of emerald pools of water.
|Knife edge mountain|
These were the famous "Ink Pots." Wooden walkways had been constructed around their perimeters, with small wooden bridges spanning small gaps between pools. I walked around several ponds, admiring the clear, unusual-colored water. It appeared to be bubbling up from vents on the bottom of each pool.
|The Ink Pots were an emerald green color|
Roger and I finally took a snack break, sitting beside one of the Ink Pots. It was a gorgeous place to rest. Since few people bother to continue past Upper Falls, we shared our space with only a handful of tourists.
I even spotted a few late-blooming wildflowers!
|Enjoying cold ones after another great hike!|
Great hikes always end with cold liquid refreshment. Back at the campsite, we kicked off our boots, and enjoyed some tasty Canadian brews (Canada has the most amazing beer!).
One more vacation day left. And we'd planned to drive the jaw-dropping Icefields Parkway. Coming in my next post - you won't want to miss it!
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Good Fences