Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots hike

Around Banff
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Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots hike

Distance: 10.7km
Elevation: 550m
Time: 2.5-4.5h

Difficulty Rating:

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8.5 Overall Rating
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The hike to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots is a great, albeit busy, hike near Banff. The trail winds through the canyon to the Upper Falls. From there continue on to the Ink Pots and the pretty mountain views. In peak season don't try this route between 9am and 5pm due to crowds.

Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots hike Map

Getting there

From Banff, head west on the Trans-Canada Highway towards Lake Louise. You can take the scenic route and take the Bow Valley Parkway exit (#1A) and drive along this all the way to Johnston’s Canyon (18.1km) or else take the Trans-Canada all the way to Castle Mountain Junction and driving back 5.5km.

I’ve done this 15 people have done this
I want to do this 28 want to do this route


When to do

May through early October

Backcountry Campsites

Larry's Camp



Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back

Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots
Elevation Graph

Route Description for Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots hike

Get here early to avoid the crowds and enjoy your time ascending Johnston’s Canyon. Begin your hike by heading upwards on the broad path through the Canyon. As you get deeper, the views are constantly changing. You’ll soon have to start using catwalks that are fixed to limestone cliffs, which allow you to penetrate this canyon, as there is no space for a trail.

The trail approaches the Lower Canyon Falls (1.2km, 30m elevation gain), where you can walk through a tunnel to get an even closer look at the beautiful cascading water.

Continuing from here, there is another 1.2km and 90m of elevation to the Upper Canyon Falls. When you arrive, climb out of the forest and the lower canyon. One viewing area is accessible by a catwalk looking out on the bottom of the falls, while another requires taking a steep trail to a platform overhanging the gorge and looking down on the falls.

From the Upper Canyon Falls, continue on to the Ink Pots, which are mineral springs that bubble up in a meadow surrounded by nearby peaks. This route is a broad path that cuts through the forest. To get to the Ink Pots, head west from the Upper Canyon Falls on a path that links up with the ascent route from Moose Meadows after 5 minutes.

At this junction, go right on a path for approximately 2.5km. The path initially goes through the trees and then narrows before it reaches Johnston Creek Meadows. 0.5km after the meadows you reach the Ink Pots.

Once arriving at the Ink Pots, there are many great places to relax, eat a snack, and enjoy the scenery. Continue back down the way you came, making sure you don’t accidentally descend the Moose Meadows route – which leads to a different parking lot.

Note: On the map you can see the route to ascend from Moose Meadows. This route is good to use if you don’t want to endure the craziness of going up and down Johnston Canyon. The distance is similar whichever way you go.

Insider Hints

  • You’ll be in a canyon for much of this hike, bring an extra layer of clothing as it can get chilly.

  • Do this very early or late, as this hike tends to be extremely busy.

  • You can bypass the crowds and hike from Moose Meadows to the Upper Falls and then back to Ink Pots.

  • The 1A highway has animals feeding very early in the morning, keep your eyes open for bears!


rosaline.oh 1 week ago

Paint Pots were such a marvel, that I didn't mind the crazy crowds. A lot of non-hikers end their hike at Upper Falls, and the space at the Paint Pots is very wide-- no need to worry about getting a spot for lunch. Yes, the crowd can be overwhelming, but just time your hike wisely and just be patient with others on the trail. This is one of the few accessible hikes for non-hikers or families and your physical mobility is a privilege, not something that entitles you exclusive access to the wilderness as some fit hikers on the trail seemed to think ;)

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
3h 00m Time Taken
Wyatt Thomas 4 months ago

I enjoyed hiking to the Ink Pots, it gets busy but just get there early!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
sammy 5 months ago

tell you what - if you overslept and still thinking it's worth going, forget it. I did just that and the number of walkers was like the zombie apocalypse.

7.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
3h 00m Time Taken
Gordie 5 months ago

I actually prefer hiking to the Paint Pots over Johnston Canyon in summer. Pretty views and not as busy.

8.0 Overall Rating
Physical Difficulty
3h 30m Time Taken

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