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8 BEST Johnston Canyon Tours from Banff (2024 Reviews and Guide!)

8 BEST Johnston Canyon Tours from Banff (2024 Reviews and Guide!)

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Once you visit Johnston Canyon, you’ll see why it’s one of the best places to see in all of Alberta! Walking through the amazing canyons towards towering waterfalls is something that needs to be on everyone’s Banff itinerary.

Having lived near Banff, I have visited Johnston Canyon countless times but I just keep coming back again and again to witness the beauty of this area. In fact, I even wrote an entire post about everything you need to know before visiting!

Johnston Canyon is beautiful at any time of year, with both summer and winter offering different experiences. With so many tours from Banff to choose from, we’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed down the absolute BEST Johnston Canyon tours for both seasons so that you can experience this magical place for yourself!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Visiting Johnston Canyon is a must no matter what time of year you’re in Banff! During the summer, we recommend this eBike and hike tour. It gets you out in nature on a scenic bike trail before hiking up to the majestic waterfalls. In the winter, there’s nothing better than the Johnston Canyon Icewalk, where you get to marvel at the frozen canyon and maybe even spot some ice climbers!

About Johnston Canyon

Bailey looks down at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Upper Falls is amazing!
Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The lower falls!

Johnston Canyon is a 5 km (3 mile) hike starting in a lush forest before taking you along the edge of the canyon with views over the river. And the best part? You get to see some seriously impressive waterfalls!

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). Although this is one of the easiest hikes in Banff, you will need a moderate level of fitness to get all the way to the top of Upper Falls.

Visiting in summer means you’ll see the powerful waterfalls in action with water rushing through the canyon below. If you’re visiting Banff during Christmas or anytime in the winter, the water is frozen creating large walls of ice along the canyon making this the ultimate Winter Wonderland!

Doing a tour from Banff is a great way to get to Johnston Canyon. You’ll learn all about the area from your guide and won’t have to worry about any annoying logistics (such as parking!) – you just get to relax and enjoy a stress-free day in nature! Plus, a lot of tours also visit other highlights in Banff National Park, allowing you to really make the most out of your time there.

The BEST Summer Tours from Banff to Johnston Canyon

1. eBike and Hike Banff to Johnston Canyon

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the upper falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Selfie with the upper falls!

This half-day eBike and hike experience is for active nature lovers who want to enjoy the scenery on the way to Johnston Canyon by riding an eBike!

Starting in Banff, you’ll head along the gorgeous Bow Valley Parkway towards Johnston Canyon where you will do a hike to the falls before taking a shuttle back to Banff. If you’re concerned about being able to pedal that whole way, don’t be! E-bikes do a lot of the heavy lifting, so you can just leisurely cruise along and enjoy the views.

We had so much fun on this tour! Our guide, Jen, really knew her stuff and shared all of her knowledge with us. You can choose to do this tour in the morning or the afternoon, but we recommend the morning before it gets too hot out!

Tickets for this tour cost $179 CAD per person and there’s a free 24-hour cancellation policy, so if the weather isn’t looking so great, you can just reschedule.

2. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (year-round)

Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
People walk along the boardwalk at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Walking along the boardwalk!

If you are looking for a tour that allows you to have the flexibility to do what you want, where you want then this hop-on hop-off bus tour is for you! It allows you to visit some of the best destinations Banff has to offer without worrying about arranging transportation.

The bus travels between Banff Town, Lake Lousie Lakeshore, the Lake Louise Gondola, Moraine Lake, Samson Mall, and of course Johnston Canyon! This allows you to tick off some major highlights all in one day! The best part is that you’re in control, you can pick and choose where you want to visit and for how long. There is also a knowledgeable guide on board to help you along the way!

Tickets are $85 CAD per adult and 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. We think it’s the best choice for a convenient and flexible tour from Banff to Johnston Canyon.

3. Classic Banff day tour – Banff, Bow Falls, Johnston Canyon

Scenic view of Banff National Park as seen from the Banff Gondola
The view from the Banff Gondola!
Waterfall at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
So beautiful!

This truly is a “classic Banff” tour, because you’re hitting the ultimate Banff sights. This full-day tour makes your transport seamless as you explore Banff Town, Johnston Canyon, and other scenic areas.

Your first stop is at Sulphur Mountain to ride the Banff Gondola and get unmatched views from the mountaintop. You’ll then visit the Hoodoos Trail, Bow Falls, and Surprise Corner before stopping at the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for lunch (at an extra cost).

The afternoon is spent at Johnston Canyon for an hour of hiking and exploring before heading back to Banff Town. Please note that you must purchase Banff Gondola tickets separately as they aren’t included. The tour price is $178 CAD and it runs from May to October.

Related Read: Another one of our favorite things to do in Banff in the summer is a white-water rafting tour!

4. Full-day Private Tour of Banff National Park

Bailey at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Don’t forget to bring your camera!

If you want to create your own custom itinerary in Banff, then this private full-day tour is for you! Although I love group tours and meeting other people, there is something so nice about having your own dedicated guide, and not having to follow a set schedule.

This tour will pick you up from your Banff hotel in the morning to start your day of exploring. You can work out all of the details of your itinerary in advance, or follow the tour’s general itinerary which recommends visiting Lake Louise first thing (before it gets too busy!). Next, you can head to Johnston Canyon and spend as long as you’d like there without feeling rushed.

This private tour can accommodate 5 to 6 travelers per group. It provides transportation and your guide, but any meals or extra expenses are on your own. The tour price varies widely depending on what time of year you visit and how many people are in your group.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

The BEST Winter Tours from Banff to Johnston Canyon

5. Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Snow covers the pathway to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park in winter
Johnston Canyon is such a magical place to visit in the winter!

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, so you don’t need to be a pro athlete, 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. This tour runs daily from November to April and costs only $101 CAD per person – we definitely think it’s worth it. The smaller group size and plentiful photo opportunities make for a very fun tour!

6. Johnston Canyon Evening Icewalk

Johnston Canyon lower waterfall in winter
Johnston Canyon lower waterfall in winter
Snow covered boardwalk in Johnston Canyon, Banff NP
The snow makes it more beautiful!

If you want to experience Johnston Canyon in a unique way, consider doing this magical nighttime tour. It’s basically the same experience as above, with an added adventure – it’s done in the dark! This allows you to appreciate the snow-covered trees and ice glistening in the moonlight as you’re led by your professional guide. Plus, going in the evening means you’ll avoid the crowds of people who visit during the daytime!

You’ll be provided with ice cleats, a hiking pole, and a headlamp so you can better observe your surroundings and where you step. Plus, you get to keep it at the end of the tour! Along the way you’ll learn about the area and at the end, you’ll get a nice warm hot chocolate and maple cookie to warm you up.

Make sure to dress warm! It can get very cold at night in the mountains during winter. But booking with Viator means if the temperatures ever get too cold they will cancel the tour for a full refund or rebook in order to keep you safe.

This small-group tour lasts about 2.5 hours and costs around $101 CAD per person. We think this is a great experience for adventurous travelers who want to immerse themselves in nature.

7. Lake Louise and Banff Full-day Tour

Skating at Lake Louise in Banff
Lake Louise in winter!

With so many incredible areas to explore, taking this full-day guided tour is the best way to see not only Johnston Canyon but Banff’s other highlights. You’ll want to have your camera ready for this one because you’ll visit some of the most Instagrammable places in Banff!

The day starts by heading to Lake Louise – one of the most beautiful lakes in the world! During the winter the lake is frozen, but it’s still quite the spectacle with the snow-covered mountains in the background.

After an hour exploring Lake Louise, you will make your way to Johnston Canyon. Your guide will provide you with shoe crampons to walk on the ice and lead the way as you learn all about the creation of this canyon.

The tour will take you to many other stops on this full-day tour, including Bow Falls and downtown Banff, where you can grab a bite at one of the great coffee shops. This will be a jam-packed day of sightseeing, but if you’re pressed for time or simply want the luxury of a guided tour, this is a fantastic way to see it all.

Please note: This tour does run year-round, but Johnston Canyon is only included during the colder months from October to June. During the summer it visits Moraine Lake instead of Johnston Canyon.

This small group tour includes pick-up, transportation, and your wonderful guide. Meals aren’t included but you’ll have time to explore Banff town and grab a bite to eat.

8. Johnston Canyon Winter Hike and Bow Valley Parkway Adventure Tour

ice climbing near Canmore, Alberta
People frequently ice climb in the canyon during the winter months!

We love this half-day tour which combines a beautiful hike along Johnston Canyon with a tailored tour of the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. 

With 2 whole hours at Johnston Canyon, you can choose how far you would like to go on the hike. You can either just do the easier trail to the Lower Falls or extend your journey by continuing along the steeper path to the Upper Falls. Next, you’ll drive through the Bow Valley Parkway while making photo stops at local hidden gems along the way. Your tour ends by warming up around a fire with a hot drink in hand – doesn’t that sound cozy?

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 small-group tour (with a maximum of 13 people) is perfect if you want to make the most of all the natural beauty that the Bow Valley Parkway has to offer.

The tour costs $100 CAD per person including safety equipment and hot drinks, so we also think it offers great value for money. You can also bring along a water bottle for free refills of filtered mountain water – how refreshing!

Related Read: Exploring all of these amazing places can really add up. Check out these awesome things you can do in Banff for free to help stay on budget!

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 the most 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.

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!

Fairmont Banff Springs – $$$

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

If you’re celebrating something special, such as a honeymoon, then this should be the hotel you choose! A one-night stay starts at around $744 CAD, and you can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Banff Inn -$$

The Banff Inn is a great midrange hotel that combines comfort with an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. I love staying here as not only is the hotel located right on Banff Ave, but all rooms are air-conditioned, and the staff is so friendly! In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar.

Rooms here at the Banff Inn start at around $266 CAD per night, and I highly recommend booking well in advance, as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – $$

Another fantastic midrange hotel is Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, which has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It’s the perfect place for families, since they also have two and three-bedroom units to pick from.

The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is located in a peaceful spot on Tunnel Mountain that’s only a 5-minute drive from Banff town! With rooms starting at around $143 CAD, you can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Samesun Banff Hostel – $

Samesun Banff Hostel 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. Their common real is ideal for meeting like-minded travelers, and they also have an on-site restaurant where you can grab a meal before your wildlife tour!

As this is a backpacker place, you won’t find any private rooms available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great stay here. Dorms start from $53 CAD in the low season, but this does rise come summer! That’s why it’s a great idea to check your dates ahead of time, and to book your space on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

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 Booking.com 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!

Renting a Car in Alberta

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

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 DiscoverCars.com. 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. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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 you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable! Check out my review of Motorhome Republic here for tips before you book.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
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! If you love getting out and exploring nature as much as us, you’ll love taking a tour here.

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, such as:

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