Ink Pots at Johnston Canyon

50 awesome photos will make you backpack to Johnston Canyon

[email protected] Banff National Park, Calgary, Canmore, Day trips, Hiking 27 Comments

Johnston Canyon


Well well well, have you ever been to Johnston Canyon? If you have not then you must. In my opinion, if you are in Alberta, this is your top hiking destination. A trip to Banff is incomplete with a Johnston Canyon hike.


Johnston Canyon hike map

Map of Johnston Canyon



As the map shows, you can have a lot of fun. This is a few hours or even a day-long hike, depending upon your plan for the day. Before we go into more detail, let us share you how we planned and executed our day trip.


The Perfect Johnston Canyon trip planning


Over the summer, we saw that we are able to leave later in the day because Banff sees a lot of incoming traffic from Calgary during morning hours. Please keep in mind, the traffic has seen an increase this year due to 150th Canada Day celebrations. And because of 150th Canada Day entry to all the National Parks including Banff is free for 2017. 
Traffic can be bothersome when you go to Johnston Canyon

Traffic going to Johnston Canyon, Banff. If you drive slower than the posted speed limit, stay in the right lane.

The traffic won’t be this high in 2018 for sure. Coming back to our article, due to more traffic, we decided to try leaving late and returning late. Our 1st try was when we left at 2.30 PM. We visited Mt. Norquay, Banff and Lake Louise and still managed to return home by 10 PM.
This gave us a new adventure to try to & we loved it. We recommend, if you want to avoid traffic then leave late. We have started leaving Calgary between 12 to 3 PM and still managed to enjoy and return while there was daylight.
Johnston Canyon driving can be intimidating

Please be mindful of other drivers

But one problem still remained. You can get rid of traffic to Banff, however, in return, you get the same amount of traffic, no matter what time you return.

How to reach Johnston Canyon 


We recommend that you start from Calgary and stop at the Canmore Visitor Information Center. We love this place. You and accompanying members can use restrooms, get local information, see what weather looks like among other things. We love to stop here for all the above reasons.
After having light refreshments and a short break continue to Johnston Canyon. We don’t like to stop on the way anywhere else, but that’s just us. Just because it works for us, doesn’t mean it would work for you too. Other options are to stop at Mt. Norquay or in Banff town. So you can pick where you want to stop?
After Banff, you will find an exit saying Johnston Canyon. Remember, your speed limit is 30 KM per hour and goes to 50 KM per hour & then 60 KM per hour. There aren’t many passing lanes, so drive easy and drive carefully. After like 13 KM or so, you will see a lot of cars parked on both sides of the street. That’s the sign, you’ve reached your destination.
I find a lot of people park erratically, therefore, I would strongly recommend that you go to the main parking lot and if you can’t find a parking spot, then you look for street parking. While you park or walk towards the main entrance, please be extra careful because the speed limit is 60 KM and a lot of drivers aren’t as careful. My favorite saying is “precaution is better than cure”. So be careful. The last thing you want is to get hurt.
After you are in the main entrance, there is washroom that’s cleaned on regular basis. So feel free to use them. It can be busy there during busy times so plan accordingly.
One word of caution, it can be cold anytime due to the area being surrounded by mountains. So dress accordingly or be ready for sudden weather changes.

Let the fun begin at Johnston Canyon

Now that we are in the Johnston Canyon area, it is time to forget the outside world and concentrate on the natural beauty and have fun. Take extra care of young children there, because the trail can be full of tourists including pets and some narrow and slippery places. If you follow these precautions, we can guarantee that you will have an awesome experience.


Johnston Canyon walkways are fun

These walkways could be wet and slippery




Now that we are in the Johnston Canyon area, it is time to forget the outside world and concentrate on the natural beauty and have fun. Take extra care of young children there, because the trail can be full of tourists including pets and some narrow and slippery places. If you follow these precautions, we can guarantee that you will have an awesome experience.
Precautions remind me about my article on your safety and security while you are in mountains. If you haven’t read that article, read it here. you will love some of the suggestions/recommendations I’ve shared.
Running water at Johnston Canyon

Running water’s view and sound is awesome

Johnston Canyon water is refreshing

Water flow will take your breath away

The walk to lower falls is extremely beautiful. When I say extremely beautiful, it is extremely beautiful. You get to walk by running water, greenery, mountains and blue sky. This is one of the best places for photos with running water in the background.
Johnston Canyon water and walkway

Walkway and water run together

Low hanging mountain at Johnston Canyon

The mountain almost fell on us

Once you reach the lower falls, you stand in the Queue to enter the cave so that you can click photos. While you are in the cave, you get to enjoy the mist of the falls. While someone clicking your photos, others are eagerly waiting for you to move. Or some are pushing you to take your spot. Make sure to keep a towel handy, if you are planning to stay in the cave for some time because you will be wet by the time you are out of there.
Lower Fall cave at Johnston Canyon

The cave is generally very busy

 A very nice view of the falls, such refreshing sound and mist are some of the benefits of the cave. You will love every aspect of the cave and lower falls. Just be mindful of the line behind you and be careful of the cave. The last thing you want is to get hurt while you are enjoying the beautiful view of the lower falls.
Lower Falls cave of Johnston Canyon

Falls view from the cave

Johnston Canyon lower falls mist

Can you see the mist in this photo

What’s next Johnston Canyon has to offer
After you’ve spent time at Lower Falls, you have 2 options. Either you continue to Upper Falls and to the Ink Pots or you can simply return to the parking and visit another tourist spot in the area.
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

Lower Falls view on the way to Upper Falls

However, we would like to give our input. While you are there and we are sure, you are not going to return for some time, why don’t you continue? The next beautiful spot for you to enjoy is Upper Falls. The only difference between the two is, there is no cave for the Upper Falls. But the view is as beautiful as the lower falls.
Loved the view of Johnston Canyon

Another awesome view of the Falls

Let me give you a tip. Just before Upper Falls, you will see a way down the river that will take you to a fairytale place. Please see the photos below. These photos don’t do justice to the beauty of this area, however, see for yourself.
Johnston Canyon under the Falls

Under the Falls

Johnston Canyon famous rock

Mist around the rock

I hope you enjoyed these photos. When you are there next time, make sure to try to go to the river itself. It is such an awesome experience, that only Johnston Canyon offers.
Johnston Canyon big rock

An awesome view of the big rock

THE BEST VIEW OF Johnston Canyon

This was the best view of the trip

Bottom of lower falls of Johnston Canyon

Want to get wet, let’s see

Johnston Canyon's top photogenic spot

Famous spot to get wet at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon under the waterfalls

This is where the last photo was taken

What a view of Johnston Canyon cave and lower falls

You can see both Lower Falls and cave here

Lower Falls view from Johnston Canyon walkway

Can you spot the Lower Falls






Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

After this, continue to Upper Falls. Which is another awesome and memorable area of the Johnston Canyon. See it to believe it.
Sign board of Johnston Canyon

Still far away from ink pots and Upper Falls

Natural beauty at its best at Johnston Canyon

Views, views and more views. View of upper falls






Upper Falls view of Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls







Upper Falls view Johnston Canyon

A different view of Upper Falls







Upper Falls is not far, however, the walk gets a little difficult. And the way gets little less crowded. Because a lot of people go back from Lower Falls. In my opinion, 60% return from Lower Falls, 30% return from Upper Falls and only 10% will go to the Ink Pots.







The Upper Falls are really beautiful. These photos don’t do justice to the beauty of Johnston Canyon. You can only realize how beautiful this area is, by visiting there. Let’s go to the Ink Pots now.






Let’s go to Ink Pots






These Ink Pots are little over 3.1 KM from the Upper Falls. The walk is not easy. At points it gets really tough, however, the beauty and greenery of the area keep you engaged. Make sure to carry a lot of water and snacks.






We carried Gatorade and some chips. We regularly took breaks and the breeze made it fun for us. Overall, the walk was tiring but a lot of fun.








Refreshing views of Johnston Canyon

Views are really refreshing






Refreshing views of Johnston Canyon

Plenty of views






Johnston Canyon to ink pots

This walk is tiring but relaxing too






Fun filled walk of Johnston Canyon

A fun-filled walk, we wanted to see wildlife but nothing appeared before us






Horse poop on the way to Ink Pots from Johnston Canyon

We found horse poop on the way







Although the walk is very beautiful, it is tiring too. Like we said earlier, be careful when you plan your trip here. Make sure to pack light and carry light snacks. After the lower falls, the trail is going up which can cause dehydration. We stopped at regular intervals and enjoyed the nature and surroundings.







Johnston Canyon top of the mountain

Mountain views from the top






Top of Johnston Canyon

Top of the Canyons






Johnston Canyon can have sun, clouds and shadow at the same time

Mixture of sun, clouds, and shadow on the top







Almost at the top of Johnston Canyon

Finally, we spotted our destination







Resting at Johnston Canyon Ink Pots

Time to rest after more than 4 hours of hike







After more than 4 hours of grind, we reached the top where famous Inkpots are. While it was tiring, the tiredness paid off. Let’s see some more photos and hear our ink pot verdict.









Time to relax at the top of Johnston Canyon

Relaxation at the top






Johnston Canyon water is fun

Let the feet soak in cold running water






Mountains from the top of Johnston Canyon

Ink Pot from the top of Johnston Canyon




Johnston Canyon ink pot

Another nice view of one of the ink pots







Johnston Canyon 2nd Ink Pot

Go to Ink Pots only if you like to hike







Blue colored ink pot on top of Johnston Canyon

These ink pots have different colors







World famous bugs on top of Johnston Canyon

Ink Pots were nice, but there were a lot of bugs there.






Another Ink Pot on top of the Johnston Canyon

Another Ink Pot






Ink Pots on top of Johnston Canyon






The Ink Pots on top of the Canyon after over hours hike were really nice. Our hike experience was tiring, but fun. We thought the Ink Pots would be big and on top of the mountain. They were on top of the mountain but there was another mountain on the top of Johnston Canyon. In fact, there were more mountains around this mountain.







When we started our trip, we wanted to conquer a mountain and see the ground (highway 1 and/or Banff/Canmore) and the surrounding mountains. But when we reached the top of Johnston Canyon and reached the Ink Pots, we were not happy. BTW, not happy with ourselves because we didn’t research the destination in full.






In our honest opinion, we were not happy with the Ink Pots. They were really hyped by other travelers. What we really liked was the hike. I don’t think, we will go to the Ink Pots again. We would love to go back to the Lower and Upper Falls in winter, but never to Ink Pots.





Our way back






A lot of times, when we return from the top of the mountain back to our car, it is assumed we are going downhill. In this hike I would say 80% downhill and 20% uphill as a couple of places, we had to go uphill too. Although it was a tiring experience, however, the feeling of conquering the Ink Pots made us feel so much better, we came down in no time.








No wild life at Johnston Canyon

We wanted to meet wildlife






Photogenic spot at the Johnston Canyon top

While at the Ink Pots take some good photos





Johnston Canyon is a relaxing place

Relaxation and fun times





Low hanging mountains at Johnston Canyon

Neelu picked a mountain





Lower Falls of Johnston Canyon

This is near Lower Falls






Good vibrations of running water at Johnston Canyon

We loved the sound and flow of running water






Enjoy the hike of Johnston Canyon

Keep walking and enjoy the hike






Johnston Canyon Falls view

A clear view of Johnston Canyon Falls






Under the lower falls of Johnston Canyon

Under the lower falls






Never stop on the hike of Johnston Canyon

Keep walking, it is fun






Plenty of views at Johnston Canyon hike

Hike and views are aplenty





Amazing views of Johnston Canyon

Whether you go up or down, views will amaze you






Summer at its best at Johnston Canyon

A fun-filled day of summer





In conclusion




Whether you like the hike or not, whether you like falls or not, whether you like to walk or not, you should visit Johnston Canyon at least once. Banff by itself is extremely beautiful with amazing views and greenery among other things and activities. Johnston Canyon is a part of Banff National Park and is another beautiful destination.



You should plan to visit Johnston Canyon during any time of the year. A lot of tourists think Johnston Canyon is a summer destination, but it is not. It welcomes you anytime of the year. If you’ve been to this amazing place, please share your experience with our readers by sending us a message.







Comments 27

  1. Johnston Canyon is absolutely beautiful. I like how the trail accommodates everyone’s abilities and interests — you can go for a short hike and see the cave and lower falls, or continue to see more. You’re right, it should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in the Banff area!

  2. Johnston Canyon really seems like fun. Honestly, we too felt that lower falls and upper falls are much better than the ink pots. Sceneries and greens while hiking might be amazing. Your pictures are beautiful too.

  3. Johnston Canyon is definitely nothing short of a paradise. Your pictures bring alive the stunning beauty of the place in vivid colour. I love the walkways, it would be so nice to walk on them alongside the meandering water. The falls of course are the piece de resistance. Love waterfalls they have something so soothing about them.

  4. When I went to Johnston Canyon, I absolutely loved it, but I turned back after Upper Falls, which was clearly a mistake. Those paint pots look absolutely stunning! I won’t miss it next time. Your 50 photos did the trick 😉

  5. I’ve visited Calgary before and then drove up to Banff which is definitely a land of wonders. I didn’t even know about Johnston Canyon but it looks pretty awesome! Hiking in Johnston Canyon would definitely be quite the experience. I definitely think your pointers on point when it comes to the area. My experience is one should always be prepared for chillier weather no matter the time of the year in the Calgary area. I absolutely love the shot of mist around the rock. It reminds me of the Pandora movie and is so fun! Thanks for sharing your experience through your photos!

  6. ” it is time to forget the outside world and concentrate on the natural beauty and have fun.” This is great advice. We tend to forget to do this and sometimes, when traveling, we still go to urban destinations. Wonderful location to exercise and appreciate the scenery!

  7. Loving seeing your photos here of the canyon and brought back some great memories as I was there in 2015. I love the walk up to the falls when there is not too many people about. 🙂 Fantastic post 🙂

  8. I had never heard of this place before! It literally looks so amazing.. Good pictures btw.. Thanks for writing a complete guide, i’d love to go here

  9. I had heard of Banff (of course) but never heard about Johnston Canyon before so glad to have stumbled upon your post! Ouff, I had never seen a so long queue to enter a cave. Do you think it is always like this or it is just because Canada’s 150th anniversary?

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  11. I haven’t been to Johnstn canyon but this place reminds reminds me of Slovenia, such a beautiful place but that’s so much crowd there going to the cave.

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  13. I loved Johnstone Canyon. It has been years since I was there (2004 I believe) but can’t wait to go back and see if it has changed a lot …

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    Yes, this is a popular place for hikers. There are times when the line at lower falls is short but only when you are lucky. However, the wait in line is well worth it because of the experience. And if can stay there longer, that’s bonus to your overall experience.

  16. Johnston Canyon looks very popular among hikers, and rightly so. The lower & upper falls and the ink pots look like something to write home about. Pity the queues at the cave are so long. This is an excellent, detailed guide for anyone who wants to visit.

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    I agree with you. It is very easy to spend a day there and still feel something is missing. The cave is a superhit, but the only problem is, a lot of people wait in the line, so you can’t be inside the cave for a long time. But if you are able to be in the cave for even a few minutes, it will be an awesome memorable experience. Make sure to carry a towel because 1 minute is more than enough to get you wet.

  18. Johnston Canyon is so beautiful that I won’t mind spending the day checking it out. The cave is one of the attractions that I would be excited to explore. The fresh air and clean water flowing add to the charm of the place. I can imagine how refreshing it feels to inhale the fresh air while enjoying the beauty of Johnston Canyon and surrounding areas.

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    The lower falls are really famous. I think 50% to 80% just go to lower falls and return. the next % goes to upper falls where there is less crowd. And only 2% to 5% go to ink pots. If I remember correctly we only saw 5 or 6 groups going down when we were going up and the same number when we were coming down. If you like a peaceful hike with spectacular views, ink pots is a must visit when you are in Johnston Canyon.

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  21. This is my idea of a hike; lots of greenery, water, and fantastic views of the area. BUT why are there so many people though? It seems like a very popular place indeed. If I do visit there, I would definitely go to the Upper Falls. Lesser number of people and the big rock with the mist around it is so beautiful. Well worth the additional hike.

  22. Some great pics of a really beautiful area. We are hoping to get to the western side of Canada next year.

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