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Banff National Park is famous for Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, but have you heard of Johnston Canyon? We were pretty excited to go on a little hike to see some of the waterfalls at this canyon. We had a rental car, but on this day we decided to take the shuttle to Johnston Canyon. The main reason we took the shuttle was due to parking. We were visiting the canyon mid-morning which meant that parking was most likely at full capacity. The shuttle was located at Banff Train Station which was about a mile from our hotel at Canalta Lodge. There was plenty of parking at the station, so we drove and parked at the station.
THE SHUTTLE AT BANFF TRAIN STATION
A round-trip ticket to Johnston Canyon was CAD $5 and we were able to hop on the bus as soon as we purchased our ticket. The shuttle buses are old school buses with a revamped interior including comfortable, plush seats. The ride was about 45 minutes and it went by pretty fast. We were dropped off at the overflow parking lot, which was a 5-10 minute walk to the start of the hike. As we got off the bus, the friendly driver told us the pickup location would be in the exact same place.
The first hike to the Lower Falls was about 0.7 miles and it took us about 30 minutes. The views were gorgeous so the hike went by really fast. A lot of the walkway was affixed to the limestone cliffs which made the hike very pleasant. The elevation was minimal and we stopped several times along the way to soak in the views. The walkways are fairly narrow, so it's best to pay attention to people who are trying to pass you from behind.
When we arrived at the first waterfall, the sound of the gushing water was amazingly loud and we were able to get really close to it. There was a line to enter a small cave to see the waterfall up close and it didn't take long for our turn to get in. Most people were patient and waited their turn to enter the cave but there were a select few that were in a hurry and rushed by or shoved people to make their way through the tiny tunnel.
We were a little tired from the hike to the Lower Falls (we are not avid hikers) and had a little snack (protein bars and trail mix) before we ventured on to the Upper Falls. The hike was another thirty minutes, so it wasn't too much further to continue.
This hike was a little more strenuous with the added elevation, so we definitely started to feel our muscles getting heavier and started drinking more water. We also took some short breaks because we’re not used to hiking. This is a relatively easy hike but since we don’t hike much, it was a little more difficult for us to power through.
When we arrived at Upper Falls, it was easy to spot since there was bridge with a line. At first, we saw a tiny stream of water running down the rocks on the right side and immediately thought we were duped into hiking to a waterfall that was very underwhelming. Luckily, we were wrong and Upper Falls was just around the corner on the left side and not visible from where we were standing. The line moved fairly fast and the waterfall was beautiful. It was off into the distance and not as close as Lower Falls, so we both felt more of an impact with the first waterfall. With that being said, we still think it was worth the hike to see the Upper Falls. You can also get another view of Upper Falls from above when you exit the bridge and turn right.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Johnston Canyon. The shuttle bus was convenient with friendly drivers and comfortable seats. The hike was breathtaking and the trail length was just right for us non-hikers. It was a little crowded since we arrived mid morning but it wasn’t anything to the point where we felt cramped.
* Dress in layers. We started our hike wearing our heavy jackets but as we started making our way towards Upper Falls, the jackets came off.
* Pack drinking water and snacks. There aren’t any concession stands along the way and you will most likely get little thirsty. Plus, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated.
* Wear comfy shoes. We wore our boots and they got a little dirty. There were some puddles here and there, but nothing that required our hiking boots. However, if it had rained or snowed, we imagine the hiking boots would be necessary.
* Use the restroom before you start your hike. There are plenty located at the parking lots near the park entrance. There are no bathrooms along the trails.