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Johnston Canyon Trail to Lower Falls

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Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon Trail to Lower Falls is a 1.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Banff, Alberta, Canada that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 1.4 mi Elevation gain 344 ft Route type Out & Back
Dogs on leash Wheelchair friendly Kid friendly Stroller friendly Hiking Nature trips Walking Bird watching Forest Paved River Views Waterfall Wild flowers Wildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

As of August 2020, the road to the trailhead is closed. Please check with the park before visiting. Johnston Canyon is a gorgeous canyon hike with beautiful scenery. The drive from the town of Banff to the trailhead takes around 30 minutes. The trail begins along a paved pathway on a slight incline through the forest alongside the deep canyon. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and there are plenty of amazing photo opportunities. There are some sections of the trail which follow along sturdy but narrow metal catwalks attached to the rock cliffs on the side of the canyon, which is fun. At the 1.2 km mark, you arrive at the Lower Falls. There is a wooden bridge which crosses the canyon and river underneath from the main trail leading to a small cave in the rocks on the other side. The tunnel through the cave is narrow and dark to walk through but at the end, there is an opening which is directly in front of the powerful waterfall and provides a unique vantage point. Be prepared to get wet! The Lower Falls are so beautiful and there are fantastic views from along the bridge and from the main trail as well. The trail becomes slightly more difficult between the Lower and Upper Falls, as it climbs more steadily along a moderate incline and continues through the forest and along catwalks, but is still completely manageable and should not be challenging for someone of average fitness. There are lots of small waterfalls to see in the canyon on this portion of the hike and many great viewpoints overlooking the canyon. Shortly before reaching the Upper Falls, there is a well beaten but unmarked pathway stemming off from the main trail which you can follow as it leads down a steep hill and into the bottom of the rocky canyon. There is a massive cave with stunning views of a very strange and uniquely shaped large rock in the canyon with a waterfall flowing on one side of it and a variety of lush mosses and trees growing on top of it. If you have time, we recommend stopping here. At 2.4 km from the trailhead, you come to the Upper Falls. The falls aren't visible from the main trail but a metal catwalk leads over the canyon and ends at a small platform near the base of these gorgeous tall waterfalls as they fall over the edge of a cliff. You can continue along the main trail past the Upper Falls on a short and steep climb to another viewpoint at the top of the waterfalls, which provides a unique perspective overlooking the gorge and the falls. The landscape is so beautiful from this area! From this point, you can continue hiking another 3 km to the Ink Pots which makes for a full half-day hike and are amazing to see though this portion of the trail can be very crowded. Johnston Canyon gets incredibly crowded during the summer months and is one of the busiest hikes in the Banff area. Get there early in the morning in order to beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. Even though it is extremely popular, this hike is definitely a must-visit and both the Lower and Upper Falls are worth seeing. Remember to bring a camera to capture the amazing scenery and take advantage of the many wonderful photo opportunities, as well as water and snacks. There are modern washrooms in the parking lot at the beginning of the trail and wooden benches along the pathway to stop. It should take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete the hike to and from the Upper Falls. Accessibility: The trail to the Lower Falls is paved and mostly flat with an estimated average grade of 4%. It is typically at least two feet wide. The steepest areas are between 0.3 and 0.4 miles where the grade is greater than 12% so this trail may not be fully accessible for wheelchair/mobility equipment and stroller users due to the steep portion or narrowness of the trail.

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Reviews (709)
Photos (669)
Recordings (557)
Completed (3849)
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Aaron DeNault
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Road biking
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farah haddad
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WalkingGreat!

beautiful !!! stunning waterfalls but it's more of a walk than a hike. very marked paved trail and stunning views all along till the small cave that opens up to the lower falls, we skipped the walk/bike by reserving to the restaurant so we can go with the car and was lucky to spot a black bear eating flowers on the side of the road! we did it in 45 minutes back and forth with a million of breaks for pictures

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Chelsea Ramdeen
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Hiking
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Ankur Desai
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Hiking
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Stephanie Lai
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Muddy

It’s more of a walk than a hike. It’s extremely well paved and marked, and definitely family-friendly. We did this last weekend and the water was really muddy after the rain from the day before. The view is alright, but a good spot to have a picnic by the view point at the upper falls and just hang out for a bit. The road was closed, so we biked from Banff downtown to the Johnston Canyon trailhead. We were hoping for something more than that after biking for 20km. But nonetheless, it was a fun ride.

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Lina Rosales
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Hiking
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Melissa Caswell
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HikingGreat!

Pretty much paved path or boardwalk type. Very easy, kids can complete with no problem. Beautiful views. The road is closed to most traffic due to COVID, if you make a reservation at the Blackswiff Bistro, you will be allowed to drive up from Castle Mountain, you just have to show the park staff the email confirmation.

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Darth Wolverine
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Very icy. Saw a Some Chipmunks.

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Jenn Christians
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Walking

Easy but need crampons on in the winter

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Rachel Leah
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HikingIcy
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Melissa Dillon
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Hiking

The road was closed to Johnston Canyon, so we parked and walked 6.1 km to the trailhead. Took us about 1.5 hr one way to walk there. It was beautiful having only 1/10 of the amount of people that are normally there. This is honestly the best time to go! You will not be able to go down to the hidden cave. It's roped off and is heavily monitored for trespassers. I recommend: rent a bike or bring your bike to get to the trailhead. It will only take you 1/2 an hour to get there on a bike and is a really easy ride. Arrive early. Go early in the week like a Monday or Tuesday, because after all this is the most heavily trafficked trail in all of Banff.

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R Aba
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Hiking

Heavily trafficked visitors but lovely falls

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Rishi Bhatt
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HikingIcyMuddyRockySnow

You can never go wrong with this hike right outside Banff. The trail gives spectacular views of the falls in the canyon. The trail can be icy up to mid-June, and often is muddy. The trail is always busy, and parking is always a struggle. There isn't any space on the trail to social-distance, especially on the catwalks. Still a good hike if you can manage to keep distance.

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Teeda Chung
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Beautiful waterfalls. get there early and during the weekday to avoid the crowds!

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Myles Tabtab
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HikingIcy

March 22, 2019

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Mike Bauer
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Hiking

Extremely easy hike, very well kept trail but also very busy.

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Victoria Szakaly
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Hiking

Easy short hike. Need spikes for your boots in the winter; very icy.

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Chelsea Campbell
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Hiking

Easy short hike, busy in summer.

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Kerensa F
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Hiking

Unbelievably packed with people. Should have known better on a long weekend. Beautiful and easy to do with yaktrax, Watch out for deep holes on the sides of the trail in spots.

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MACUS ONG
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HikingIcySnow

I’ll definitely come back in the summer!

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Julie R
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HikingIcySnow
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Jiyeon Kim
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Hiking

Really easy trail with spectacular views! I loved that the trail was right next to the water. The trails were clear. Only a little icy nearby the waterfall cave

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Viresh Gehlawat
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HikingSnow

Easy short hike. A bit slippery after the recent snow.

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Jamie Taylor
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Hiking

Easy hike with a beautiful view of the falls. Loved walking through the little cave to get closer up to the falls!

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Tracy Ross
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2019
Hiking

A little rainy today but no ice at all on the trail. Second time doing this trail. Shoulder season is the best time to hike this trail as tourists were at a minimum. Falls were gorgeous. Lots of moss and mushrooms

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