Hiking Johnston Canyon with Kids

Nestled just a short drive from the Town of Banff, Johnston Canyon offers a fun escape into nature where kids will love looking down over the elevated catwalks along the rushing creek and numerous waterfalls. This hike is a perfect blend of enjoyable, yet easy trails and breathtaking scenery that everyone will enjoy!

Johnston Canyon might be the most popular, easy hike in Banff National Park but it’s one that my kids will agree to go on every time I ask! As local parents who’ve hiked Johnston Canyon with kids many, many times, we’re excited to share our insider tips to help you make the most of this family-friendly hike.

Two Kids Hiking Johnston Canyon Trail

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Johnston Canyon Hike Stats

Distance: Lower Falls 2.4 km / 1.5 miles return. Upper Falls 5.0 km / 3.1 miles return.

Elevation Gain: Lower Falls 30 m / 98 ft. Upper Falls 120 m / 394 ft.

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours total to Upper Falls.

The Johnston Canyon trailhead is in the main (P1) parking lot. You’ll see a large wooden sign with “Johnston Canyon” carved into it. Go under the sign, across the bridge and the trail begins on your right.

Johnston Canyon Trailhead

How to Get to Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is found along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) in Banff National Park. It’s an easy drive along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) to access the Bow Valley Parkway.

The Bow Valley Parkway can be accessed from 3 locations. The first exit is just 6 kilometres past the town of Banff. The second exit (referred to as Castle Junction) is another 23 km along the Trans-Canada Highway at Highway 93S (making a right turn at the exit). The third exit is found by turning right towards Whitehorn Rd at Lake Louise.

Local Tip

The eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway is closed to vehicles from May to June 25 and September 1 to 30 each year for a cycling pilot project (with 2024 being the final year of the project). Access Johnston Canyon from Castle Junction.

Two Kids looking over at Johnston Creek

Getting to Johnston Canyon Without a Car

Without a car, take Roam Route 9 from Banff to Johnston Canyon. This route runs every day from mid-May to mid-October. Check the schedule for winter hours, when this route typically only runs on weekends.

The Hop On Banff Bus also makes a stop at Johnson Canyon, so you could pair it up with a visit to Lake Louise Ski Resort, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Just make sure you’d have enough time to complete the hike with kids.

Roam Bus from Banff to Johnston Canyon

Cycling the Bow Valley Parkway

You can cycle the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Johnston Canyon when the eastern section of the road is closed to vehicles. It can be a long ride for kids to add on to a hike, but it should be doable with older kids  (or toddlers in a chariot/trailer)!

All together it’s around 48 km to bike from Banff train station to Johnston Canyon and back.

Cycling the Bow Valley Parkway with Kids.

Parking Tips for Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon has two parking lots: the main lot (P1) and the second parking lot (P2). Parking is free at Johnston Canyon.

The parking lot at Johnston Canyon can fill up, especially on long weekends or during the peak summer season. You’ll get the most enjoyment by arriving early in the morning or late afternoon/early evening.

Waterfall along Johnston Canyon Trail
Banff Kids Activity Book Cover for Print


As locals and fellow family travelers, we understand the importance of keeping kids entertained in the car. That’s why we created this Banff Activity Book for Kids! Filled with Banff themed activities helping your kids learn about the area!

Johnston Canyon Trail Overview

Two Kids and father walking along Johnston Canyon

The hiking trail up through Johnston Canyon is well-maintained and perfect for families.

Starting in the Main parking lot, you’ll find toilets and a water station. Throughout the hike, you’ll find benches at regular intervals to give little legs a break.

Boy on Bench on Johnston Canyon hike

The hike through the lush forest, along the canyon’s edge, is easy and fun on the sturdy steel catwalks.

Girl Running on Johnston Canyon Trail

Lower Falls

Bridge to Cave at Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

The hike to the Lower Falls is about 1.2 kilometers one way, with minimal elevation gain. This part of the Johnston Canyon hiking trail is the easiest. It can be done by all ages.

The best place to see the Lower Falls is through the rock tunnel at the far side of the bridge. Kids will love climbing through this cave to the viewing area. It’s close to the water so chances are they will get wet! Especially in June when the runoff is at it’s strongest!

Local Tip

Climbing through the cave to see the Lower Falls can get slippery when it’s wet. Kids may need some help getting through.

Johnston Canyon with toddler

There will be a line up to see the Lower Falls since the viewing area is so small, which is why we recommend going early!

Upper Falls

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Continuing past the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls will be an additional 1.3 kilometers one way, with some elevation gain. While there are some steeper parts on this section, most kids shouldn’t have an issue with it.

There are two different places to see the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon. A lower platform takes you to the bottom of the Upper Falls, the second viewing platform lets you look down on the Upper Falls.

It’s well worth it to see the Upper Falls from both perspectives. The lower platform is small and can get quite congested.

Using a Stroller at Johnston Canyon

While you could use a stroller with sturdy wheels along the path to the Lower Falls, since it’s mostly flat, it won’t be much use past that point. The trail to the Upper Falls has stairs and steeper sections that we don’t recommend using a stroller on.

hiking with a baby at Johnston Canyon

While jogging strollers are more capable on hikes, the catwalks are so busy and narrow that you would not be very popular.

We highly recommend leaving the stroller behind for this hike and using a baby carrier instead. Even for toddlers, a good toddler carrier or backpack carrier will be much easier.

If you don’t own a hiking backpack carrier, you can easily rent one in Banff.

Mother carrying toddler on Johnston Canyon Hike

Best Times to Visit Johnston Canyon with Kids

Johnston Canyon is one of those hikes that is not only stunning year-round, but each season offers a different experience.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in the summer is nice to enjoy the coolness of the canyon, but also the busiest. Spring at Johnston Canyon is impressive when the waterfalls are at their full strength.

hiking Johnston Canyon with toddler

Fall offers some fall foliage (mostly along the Bow Valley Parkway) and quieter times. Winter is another favourite time for hiking Johnston Canyon. Not only are there fewer visitors, but the frozen waterfalls are a must-see!

Two kids look at Frozen Waterfalls at Johnston Canyon

Local Tip

Regardless of season, if you are visiting early in the morning or later in the evening – the Bow Valley Parkway is a good place to spot wildlife so drive at the posted speed limit and make sure to look for elk, bears and sheep.

What to Bring for Johnston Canyon with Kids

Like any hike with kids, being prepared with warm clothes, snacks and good shoes helps make the day a success!

Water and Snacks: Pack plenty of snacks and water to keep the energy up.

Footwear: Sturdy shoes are well worth it, as the path can be wet and slippery, especially near the Lower Falls.

Weather-Appropriate Clothing: The weather in the mountains can change quickly, so dress in layers and bring rain gear just in case. In addition, being in the canyon and close to the creek, it will feel much cooler. Always bring an extra layer, especially if you take our advice and do this hike early in the morning.

Camera or Smartphone: You’ll want to capture the stunning scenery and your family’s happy moments.

Microspikes: If you are hiking Johnston Canyon in the winter, microspikes or ice cleats are a must. With how busy the trail is, it can get very busy. In fact, you’ll want microspikes or ice cleats in winter and right through to early May. It’s more difficult to find microspike rentals for kids, we recommend these from Amazon. We’ve been using them for years and they work great!

Ice Trail at Johnston Canyon in Winter

Johnston Canyon Trail Safety

Banff National Park is bear country so it’s important to educate yourself by reading Safe Travel in Bear Country.

Do you need bear spray for the Johnston Canyon hike?

We have seen a bear along the Johnston Canyon trail, even on a busy Saturday. If you are hiking at Johnston Canyon (especially early in the morning or later in the day) you should carry bear spray and know how to use it.

Local Tip

Always check the Johnston Canyon Trail report before heading out.

Where to Stay Near Johnston Canyon

Kids walking at Johnston Canyon Bungalows

Staying near Johnston Canyon is great way to enjoy the trail when it’s less busy.

We’ve stayed at the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows, which is a fun experience for the whole family! There are 42 heritage bungalow/cabins nestled in the woods right at the trailhead.

Kids looking out Window at Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows

The location between Banff and Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway is quite nice too! The only issue is having to drive further for meals, if you don’t want to eat at the Blackswift Bistro or make your own meals.

Johnston Canyon Campground is also located along the Bow Valley Parkway, right across the highway from the trailhead. You can make reservations for the the Johnston Canyon campground starting in January every year.

Local Tip

Didn’t get the campsite you were hoping for? Set up a notification with Schnerp to watch for any cancellations!

Planning a family adventure in Banff National Park? Pin this ultimate guide to hiking Johnston Canyon with kids! Find tips on the trails, what to pack, and safety advice to ensure a fun and memorable experience for the whole family. Perfect for parents looking for an accessible and scenic outing in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
About the author

Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Banff with Kids. She has a passion for being out in the mountains with her kids any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find them hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, they enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skiing, skating and winter hiking.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other three travel sites: Travel Banff Canada, Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.

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