Johnston Canyon: Frozen Waterfalls Over Emerald Pools

February 14, 2020

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is one of the most popular hikes in Canada with thousands of visitors per year. My solo hike to the Lower and Upper Falls was 6 kms (4 miles) long with 120 meters (394 feet) elevation gain. Crampon hiking this trail in late winter resulted in a quiet, peaceful hike with clear views of the frozen waterfalls, emerald pools and rugged canyon walls.  

Much of the hike takes place on these elevated platforms supported off the rock walls. These allow for safe access deep into the canyon. 

In summer, water rushes below these platforms to the base of the rugged rock walls. In winter, water gurgles through gaps in the ice.

This trail can be extremely slick in winter making it crucial to wear high quality crampons to avoid slipping and falling.

The cave behind me has an excellent viewpoint of the top portion of the Lower Falls. 

The frozen ice of the top portion of the Lower Falls from within the cave. The ice was lightly dusted with fresh snow. 

The bottom section of the Lower Falls can be easily viewed from the walkway to the cave. Water rushes from under the top layer of ice into a pool of emerald water. 

Taking a break in front of the Lower Falls with the cave to my right. 

Beautiful emerald water from the Lower Falls. 

The Upper Falls as seen from the lower viewing platform. The ice on the sides of the waterfall looks like fingers grabbing onto the rock. 

The Upper Falls and its pool of emerald water as viewed from the upper walkway. 

The middle viewing platform gives you an eye level view of the large icicles cascading down the canyon walls. 

Climbers testing their mettle on the icy faces of the canyon walls as viewed from the upper walkway. Their tiny size gives a clear picture of how immense these icicles are. 

Since the Johnston Canyon hike is so short, I also brought along my cross-country skis and had a wonderful time exploring the well-groomed trails nearby and on frozen Lake Louise. While it blustered and snowed throughout the day, nothing could mar the peacefulness of the mountains or dim the beauty of the snow-clad trees.

For additional information about this hike, contact the Banff Visitor Centre or the Lake Louise Visitor Centre.

Photo Credit: Jolene Rempel and Friendly Tourists (thanks again!)

This post is part of the 2020 Mountain Adventures series.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own beautiful, small garden paradise. 

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

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