On the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies lies the Johnston Canyon hiking trail. In between Lake Louise and Banff, this popular day hike is a must-see for the family. This isn’t a hike you need to prepare for as it is well-suited for all ages and fitness levels.
How to get to Johnston Canyon from Banff
Johnston Canyon is just outside of Banff on the way to Lake Louise. Follow the Trans Canada Highway or the Bow Valley Parkway west. It takes about 30 minutes to drive there. There is often construction on the highway over the summer so it might take longer. The map below shows how to get there from Banff.
How to get to Johnston Canyon from Lake Louise
The Johnston Canyon Hike is also a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise. Follow the Trans Canada Highway south. The map link is below.
What to Expect
This is a very popular hike. During the peak months of June to October, you will be surrounded by tourists. Tour buses bring groups there as well. The busiest times are between 8:30 am and 6:00 PM.
Eating and Washrooms
There is only one small restaurant in the area, the Blackswift Bistro, and its ice cream shack. I recommend not being dependent on getting food at the hike location, but rather using the opportunity to get a coffee, snack, light meal, or treat before or after your hike. I also recommend getting all toilet business done prior to driving out. There are washrooms in the parking area if you need them. There are no washrooms along the hike or at the top.
Dog owners need to take precautions. This is a generally easy hike for humans but it can be a very difficult hike for dogs if the owner is not prepared. Bring water for your dog and preferably go at times when it is not too hot or crowded. Pets can experience dehydration and heat exhaustion on this hike without a water source.
A lot of the hike is paved with railings. I recommend proper shoes such as running shoes with grips or light hiking boots. Mountain weather can change instantly. A light jacket and water is always good to bring on a hike. You never know when you will be surrounded by snow, rain, or wet conditions that can make it slippery to walk.
Hiking During the Winter
The Johnston Canyon hike is open year round. Snow does hit the mountains and the falls will ice over. If you are going up during the winter months, snow cleats and poles are highly recommended.
Cameras and Cellphones
The currents and falls of the Lower Falls are both beautiful and powerfully loud. Waterfalls always bring a lot of mist. Be careful with your cellphone and camera. The mist can make it slippery to walk, on railings, but your camera may also slip out of your hands. Use your camera strap to hang it around your neck in case it slides. For your cellphone, stand behind the railings. If you happen to drop the cellphone, at least it will be falling onto the hiking path and not fall into the current.
The lower falls of the canyon are an easy hike. It is a one hour loop with a 50m elevation gain. From the trailhead to the lower falls, it is a 1.2 km hike.
The next part of the hike brings you to the Upper Falls for this spectacular view. The Upper Falls is an additional two hour round trip. From the Lower Falls, it is an additional 1.3 km and 120m elevation gain.
All photos used with permission, courtesy of JB Stickley, and can be viewed or purchased at