Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

Almost a year ago I was for a few days in Banff. Even though is was barely more than a week, I was able to visit many of the local attractions. I went to Lake Louise, enjoyed a morning with some dogs around the Three Sisters and I spent a morning Hiking Johnston Canyon (you don’t need much more than half a day). And it was about this last activity like that I wanted to talk to you about today.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

How to reach the Johnston Canyon

As I said before, this canyon can be found in the Canadian Rockies. More specifically, within the Banff National Park. You need to get to Bow Valley Parkway and then drive until you reach Johnston Canyon Resort. There is a big parking lot there where you can leave your car without problems. Then, head to the trail and start the hike. For more details so that you can plan your excursion, here you have the map!

Once you leave the car, with the road at your back, take the left road. You will have to pass a small creek and from there is just a straignt line to the canyon. This tiny river, if it can even be called that, is the Johnston Creek, hence the name of the canyon.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

Read more about other amazing experiences I had in Canada…
Photo Journal: Banff Gongola in Winter
Dog sledding around the three sister

Hiking Johnston Canyon: possibilities

Even though this is one trail, hiking Johnston Canyon can be done in different sections. There are the Lower Falls, the Upper Falls and the Ink Pods. In my visit, I only went for falls, both lower and upper. The walk to the Ink Pods was interesting but the majority of my group decided not to go so… This part of the trail is the one at highest elevation and it’s located 3km after the Upper Falls. At the end of it, there are seven natural pools from which water bubbles all year long. The temperature of the water does not go below zero so they don’t freeze during winter. Some people I knew that went there did not consider it to be worth the hike, but If you have the time, go for it!

Lower Falls

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter
The Lower Falls are the first stop in the trail around the Johnston Canyon. Like for most of the trail, there are some metal bridges leading to them. These waterfalls are the smallest when compared to the Upper falls, but also impressive. They have two sections clearly separated by a wall of ice during the cold months. The first one is small, a bit unimpressive. My favourite was the second. To reach this one, you need to pass through a small cave (slippery as hell) and then you’ll find an artificial balcony. This piece is floating above a natural pool and a frozen waterfall. The space is not enough to take a proper photo without a good wide-angle, but you can try and do something similar with a GoPro or a panoramic shot. Viewing this frozen waterfall was something truly impressive!

Upper Falls

These are the Upper Falls (even though in this picture I made the mistake to write Lower). To reach them you only have to continue a little bit longer through the trail after the Lower Falls. A bit later you will find the descend to the point where this 360º photo was taken. The magnificency of this place took my breath away. And it also made me promise myself that I would come back during summer. Even though the picture looks impressive enough, you really can’t get to imagine how tall this is. It was one of the many reasons why I felt in love with this beautiful country.

Practical information for hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

First of all, bring ice grips for your shoes. It is necessary. If you don’t have them and plan to be there for a while, buy them. If you do not want to buy them, rent them. But do not make the mistake of getting there without them. The trail is slippery and stepping on the wrong piece of ice can lead a fall and to an almost certain death. You would also be landing in some pointy rocks. So yeah, get some ice grips. Just so you have an idea of how this trail is during winter, take a look at these. A few months before and later… There were stairs.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

Another specific precaution you should take when you are hiking Johnston Canyon during winter is to never leave the trail. I went there with a guide (although it was not necessary at all), and she told us about a visitor from a few months earlier. This guy had stepped outside the trail and into a piece of ice that seemed solid. But it gave away and he felt into the creek. There were some areas of the river that were not frozen. Someone heard his screams from underneath the ice while he was being carried on by the river current and helped him out in the next area not covered by ice. It was quite scary to even consider.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

Finally, and these two are quite obvious… First, do not take anything from the park with you, it is a reserve so it is protected. And second, bring warm clothes. The trail is not demanding at all and winter in the Canadian Rockies can be easily in the -20/-30ºC.

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Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter  , Canada - The Solivagant Soul


  1. So much beautiful snow!:) Your photos are gorgeous! Would love to visit sometime to play in the snow…I usually live in cities so I don’t get much of a chance to see pristine snow, only grey and black mush:( thanks for sharing!

  2. I just did this back in November and it was so beautiful! We only made it to the Lower falls because we were short on time but will have to make it to the Upper Falls next time. Beautiful photos!

  3. What a beautiful hike! I’d love to see those falls, both in the winter and the summer! Your pictures are lovely!

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