Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots

Difficulty
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Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
3-4h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
11.7 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
608 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

The snowshoe trail from Johnston Canyon to the Ink Pots takes adventurers through the incredible icy landscape of Johnston Canyon before leading into the quiet forest. The trail emerges into a subalpine meadow, where you will find the frozen ink pots.

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Route Description for Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots

Johnston Canyon can be dangerous in winter as it becomes entirely made up of ice. Your snowshoes are crucial here—some may bring spikes or crampons for the catwalk sections of the canyon before switching to snowshoes. Your snowshoes should give you enough traction unless the conditions are particularly icy. The first section of the trail through the canyon sees lots of tour groups and guided trips, so be aware that this will be quite busy. After the upper falls, you will be relieved of the crowds and welcomed with a quiet forest before reaching the Ink Pots.

Snowshoeing to the Ink Pots is an excellent way to extend your Johnston Canyon trip. Making your way to the Ink Pots will double your distance and show off what lies beyond the canyon.

From the parking lot, make your way to the bridge over Johnston Creek. The bridge is to the left of the washrooms. Take the trail to the right of the bridge and begin your journey into Johnston Canyon. Be sure to take some time to read all the interpretive signs along the way. This is a great learning opportunity for everyone in your party!

The catwalk is stunning in the winter as the icy creek lies below. The trail leads to the lower falls after 1.2 km, where you will find a bridge overlooking the frozen falls and pool below. Cross the bridge and enter the cave that will allow you to get a close-up view of the falls. Return to the main trail and continue another 1.4 km to the upper falls. The junction here leads right to the upper falls or left to the waterfall overlook and Ink Pots trail. Take the trail to the right, following a catwalk to the base of the massive frozen waterfall. Look out for ice climbers as this is a popular area!

Return to the junction and take the left trail up to the waterfall-overlook, where you can stand atop the falls looking below to Johnston Creek and the glistening ice walls that line the canyon. Return once more to the junction and begin your journey to the Ink Pots.

The trail gains elevation through the forest for 2.0 km before descending to the meadows. The descent is steep in some sections, so proceed with caution. Reach the meadows, and continue along the trail for 500 m before reaching the ink pots. Here, you will find some benches and trails that circumnavigate the small frozen pools. Enjoy the solitude of the subalpine meadows before returning the way you came.

You will gain elevation in the first kilometre before descending the rest of the way to the Johnston Canyon parking lot.

Insider Hints for Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots

  • Consider bringing microspikes or crampons in case conditions are more icy than usual
  • Stop into the Black Swift Café at the base of the canyon to warm up with some hot cocoa after your adventure
  • Drive the Bow Valley Parkway (1A) on your way home with hopes of spotting some wildlife!

Getting to the Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots Trailhead

To get to Johnston Canyon take the Trans-Canada Highway westbound from the Town of Banff. Travel 32.0 km to Castle Junction and take the exit to the right. Cross the bridge and turn right onto the Bow Valley Parkway. Find the Johnston Canyon parking lot on your left after 6.0 km.

Route Information

  • When to do

    November-April

  • Backcountry Campsites

    No

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots Elevation Graph

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