Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Johnston Canyon

This is an ongoing series recapping my 2008 trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Want waterfalls?

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.

Nameless waterfalls

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.

Upper Falls

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.

Grouse family

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.

Nearby wildflowers

I even spotted a few late-blooming wildflowers!

Dramatic views
After spending a peaceful hour admiring the area, my hubby and I retraced our steps back through Johnston Canyon.  By now, the place was absolutely packed with people.  Not wanting to complete for views, we didn't bother stopping at any of the waterfalls.  Instead, Roger and I marched straight down the catwalk, heading for the trailhead.

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


  1. Your photos are always impressive Linda. The scenery is stunning! The last shot made me smile. Can't think of a more perfect ending to a day like you had.

  2. The waterfalls are spectacular but I love it best when the valley opens up to give the wide views of the mountains. I'll be looking for that next post.

  3. Linda, I always love your hikes. This catwalk to the waterfalls is awesome. Lovely views of the gorge. And the shots of the pools and the mountain views are stunning.. And I also love the Grouse family.. Cool hike and photos, wish I could go.. Have a happy day!

  4. Hi! The waterfall photos and the rainbow photo are very beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Waterfalls do have a way of encouraging me to walk a little farther to take photos. The Ink Pots really are fascinating!

  6. What a spectacular place! And your images are amazing, as always. I hope to visit Banff National Park one day.

  7. What fabulous pictures of a stunning place! I love your waterfall pictures especially, but that picture of the Knife mountain just took my breath away. Thanks for sharing these with me, I look forward to MORE. :-)

  8. I love the cascades of water in your photos. I must put this place on my bucket list. Glad you enjoyed the cool one after your hike.

  9. Wow- what a gorgeous place- I'm putting list one on my list. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

  10. wonderful gorges and falls! i can imagine your feet had quite a work-out! :)

  11. What incredibly gorgeous scenery! Oh my goodness that must have been a trip of a lifetime. Beautiful photos

  12. WOW! What fantastic scenery, wonderful waterfalls, many fences, fabulous reflections and I love the Grouse.

  13. Absolutely magnificent, Linda....gorgeous!

  14. Breathtaking (perhaps literally?!) waterfalls and gorgeous scenery Linda. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Hi Linda, Hope your foot is completely healed. That water must have a lot of minerals. I know the Little Colorado River has a lot of Calcium Citrate which make s it a lovely baby blue color. I've been going through my photo files and just came upon a bunch of waterfall pictures from our visit to OR. Seeing the cascading water in Johnston Canyon made me homesick for rushing water.

  16. Really enjoying your posts on Banff Linda; they bring back so many memories of our trip in'86 with the kids. Camped at Jonson Canyon, and walked that trail partway - our youngest was two. Your great pictures make me want to get back there! And yes, Canada does have great beer!

  17. Wow this is amazing and just so stunningly beautiful. I'm a tad afraid of heights now so I'm not sure I could handle the catwalk. I loved all your gorgeous photos of the falls and the Ink Pots.

  18. Ahhhhh yes Johnson Canyon. My you are bringing back the memories now. We didn't go to the ink pots though as my parents couldn't make it that far.

    Your images are wonderful of this gorgeous canyon. Wow I need to go back but will never make it. :>(

  19. Wow, that is a gorgeous hike. The extra hike to the ink pots was worth it, that's some lovely views higher up.

  20. A gorgeous hike, amazing waterfalls. I've been to Banff, but didn't discover this trail. So I've put it on my photography bucket list. This has been a lovely series; I hope there will be another installment!

  21. What incredible places! Beautiful, gorgeous photos! I cannot believe I went to Banff and missed all this--good thing you didn't miss it:)

  22. Beyond gorgeous... as are your captures.
    Wonderful series!

  23. Marvellous shots.

  24. Love the shots! Banff is a place I would love to visit one day! Your photos are taking me from the comforts of home for now, but one day......! Thanks for visiting my blog and your nice comments!

  25. What an incredible gorge hike! When I first saw it, I was hoping you were showing us somewhere in the Columbia River Valley. I'm sure I'll get to Banff someday though. Great tour of photos!

  26. Those are amazing waterfalls! Such a beautiful area to visit:)

  27. WOW. WOW, WOW!!! I think That about sums it up. Tom The Backroads Traveller

  28. Dearest Linda; How magnificent fall, cascades are and the scenery is just GORGEOUS☆☆☆ Your pictures are stunningly wonderful. My favorite is the last picture of you two♡♡♡ I wish I could enjoy the rich nature like that!
    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan to my Dear friend, xoxo Miyako*

  29. I have only heard of this remarkable place through blogs and I do love to see all the photos. What a great place for a holiday and for pictures.

  30. Wow, what a wonderful hike! The scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

  31. I saw that first photo on my Bloglovin' feed and thought it was somewhere in Oregon. I was ready to pack my bags until I began reading. These Banff posts are such a tease. ;)


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