One of the things I love about Alberta is its million and one hiking trails. If you like the outdoors, Alberta is definitely the place for you. Bonus, not all trails are hard-core. Even if you’re a beginner hiker, are walking with young kids, or are not in the best shape of your life, Alberta has some lovely easier trails available. In the Canmore / Banff National Park region, one such trail is Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots (why does that sound like an 80s band?). Read on to learn more about this pretty trail!
As it is both lovely and relatively easy, Johnston Canyon is one of the more popular day hikes in Banff National Park. Not only is the trail is accessible all year round, there is minimal elevation gain so the trail isn’t all that steep. These things are all well and good but those very attributes also make the trail super accessible, meaning it is extremely popular for both tourists and tour groups. So yeah – it can get a bit….busy. I went on a sunny late afternoon in early October and the trail was, in my opinion, crowded. I cannot imagine what it would be like in summer! However, Johnston Canyon is worth the hassle of crowds.
Parts of the trail are catwalks fixed to the canyon walls, sometimes making for an interesting walk over rushing waters. Without these catwalks, Johnston Canyon would be pretty inaccessible! The first goal of this trail is to reach Lower Canyon Falls (1.2km from the starting point). If you don’t mind getting a little wet, pass through the tunnel that brings you closer to the waterfall. You’ll likely have to line up for a turn, though, as the space at the other end of the tunnel is small (holds maybe 5 people).
The next stop on the trail is Upper Canyon Falls, another 1.2km away. The viewing area of the falls is via another catwalk as you climb out of the forest. The trail here is a little bit quieter than the previous section as generally the tour groups return to their buses after Lower Canyon Falls. Keep in mind though, I’m not saying it’s peaceful…just quieter.
After Upper Canyon Falls, even more people turn around and head back to their cars. But if you still have time, energy, and inclination, I strongly suggest you continue!
This section should be relatively quiet, especially if you’re hiking outside of peak times. Compared to the numbers that visit Johnston Canyon’s waterfalls, very few take the trail out to the Ink Pots. It’s a lovely forested trail with some elevation gain. If you’re out of shape or not used to the local altitude, you’ll be huffing and puffing. But it isn’t bad at all. Also, it is only 3km out to the Ink Pots, so you don’t have to go far before the reward.
The Ink Pots are a series of aquamarine mineral water pools in a meadow that is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks. It’s beautiful and everything that makes Alberta so wonderful. There are some benches scattered around the area so bring a snack to munch on as you take a rest amidst the natural beauty. Despite the gloomy weather, the area was still stunning so I can only imagine what it would be like on a sunny day!