The Ultimate Guide to Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Banff

Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park. It attracts many hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Especially in the summer but also in the winter, Johnston Canyon is an excellent place to enjoy nature. 

Coordinates: 51.3938°N 115.9478°W

Throughout many thousands of years, Johnston Creek carved its path in the limestone in the area. This has resulted in a spectacular gorge with waterfalls, tunnels, pools and unusual rock formations. One of the most famous natural phenomena you will encounter during your trip through the canyon are the so-called inkpots. These are five green-blue mineral water springs.

Johnston Creek rises at an altitude of 2500 meters (8200 ft) north of nearby Castle Mountain in a glacial valley southwest of Badger Pass and south of Pulsatilla Pass. The stream flows into the Bow River south of Castle Mountain.

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Johnston Canyon is located on the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), 25 kilometers (15.43 mi) from Banff and a stone’s throw from the former gold mining town of Silver City at the foot of Castle Mountain. All that remains of the town is a plaque informing visitors of the dreams of prosperity that once flourished in Banff National Park.


Johnston Canyon is named after a prospector who mapped the canyon around 1885 named Johnston. His first name is unfortunately unknown. Johnston camped at the beginning of the creek, where he searched for gold in the silt of the canyon. His efforts soon proved fruitless, and he moved on at the end of the summer.

Teahouse on Johnston Creek

At that time, Rocky Mountains Park had just opened. Over the years tourism in the park was beginning to take off and encouraged by the growing tourism – particularly from Europe – a small wooden teahouse was built at Johnston Creek in the early 20th century. It only served as a resting place for the horse tram between Banff and Lake Louise.

Years later, Walter Camp and his wife Marguerite, residents of Banff, concluded a lease agreement with Banff National Park. In 1926, they bought the wooden teahouse and built a bungalow camp with small cabins at the canyon’s mouth. As a result, Johnston Canyon Resort Cabins & Bungalows was born.

Camp Discovers Six Waterfalls in Johnston Canyon

Camp, his wife Marguerite and their four children Bennett, Dolena, Stella and JJ spend their summers in these cabins. They also rent them out to tourists, and in the late 1920s, he discovered six waterfalls. He gives each of them a name. Two of them he named Stella and Marguerite. 

He built footpaths through the limestone rocks and maintained them. The paths consisted of suspension bridges and ladders built from trees felled in the area. Once he finished making Johnston Canyon accessible, Camp charged his visitors an entrance fee. This way, he could support his family. 

Parks Canada Assumes Responsibility for Johnston Canyon

Camp died in 1979. Parks Canada subsequently approached his family to discuss the use of the canyon. Not wanting to charge an entrance fee for a hiking trail in the park, Parks Canada assumed responsibility for the track. After taking over Camp’s facilities at the canyon, Parks Canada replaced Camp’s suspension bridges and ladders with suspended steel walkways.

Camp’s descendants did retain their log cabins, however. According to the Johnston Canyon Lodge website, these are now run by his great-great-grandchildren.


The Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). Although there is plenty of parking, the parking facilities quickly fill up in the morning during the peak season. Therefore it’s recommended to arrive early (before 8 am) or late in the afternoon. 

Public Transport to Johnston Canyon

Since the car park at Johnston Canyon fills up quickly during peak season, it may be convenient to take the bus to the canyon. The bus leaves the Transit Hub at Banff High School on Banff Avenue, directly across from the Elk and Avenue Hotel. From here the bus runs directly to Johnston Canyon. 


The bus runs from 09:00 to 18:00 from Banff, seven days a week during the peak season. From Johnston Canyon back to Banff, the bus runs from 09:45 to 19:20, seven days a week. It’s possible to bring along your bike. The bus has room for up to three bikes. 

The timetable can be found on under the heading ‘Schedules & Routes’ (route 9). Reservation is not necessary but recommended. The service operates from 21 May to 19 September. 

More information:

Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission
Address: 221 Beaver Street, Banff
Phone: +1-403-762-0606

I wrote down everything you need to know about parking in Banff National Park. Check it out if you want to know more about what’s up with parking in the park.


If you want to spend the night within a stone’s throw of Johnston Canyon, Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows is the place to be. This hotel with 42 bungalows and cabin accommodations is located on Highway 1A, about halfway between Banff and Lake Louise Village and a perfect location to explore the park as the Lodge is conveniently situated at the trailhead of Johnston Canyon. An overnight stay is 350 CAD or more in the high season.

Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows 
Address: Bow Valley Parkway, Hwy 1A, Banff National Park
Phone: +1 403 – 762 2971

Camping at Johnston Canyon

It’s possible to camp at Johnston Canyon. If you wish to build a campfire you must have a permit, which is sold on most campgrounds. Please note that Johnston Canyon is very touristy, so the campground is likely to be full in high season. The nearest alternative is Castle Mountain Campground.

Johnston Canyon Campground

Address: Bow Valley Parkway, Improvement District No. 9
Phone: +1 877 – 737 3783 
Overnight stay: subject to availability, reservations possible
Number of spaces: 132
Facilities: water, showers, flush toilets, handicap spots, camp kitchen, fire pits, picnic tables, rubbish cans and sani dump. 
Campfire permit: available at the campground
Kind of accommodations: motor homes and tents
Price: CAD 28.00
Period: 15 July – 26 September
Distance to Johnston Canyon (Lower Falls): 1.1 km (0.68 mi)

Castle Mountain Campground

Address: Bow Valley Parkway, Improvement District No. 9
Phone: 877-737-3783
Overnight stay: based on availability
Number of sites: 43
Facilities: male and female washrooms with hot and cold running water, but no showers, community camp kitchen with wood-burning cooker and fire pits.
Campfire permit: available at the campground
Kind of accommodations: motor homes (maximum 7.3 meters long) and tents
Price: CAD 21.97
Period: closed until further notice
Distance to Johnston Canyon: 5.3 km (3.27 mi)


Johnston Canyon is best visited in May and early June. At this time of the year the water mass in the canyon is the largest because the snow has just melted (or is still melting). This makes for beautiful pictures at the waterfalls. It is also considerably less crowded than in summer. In the peak season, it might be too busy.

Johnston Canyon is an absolute must in winter as well. I mean, how often do you get to see the spectacular sight of a frozen waterfall? Moreover, the canyon offers different activities in winter than in summer, such as ice walks and snowshoeing.


It’s possible to take a guided tour of Johnston Canyon at Discover Banff Tours. Furthermore, in winter you can do a spectacular ice walk with a guide. And, of course, Johnston Canyon is the starting point for several great hikes. In winter, the canyon is also suitable for spectacular snowshoe hikes.  

Hikes around Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon lies at the foot of Castle Mountain and its area offers several great hikes. Some short, some long, always breathtakingly beautiful. Below an overview of the most popular hikes.

Arnica Lake10 km (6.17 mi)5 hrs580 m (1903 ft)Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 South, on the east side of the road
Boom Lake10.2 km (6.29 mi)3 – 4 h175 m (574 ft)Boom Lake Day-use Area
Castle Lookout7.4 km (4.57 mi)3 hrs550 m (180 ft)Castle Lookout car park
Ink Pots11.4 km (7.04 mi)4 hrs330 m (1082 ft)Behind Bridges Restaurant & Cold Beer Patio
Lower Falls2.4 km (1.48 mi)1 hour50 m (164 ft)Behind Bridges Restaurant & Cold Beer Patio
Rockbound Lake16.8 km (10.37 mi)6 – 7 hrs760 m (2493 ft)Rockbound Lake car park
Silverton Falls1.8 km (1.11 mi)40 mins90 m (295 ft)Rockbound Lake car park
Twin Lakes16 km (9.87 mi)6 – 7 hrs715 m (2345 ft)Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 South, on the east side of the road
Upper Falls5 km (3.1 mi)2 hrs120 m (393 ft)Behind Bridges Restaurant & Cold Beer Patio  
Vista Lake2.8 km (1.73 mi)1.5 hours120 m (394 ft) downVista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 South, on the east side of the road
Hiking trails around Johnston Canyon

Mountain biking in the surroundings of Johnston Canyon

In the Rocky Mountains around Johnston Canyon you can also do some magnificent mountain biking, guaranteeing beautiful views.

Redearth20 km (12.35 mi)330 m (1083 ft) up / 95 m (312 ft) downRedearth Creek car park
Mountain biking trail near Johnston Canyon

Cross-Country Skiing near Johnston Canyon

In the winter, the area around Johnston also lends itself to cross-country skiing. With the echo of the summer crowds long gone, you can enjoy the winter coat of the Rockies in relative peace. Provided, of course, that you stay away from the ski slopes. Below are some popular routes.

Castle Junction8.7 km (5.37 mi)31 m (102 ft) upCastle Junction on the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A)
Redearth Creek21 km (12.96 mi)335 m (1099 ft) upRedearth Creek Trailhead
Cross country skiing trails near Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Banff National Park may receive most of its tourists in the summer months, but there’s also plenty to do in the winter. What about a spectacular ice walk in Johnston Canyon? A memorable experience in the snow with frozen waterfalls, spectacular ice pillars and beautiful views. Not only is the view of the canyon utterly different in winter than in summer, but it is also considerably less crowded than in the high season. This makes exploring the canyon a more exclusive experience.

Banff Tours offers three ice walks. All tours are guided.  

1. Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Departure: Banff (pick-up possible at most hotels)
Duration: 4 hours, of which 2 – 2.5 hours for the ice walk itself
Distance: 5.4 km (3.4 miles)
Elevation: 135 m (443 ft)
Season: November – April
Times: 8:30 am – 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Price: 82 CAD adults (13+), 52 CAD children (8-12)

2. Private Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Departure: Banff (pick-up possible at most hotels)
Duration: 4 hours, including 2 – 2.5 hours for the ice walk itself
Distance: 5.4 km (3.4 mi)
Elevation: 135 m (443 ft)
Season: November – April
Times: 8.30 am – 12.30 pm
Price: 186 – 339 CAD

3. Johnston Canyon Evening Icewalk

Departure: Banff (pick-up possible at most hotels)
Duration: 3.5 hours, including 1.5 – 2 hours for the ice walk itself
Distance: 2.2 km (1.4 mi)
Elevation: 65 m (213 ft)
Season: December – April
When: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Departure times: 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Price: 82 CAD adults (13+), 52 CAD children (8-12)

Snowshoeing at Johnston Canyon

Another great winter activity at Johnston Canyon is snowshoeing. This is a relatively easy way to walk across the thick blanket of snow that lies there in the coldest months. In contrast to the summer months, a unique way to explore the area at your leisure and admire the beautiful nature in its winter coat. Expect to see incredible ice formations and the enchanting sight of a frozen waterfall.

Johnston Canyon Snowshoe Trail6.8 km (4.2 mi)2 – 3 hrs120 m (394 ft) upBehind Bridges Restaurant & Cold Beer Patio
Snowshoeing trail near Johnston Canyon

Another enjoyable mountain activity is via ferrata. In Banff you can do so on Mount Norquay. Want to know more about it? Then I recommend reading the guide to via ferrata in Banff that I wrote. 

More Information

Banff Tours
Address: Sundance Mall, 215 Banff Avenue, Banff


Banff Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 224 Banff Avenue, Banff
Phone: +1 403 – 762 1550

Lake Louise Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: Samson Mall, 201 Village Rd, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833

Other articles you might be interested in:
How to Make Sure Mosquitoes Don’t Ruin Your Stay in Banff
Plan Your Banff Itinerary – Know the Distances
How Much Does a Banff Vacation Cost in 2022? (Crazy Numbers)


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite piece on the globe. I keep coming back to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty the park offers. It just never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best informational posts on Banff you can find on the internet.

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