Banff National Park (Bow Valley)
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 5.4 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 200 m
How To Get There: The trailhead is at the Moose Meadows parking lot on the Bow Valley Parkway 1.4 km west of Johnston Creek or 5 krn east of Castle Junction.
Kim and I decided to camp in Banff National Park so we booked some time off work and camped at Tunnel Mountain Village I, eager to do some hiking during our stay. Unfortunately, mother nature wasn't really on our side as the weather wasn't very cooperative. It began raining off and on during the Thursday and then rained all day on Friday! But that didn't stop us. We just bundled up with winter coats and gloves and set off. The rainy weather provided a perfect excuse to go and check out the famous Johnston Canyon.
We found the Johnston Canyon trailhead in the Bow Valley Parkway, a place I had never been until now. I definitely want to go back as there looks like there are all sorts of trail options to hike there. Despite the bad rainy weather (it was only about 8 degrees or so with a downpour), the parking lot was very full. It ended up being a blessing with all of the rain because it meant there weren't quite as many people crowding the trail. Regardless, there were still tons of hikers! The trail led through some trees out onto a bridge that crossed the river.
Then the trail began following the river up across a paved trail. There were a total of seven waterfalls along the trail and each one was very unique and beautiful. There are also tons of interpretive signs along the way with a lot of information about the canyon formation and the waterfalls themselves.
When we reached the lower falls, we weren't expecting to be able to get so up close to them. The trail splits off so that you can go down towards the lower falls and across a bridge to a small tunnel/cave (watch your head!). When you get to the other side of the short tunnel, you are right in front of the falls which provides a lot of good photo opportunities (though it gets a little crowded).
The trail itself is really neat because it takes you onto a boardwalk that leads right down into the canyon at times. Sometimes there is a gradual climb but for the most part, the trail is an easy enough hike (and wheel chair accessible). When we continued up the trail, we were able to take a picture beside many of the waterfalls before reaching the final waterfall.
The upper waterfall was the biggest of them all and was really neat.
This is where we stopped (we found a tiny little cave to get out of the rain) to have lunch. We considered going on to the Inkpots trail but found we were both a bit too cold to keep going. So we turned back around and headed to Banff so we could warm up in the hot springs!
This is a great hike and it's very well maintained. However, I'm really glad we went during the rainy weather because it deterred others from coming out. Otherwise the place would have been so packed it would have been impossible to move around!