This was not my favourite day of our trip to Banff National Park. The morning started off rainy and cold so we waited for a break in weather in the afternoon to walk over from the campsite to Johnston Falls. Unfortunately, I think a lot of other people had the same idea that day.
The hike over from the Johnston Canyon campground was quick and easy, and I was happy to not have to deal with the hassle of parking in the overcrowded lot. If you are planning to do this hike, the host at the campground suggested going first thing in the day before the parking lot and trails fill up.
My husband had read that the trail was fairly stroller friendly, so we brought along the umbrella stroller for the kids. Although my pictures don’t quite show it, it was incredibly busy when we went that afternoon and the trails and pathways were a lot more narrow then I was expecting. For the most part, we had no issues pushing the stroller on the paths, but the crowds did make it difficult to navigate in a lot of spots.
I must say that the bridged walkways winding along the rockside and over top the river are truly quite impressive and I can see why these is such a popular tourist spot in Banff National Park.
With its series of waterfalls and blue glacial water, Johnston Canyon is incredibly beautiful, but I don’t really feel like I got to truly appreciate the sites because of how congested the narrow pathways were. I was more concerned about keeping the dogs and kids to our side of the path and felt like I had to keep everyone moving so that I wasn’t holding up other hikers on the trail.
The crowds really started to get to me, and between the dogs fighting their leashes, kids whining, and my too-long pants annoying me, I ended up having a bit of a meltdown. It was not my proudest moment. After taking a few minutes to regroup, roll up my pants, and take a water break, we continued on and were excited to finally reach the Lower Falls.
At the Lower Falls there was a fun little tunnel through the rocks to get a closer view of the falls. There was a bit of a line-up, but the kids were excited to make their way through the rock to look out. Their viewing was short lived, however, once they got to the front of the line and felt the cold spray coming off the falls.
We decided to continue on to the Upper Falls and were relieved to see the crowd congestion really cleared for the second portion of the hike. It also began raining a bit at that point, so I think that may have worked in our favour.
There was a lot to see and discover along the path to the Upper Falls and my mood definitely improved as I was able to relax and loosen up the leashes for everyone to explore.
The Upper Falls were quite spectacular and worth the extra hike. At the top, you reach a fork in the path which has the option to view the falls from the bottom, or head further up to view them from the top and then continue your trek to the inkpots. We viewed them from the bottom, and then opted to take a snack break and head back down.
The hike back down seemed a lot less busy, and we were able to take in a lot of the sights we missed on the way up thanks to letting our exhausted bully basset, Nova, set the pace. It doesn’t take much to tire her out, but she is a trooper and always happy to continue on slow and steady.
We all managed to make it back to the beginning without any further drama, thanks to a short stroller nap for my daughter and a promise of ice cream to my son.
Lucky for us there is a great little coffee stand at the beginning of the trail that we knew we would be able to get ice cream cones at. The owner of the coffee stand was even kind enough to let us buy the ice cream cones on credit so the kids could enjoy them as my husband ran back to the campsite for his wallet and the vehicle. It was a short walk back to the campground, but the kids, dog and I were all very appreciative of the ride back.
I doubt we will tackle this hike again, simply because it is such a popular and overcrowded sight. If you are staying at the Johnston Canyon campground, I think it would work well to have an early dinner and head for the hike in the early evening when there are hopefully less people and still plenty of hours of summer daylight. We had a late day in Jasper National Park the next day and were happy to discover that some of the really popular attractions were already quite deserted by the time we got to them in the evening.