Ink Pots - Banff National Park - Hiking Alberta

 

Johnston Canyon is a very popular hike in Banff National Park, Alberta, Calgary.

 

 

The well-established trail-head for Johnston Canyon is about 6.5 KM (4.0 miles) south of Castle Junction on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  This spectacular hike is very popular for many reasons and, on this weekend day, the large parking area is predictably crowded.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada At the Johnston Canyon Trailhead in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Nicole and Pinky the flamingo visit with Bear on the hike to the Ink Pots through Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Metal walkways anchored to canyon walls provide incredible views through the narrow Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The 5.9 KM (3¾ mile one-way) hike to the Ink Pots passes the spectacular Lower Falls and Upper Falls.  The trail-head begins shortly after crossing the wooden bridge over Johnston Creek near the Johnston Canyon Resort.   Elevation gain is 335 m (1,100 ft) to a maximum elevation of 1,760 m (5,775 ft) followed by an elevation loss of 115 m (375 ft) to the Ink Pots.  For those doing the math, gross elevation is 450 m (1,476 ft) and total trip distance is 11.8 KM (7⅜ miles). 

Gravel trail and sturdy, anchored, metal decking allow hikers to navigate the narrow canyon past cascading waterfalls and lush, spectacular scenery.  The distance to Lower Falls is about 1.2 KM (¾ miles).  During winter, hiking Johnston Canyon requires the use of hiking crampons to navigate icy trail.  The distance to the top viewpoint for Upper Falls is about 1.5 KM (1.0 miles) past Lower Falls.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Hiking through Johnston Canyon on the way to Lower Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Multiple small cascading waterfalls echo in narrow Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Arrival at the bridge over Johnston Creek near the base of Lower Falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

There is a plethora of interpretive signing along the way to the Lower Falls which assists in understanding the history of the area, the names of water and forest features and the ability to identify little critters and birds which frequent the area.

The metal bridge over Johnston Creek leads to a damp, person-made tunnel through rock to a spectacular, wet lookout directly onto the face of the roaring waterfall.  Negative ionization is in abundance. Lumber debris is excessive from recent flooding and has accumulated everywhere there is opportunity for log jams.  The overall view of Lower Falls is best enjoyed from above on the trail continuing past the brink to the Upper Falls.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The view to Lower Falls from the viewpoint on the falls side of the tunnel in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The view of Lower Falls from the top on the trail to Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Looking down on Lower Falls from the Johnston Creek Trail continuing to Upper Falls and the Ink Pots.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The brink at the top of Lower Falls adjacent to the Johnston Canyon Trail in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Good trail between Lower Falls and Upper Falls reveals many features of incredible beauty as the cascading white water of Johnston Creek has eroded rock over many millenniums.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The weeping walls near Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon are uniquely stunning in multiple colors of stone and microbial growth and make the area a popular haunt for ice climbers in the winter months.  The Upper Falls is higher than the Lower Falls and equally spectacular. Bypassing the crowded viewing ramp at the bottom of the waterfall provides quicker opportunity to climb the trail which continues above and beyond Upper Falls to the Ink Pots.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Upper Falls, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Upper Falls, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The top of Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Another cascading waterfall near the top of the Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Cloud cover is accumulating as the hike proceeds on constant uphill grade through pretty and aromatic but unassuming forest.  After a lengthy uphill jaunt, with scenic twists and turns, the short descent from the crest of the shallow ridge opens into spectacular views across the valley to 2,908 m (9,541 ft) Mount Ishbel on the far side of Johnston Creek for imminent arrival at the level valley floor and the Ink Pots.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Typical trail between Upper Falls and Ink Pots above Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The descent into the valley which contains the Ink Pots adjacent to Johnston Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The view on approach to the Ink Pots past Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Approaching the Ink Pots near Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The Ink Pots are a beautiful array of crystal-clear, aquamarine, still ponds fed by an unknown source of underground spring water which bubbles through mud at the bottom of the ponds.  Rustic, wooden bridges and barricades help to link and protect these natural treasures.  Multiple benches provide the opportunity to relax and enjoy the view.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The Ink Pots are a truly beautiful and serene place.  Most people who visit Johnston Canyon limit the experience to Upper and Lower Falls.  There is quite a crowd at the Ink Pots on this day but the broad expanse of terrain surrounding the Ink Pots has swallowed up the legions who have sought out their private piece of landscape to enjoy lunch and views of surrounding mountains.  Many backpacking routes originate from this location.  They include the extension of the Johnston Creek Trail and the Mystic Lake Trail.  Recent floods have washed away all the substantial bridges over Johnston Creek so fording the river at shallow, less turbulent locations is the current alternative until the bridges are restored in the future.  Lunch is enjoyed at a bench central to the Ink Pots.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The Ink Pots past Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Pinky the Flamingo admires one of the Ink Pots near Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Reflections in the Ink Pots past Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Nicole ponders the meaning of life beside one of the Ink Pots past Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Spring-fed water bubbles through mud at the bottom of an Ink Pot near Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Water cascades through colorful moss and bacterial mats from the higher ponds to the lower ponds prior to forming a small stream feeding Johnston Creek.  As the temperature dips a bit and darkening clouds deliver a short-lived sprinkle, the motivation is to pack up, layer up and employ umbrellas for the beginning of the return hike.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Water cascades from one Ink Pot to another near Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Ink Pot past Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Water from the Ink Pots forms a stream which feeds Johnston Creek in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Fickle weather restores clear skies and the hike back to Upper Falls proceeds at a leisurely pace.  Photos are captured of Upper Falls from the debris-clogged viewpoint near the bottom of the impressive waterfall.

 

Ink Pots, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A view of Upper Falls from the debris ensconced viewing platform near the base of the falls in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The Johnston Canyon hike to the Ink Pots is always a special day and this hike is no exception.

  

Photographs are taken on July 22, 2013.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Excellent review of this popular summer trail. Especially noticed some of the new logjams from this years flooding. Great work!

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