Roaring waterfalls are frozen in place along the Johnson Canyon Ice Walk, providing one of the most unique hikes in Banff National Park. Picture towering pillars of ice, rushing waterfalls frozen still, and walls of ice stretching in all directions.
The Upper and Lower falls are two major highlights. The Lower Falls are best viewed after ducking through a hand-carved cave, while the Upper Falls are completely surrounded by ice. Both waterfalls are still flowing; however, the water is hidden beneath shields of ice. It’s also common to see ice climbers practicing on the nearby walls.
The trek follows a series of steel catwalks suspended above the canyon, allowing spectacular views of every ice sculpture. In the summer, this is the busiest hike in the national park. In the winter, it’s practically deserted and it’s best to travel with a guide. They’ll speak about how the canyon was formed, wow the kids with hot chocolate and cookies, and bring the necessary equipment, like ice cleats and trekking poles. Just make sure to dress warm—hats, mitts, ski clothing, and winter boots.
The winter season runs December to April, and tours run three times daily, at 8:30am, 1:30pm, and 6:30pm. The latter tour is an abbreviated 2.5-hour version, which only reaches the Lower Falls. All other tours last four hours and take in the entire canyon.
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A wintery hike in Johnston Canyon
Take a 3 mile hike back into this beautiful canyon. The hike is gradual and worth the views of the frozen creek, waterfalls, and water ice throughout the journey.
The trail may require some Yak Tracks or warm boots in the winter for the trail gets snowy and/or icy. With walkways along the canyon, it proves for great views of the creek and the aqua blue water carving the canyon.
The two main waterfalls are the Lower and Upper. Once you arrive at the Lower Falls, head to the almost base through a "tunnel". Then gain a little elevation to get to the Upper Falls, which are taller than the Lower Falls.
This is a great hike to do in any season with the family and does not take long. Located between Banff and Lake Louise, it is a great day activity.