Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is an incredible hike to do – the canyon is amazing really in all seasons (see my post on Johnston Canyon in the winter). As it is so beautiful a lot of people have heard about it, the parking lot can get quite busy. So it’s a really good idea to get to the parking lot early, especially if you’re headed there at a weekend in summer.


On the way up

From the parking lot you cross over the bridge towards the Johnston Canyon Resort buildings and then turn right to get to the trailhead. There’s only one route through the canyon to see the falls and the majority of it goes along paved trails and concrete boardwalks attached to the canyon walls. But if you want to avoid the canyon and just hike to the Ink Pots, you can park at Moose Meadows parking lot (west of Johnston Canyon) and there’s a trail which joining the one from Johnston Canyon just after the Upper Falls.


Approaching the Lower Falls

The trails winds up and down around the canyon, and the first falls you’ll reach are the Lower Falls. Here you take a branch off the main trail down to see the falls. This part is really cool – there’s a bridge over to a cave, you walk through the cave to a small viewing area on the other side and get a brilliant view of the lower falls.


Crossing the bridge to the Lower Falls


The Lower Falls seen from through the cave

Once you’ve taken your photos at the Lower Falls head back to the main trail and carry on up along towards the Upper Falls. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of photo opportunities along the way, and there are points along the boardwalk which stick out a little further into the canyon so that you can get some great shots!


On the way to the Upper Falls

As with the Lower Falls you’ll take a trail off the main trail to the Upper Falls – this time it goes down a wooden boardwalk where you’ll get some more great shots of the photos. If it’s busy you might have to wait a little to get to a good spot.


The Upper Falls

You could end your trip to Johnston Canyon here and return back to the parking lot the same way, but if you have the time carrying on to the Ink Pots is a good choice. To get there is fairly straightforward as it is well signposted from the Upper Falls junction on the trail.


The Upper Falls seen from above


Johnston Creek entering Johnston Canyon

Before you leave the area of the Upper Falls, don’t forget to take in the viewpoint from above them.


On the way down to the Ink Pots

From the Upper Falls there is a little bit of a climb and then a descent down to the Ink Pots.It doesn’t take too long but it’s a good idea to pace yourself so that you can take in the scenery.


The Ink Pots


Beautiful scenery in the valley around the Ink Pots


Circular patterns in the quicksand at the bottom of the Ink Pots

The Ink Pots are very beautiful, they’re cold mineral springs in a meadow beside the creek that feeds into Johnston Canyon. There are a number of benches around the seven mineral springs so you could stop and enjoy your picnic here.


Great colours


Interesting cold mineral springs

The return to the trailhead follows the same path as the one that you took to get to the Ink Pots.


Just a little further up the valley from the Ink Pots

In total the return distance (including the Ink Pots) is approximately 12km (roughly 7.2 miles) with a 215m (700 foot) elevation gain.

Š RockiesOutdoors 2015.


8 responses to “Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots

  1. Johnston canyon is beautiful, but way too crowded during summer! But agree that once you pass upper fall and continue on to the ink pots there is significant less people. I’ve heard it is possible to cross country ski to the ink pots in the winter, have you tried it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately I haven’t tried it. I read somewhere that you could from the Moose Meadows parking lot but it sounds like it isn’t track set on the Parks Canada website. It would be really beautiful there when it’s covered in snow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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