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How to Get from Banff to Johnston Canyon

How to Get from Banff to Johnston Canyon

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Banff is an explorer’s dream, with so many incredible things to do around every corner! Whenever I find myself back in this popular resort town, one of the first places I make a point of visiting is Johnston Canyon, a beautiful hike in the Banff area in all seasons that’s about a 30-minute drive from town.

Driving to the canyon can be a great way to enjoy the local surroundings (and we’ll get to that later), but there are also plenty of other ways of getting there too. From stretching those legs on a cycling trip to joining a knowledgeable tour guide, part of the beauty of this location lies in just how accessible it is.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at all the ways you can get from Banff to Johnston Canyon, as well as giving an insider look into what makes Johnston Canyon so special.

So buckle up and put on those hiking shoes – it’s time to get started!

About Johnston Canyon

Upper Johnston Canyon Waterfall
Upper Johnston Canyon Waterfall in summer
Bailey touches a frozen ice wall in Johnston Canyon
Visiting in winter is super fun!

Johnston Canyon is one of the best places to see in Alberta. It’s made up of a 5 km (3 mile) hike through some pretty diverse scenery. There’s a lush forest at the beginning that then makes way to the dramatic river-carved canyon, with some equally impressive waterfalls!

The two big waterfalls are definitely the main attractions of the canyon, so if you want to see these in action make sure to visit during spring or summer in Banff. Although frozen waterfalls are pretty epic in the winter!

First, there’s the Lower Falls, which is about 1.2 km (0.7 miles) to walk to. Then there’s the stunning Upper Falls, which is an impressive 98 feet (30 meters) in height and you can either view it from the bottom or climb to the top! To get to the top, you’ll need to hike an additional 1.3 km (0.8 miles).

There aren’t too many amenities to be found at Johnston Canyon, although there are benches dotted along the trail as well as a heated bathroom in the main parking lot. As there are no washrooms along the route, be sure to use them before you start the hike.

Right next to the main entrance, you’ll also find a café and a bistro where you can grab a drink and some tasty snacks.

Related Read: Looking for other things to do while you’re in the area? Here are our favorite ways to spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Banff.

Where is Johnston Canyon?

Bow Valley Parkway road in winter covered in snow
The road in winter!

Just west of Banff, you’ll find the Bow Valley Parkway, a gorgeous 48 km (30 miles) stretch of road that runs parallel to the Trans Canada Highway. This road leads from Banff to Lake Louise and was the original way to get between the two places before the main highway was built in the 1960s.

To get to Johnston Canyon, you’ll need to head about halfway up the parkway – trust me when I say that the views along the way are nothing short of jaw-dropping!

Johnston Canyon is located 25 km (15.5 miles) northwest of Banff, which is around a 30-minute drive up the Bow Valley Parkway. While you may also be tempted to follow the Trans Canada Highway, the quickest route from Banff is through the parkway.

Note: To access the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll need a Park Pass, the same one needed for visiting Banff National Park.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
  • Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Bow Valley Parkway Closure to Cars

a map showing the season road closure on the Bow Valley Parkway
This map shows the section of road that is closed to cars during certain times of the year.

Driving is one of the most scenic ways to experience the Bow Valley Parkway on your way to Johnston Canyon. However, parts of the Parkway do experience temporary road closures throughout certain times of the year to help protect the local wildlife. The most heavily affected area is the eastern part of the parkway, which is where you will be traveling through if heading here from Banff.

The eastern section of the road between Banff and Johnston Canyon will be closed to all traffic (including cyclists) from March 1 to April 30 for the evening and overnight hours of 8 pm to 8 am. Then from May 1 to June 25, the road is completely closed to vehicles 24/7 but remains open for cyclists – except during those same overnight hours.

From Sept 1 – Sept 30, the same eastern section of Bow Valley Parkway is closed to vehicles. Again, this is to protect the wildlife corridor. However, no restrictions apply to cyclists.

If you are traveling within this timeframe, then you can still reach the canyon! Although it may take you an extra 10 minutes (so 40 minutes in total) this route will take you along the main highway before you turn off onto Bow Valley Parkway and backtrack slightly.

You can also take a look at the official website for the latest information on road closures.

Getting to Johnston Canyon from Banff

a view of the outside of a Roam Transit bus in Banff National Park with mountains in the background
A Roam bus in Banff National Park

Driving yourself

This is our favorite way of experiencing the route from Banff to Johnston Canyon, with plenty of epic viewpoints where you can stop off on the way! While it is possible to take the Trans Canada Highway from Banff to Johnston Canyon, we highly recommend opting for the Bow Valley Parkway route instead.

Not only is the Bow Valley Parkway route a 30-minute drive instead of a 40-minute one, but it’s hard to truly appreciate the scenery when you’re whizzing past on the highway.

A tip from us though, do be aware that road conditions on the parkway can be difficult during the wintertime. The road isn’t as regularly plowed as the highway during winter in Banff, making the drive a bit trickier to handle. If you do decide to opt to drive, then make sure to bring chains for your wheels and keep your speed low.

In our opinion, it’s best to opt for a bus tour in Banff or an alternative form of transport during the winter, as this will free you from the hassle of having to drive in these difficult conditions. You can then spend that extra time enjoying the beauty of the scenery around you!

Related Read: If you’re planning a road trip, Johnston Canyon is a great stop on the drive between Jasper and Banff!

Bike ride

Bikes are super popular along the Bow Valley Parkway, with many people making the trip from Banff to Johnston Canyon on two wheels every year! It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cycle at a good pace, although it’s a good idea to take breaks along the way and admire the beautiful scenery all around you.

In total, biking to the canyon is around 26 km (16 miles) each way for a return trip of 52 km (32 miles). If you don’t fancy biking the entire way from Banff, there are also plenty of spots along the route to park your car and continue by bike.

There are also lots of bike racks at the main entrance to Johnston Canyon in the P1 parking lot too. Locks aren’t provided though, so be sure to bring your own along with you. We’ve never had any problems with our bikes or helmets going missing, but it’s worth securing them just to be on the safe side.

If you fancy exploring the parkway route to Johnston Canyon by bike but don’t happen to have one with you, then this guided e-bike and hike tour is a fantastic option!


Another great option for getting to Johnston Canyon from Banff is taking the bus. To get to the canyon, you’ll want to take the #9 Roam Bus, which costs $5 CAD one way for adults and $2.50 CAD for seniors and youths aged 13-18. Kids 12 and under can also ride all Roam buses for free!

The bus leaves from either the Banff Train Station or the Banff High School Transit Hub, so be sure to double-check the schedule beforehand.

Between May and mid-October, Route #9 to Johnston Lake runs hourly from 9 am to 6 pm. For the rest of the year, service runs on weekends and holidays only (except for Christmas Day).


Taking a tour is a fantastic way of getting to know Johnston Canyon and the surrounding area. As you explore, your knowledgeable guides can tell you everything you’d want to know about the area, as well as show you some of the most scenic spots you can visit. It’s easy to see why visiting Johnston Canyon is one of the absolute best tours in Banff!

The BEST Tours from Banff to Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon in the winter
Johnston Canyon is such a neat place to explore in the winter.

You can take all the hassle out of getting to Johnston Canyon by taking a tour! All the tours we have mentioned below pick you up in Banff before taking you to Johnston Canyon. There are some great winter options as well as a hop-on hop-off bus tour that runs throughout the year.

Johnston Canyon icewalk

If you want to visit Johnston Canyon during the winter, then taking a tour is a great way to experience its beauty and avoid having to navigate difficult road conditions along the Bow Valley Parkway 

This 4-hour tour takes you on an exciting icewalk along the edge of the famous Johnston Canyon to see its stunning frozen waterfalls, as you learn all about the natural history of the area. The hike is 5.4 km (3.4 miles) long with 135 meters (442 feet) of elevation gain, so you don’t need to be a pro athlete to take part, but you should have a decent level of fitness. 

We really like that this is a small group experience with a maximum of 12 participants, so you won’t need to worry about it being too crowded, or getting left behind. Your ice cleats and hiking poles are included in the price, and you’ll also get to warm up with a hot chocolate and a snack afterward.

Our tour guide, Erin, was super knowledgeable about the area – you can instantly see the passion that the tour guides have for the area.

Pickup is at the public bus parking located behind the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff. At $95 CAD per person, we definitely think it’s worth it. The smaller group size and plentiful photo opportunities make for a very fun tour! You can book your spot here through Viator.

Johnston Canyon evening icewalk

You can add an extra layer of adventure to your Johnston Canyon Icewalk by taking a magical nighttime tour. Your professional guide will make sure that you stay safe and don’t get lost along the way, leaving you free to admire the frozen waterfalls and ice features that shimmer under the moonlight.

Obviously, it gets pretty chilly at night, so we recommend that you wrap up, but you’ll warm up with hot chocolate and maple cookies along the way.

With a maximum of 12 people per tour, you’ll be provided with headlamps (which you get to keep at the end of the tour) that will light the way as you explore. Along the way, you’ll hear stories about the area from your guide, helping you to get fully immersed in the beauty and history of the area.

This tour costs $95 CAD per person, so it’s the same price as the daytime version, and you’ll drive along part of the Bow Valley Parkway to get there even though the experience focuses solely on the canyon itself. You can book this scenic tour online here.

Hop-on hop-off bus tour

We love this hop-on hop-off bus tour in Banff because it gives you a chance to explore some of the best destinations in the Rockies at your own pace, without having to worry about arranging transportation.

Johnston Canyon is on the route and easily one of the top spots! The bus goes between Banff, Lake Louise and the Lake Louise Gondola, Moraine Lake, Samson Mall, and of course Johnston Canyon. You can easily customize the itinerary if you just want to visit Johnston Canyon or see some of the other top sights in the area.

A single-day ticket is $80 CAD for adults or $65 CAD for children, and under 5s go for free. There are 48 seats on each bus, so you can travel solo, with friends, or as a family – it’s suitable for pretty much everyone.

If you’re looking for a convenient and flexible way to get from Banff to Johnston Canyon, definitely book a hop-on hop-off bus ticket online before you go.

Johnston Canyon winter hike and Bow Valley Parkway adventure tour

We love this small group tour which combines a beautiful hike along Johnston Canyon with a tailored tour of the Bow Valley Parkway. 

You can choose just how far you would like to go on the hike, you can simply explore the easier trail to the Lower Falls or extend your journey by continuing along the steeper path to the Upper Falls. Plus, the itinerary for your drive back along the Bow Valley Parkway will be carefully crafted on the day to take weather, big tour schedules, and wildlife sightings into account, ensuring you have the best possible experience.

We’re not fans of big group tours that make you spend more time peering through the windows of a crowded bus than exploring outside. This is why this customizable tour (with a maximum of 10 people) is perfect if you want to make the most of all the natural beauty that the Bow Valley Parkway has to offer.

You can also bring along a water bottle for free refills of filtered mountain water – how refreshing!

The tour costs $95 CAD per person including safety equipment and hot drinks, so we also think it offers great value for money. You can book your spot on this tailored tour here.

Related Read: While tours are a fun addtion to your trip, there are also plenty of awesome things you can do in Banff for free!

Other Things to do While You’re in Banff

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake!

Once you’ve arrived in this part of Alberta, there are so many things to do in Banff! But with so much to choose from, it might feel overwhelming. So below, I’ve picked some of my favorite activities in the area.

  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
  • Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see more stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
  • Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.

Where to Stay in Banff

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, in front of the Fairmont.

Where you stay is one of the most important parts of your trip and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend for a variety of budgets!

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

Samesun Banff is a great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. A bed here starts at $89 CAD per night and can be booked on either or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar.

With rooms starting from $255 CAD per night, you should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town.

Rooms here start from $132 CAD per night. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap, but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff.

If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon, then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection. I suggest booking a place ASAP! Using is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation, so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!

If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)

It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is memorizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at Lake Louise in Fall
Thanks for reading!

We hope this post has you pumped up about your visit to Johnston Canyon – it’s one of our favorite places in Banff to return to! There are plenty of ways to get from Banff to Johnston Canyon, so hopefully, this has helped you plan your route! If you love getting out and exploring nature as much as us, a trip here really is special.

If you have the time, we also highly recommend you make the trip to Lake Louise, a small mountain village with unmatched natural beauty. Be sure to check out our other Banff blogs as well.

15 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Banff

The Four Banff Gondolas – Our Comparison After Riding Them All!

20 Fun Things to do in Banff When it Rains