Getting from Banff to Johnston Canyon is a fairly simple task, and whether you are visiting Banff with or without a car, you can rest assured knowing you can get to the famous destination. Johnston Canyon is a year-round destination, and whether you are taking public transport or a tour, there are ways to get there: rain, shine, or snow.
The Roam Transit bus is the best way to get to Johnston Canyon via public transport, while many tour operators run exciting tours there in the summer and winter. If you want an active transport option, biking to Johnston Canyon is a great experience, and of course with ample parking, driving is also an option.
Let’s dig into all the best ways to get from Banff to Johnston Canyon.
All About Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon stands out as one of the most famous things to do in all of Banff. It’s a short family-friendly hike that can be completed in 2-3 hours. Johnson Canyon provides stunning views and brings visitors to not one but two jaw-dropping Banff waterfalls.
Embarking on a hike provides a visceral experience as the resounding echoes of rushing water resonate through the canyon, reverberating in your chest. Suspended walkways offer hikers an intimate encounter with the canyon, allowing for up-close exploration. Along the journey, picturesque views of mountains, cascading waterfalls, and even opportunities to spot wildlife enhance the experience.
Johnston Canyon is not just a summer hike though, oh no. In fact, I prefer visiting in the winter months, when the whole scene is covered in a blanket of white and the waterfalls are frozen solid.
Should You Visit Johnston Canyon?
It’s no secret that Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest places to visit in the Canadian Rockies. Head here on a beautiful Banff summer day between 9am and 5pm, and you may find yourself among hundreds of other visitors.
Given its ease of access, this isn’t all that surprising. Despite the crowds and hype, we still find Johnston Canyon a worthwhile place to visit. However, to get the best experience, we highly recommend visiting before 9am or after 5pm during the summer months. During the winter, the area sees far fewer visitors and provides a more peaceful escape into nature, however weekends and holidays can still be busy.
Where is Johnston Canyon?
You can find the exact location with Google Maps. Johnston Canyon is around 25 km from Downtown Banff and 33 km from Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway, which runs parallel to the Trans Canada. There are two ways to reach Johnston Canyon from Banff. The first is to take the TransCanada highway to exit AB-93N (Castle Junction) and turn right onto the Bow Valley Parkway.The Johnston Canyon parking lot is another 6.2 km from Castle Junction.
The other option is to hop on the Bow Valley Parkway (1A) right after Vermilion Lakes, and drive along the scenic road until you reach Johnston Canyon.
How to Get From Banff to Johnston Canyon
Drive to Johnston Canyon
If you are traveling Banff with your own vehicle, driving to Johnston Canyon may be the easiest option for you. To get from Downtown Banff to Johnston Canyon will take about 30 minutes (25km) on the Bow Valley Parkway. This is without making any stops along your drive. If driving the Trans Canada the drive may take a few minutes longer along the highway, and will have you covering 39km.
When you reach Johnston Canyon, you’ll find a large parking area. Although large, it does fill up on nice summer days.
We highly recommend opting for the Bow Valley Parkway option, as it’s one of the most scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies. Along the route, you’ll pass sights like Morant’s Curve, Castle Mountain Lookout, Storm Mountain Lookout, and Moose Meadows. It’s not only a more scenic option, but a faster one when driving from Banff to Johnston Canyon.
Roam Transit to Johnston Canyon
If you are visiting Banff without a car, that’s okay, as it is possible to take public transport to Johnston Canyon. Roam Transit operates a bus daily to the Canyon in the summer. Route 9 to Johnston Canyon will launch in mid-May and run until October. The route departs the downtown Banff High School Transit Hub and costs $5 one way. From here, the bus travels directly to Johnston Canyon via Highway 1 and Castle Junction.
This bus service will run 7 days a week in the summer from 9AM to 6PM. Johnston Canyon bus fares for 2024 are $5 for adults and $2.50 for Seniors/Youth and children under 12 travel free. Outside of the summer season, the bus route to Johnston Canyon is more limited.
The Route 9 bus operates throughout the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons on Saturday-Sunday and statutory holidays, except for Christmas Day. It’s best to check their website for more details. During summer in Banff, you can also get tickets on the Lake Louise Scenic Route 8S, which stops at Johnston Canyon before heading on to Lake Louise.
Tours to Johnston Canyon
There are multiple tour options that run to Johnston Canyon in both the summer and winter. Here are a few of our favorites!
This comprehensive one-day tour guarantees a small group setting, ensuring a personalized and familial atmosphere. Explore the iconic Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (in the summer), capturing the vivid blue waters and delving into the history of the area. If visiting Banff in the winter you can experience the unique thrill of ice walking in Johnston Canyon with provided microspikes, creating unforgettable memories. The tour covers all the must-see attractions in Banff National Park, including Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon, and the charming Banff town.
This is a full day tour that takes you to explore the Banff Gondola, with downtime on Banff Avenue, followed by a visit to Surprise Corner, Bow Falls, and Johnston Canyon.
If you want to cycle to Johnston Canyon but have no idea where to start then book this tour! This half-day tour combines the thrill of e-biking along scenic routes that will take you past Vermilion Lakes, Legacy Trail forests, and onto the Bow Valley Parkway, finishing at Johnston Canyon where you will hike to the falls.
If you are visiting Banff in the winter and don’t have your own car, this tour may be for you! You’ll be picked up in Banff to explore the winter magic of Banff’s Johnston Canyon on this guided ice walk tour. Traverse steel walkways to witness the stunning lower and upper waterfalls, which are frozen in time in the winter. This trip includes round-trip transportationnff from Downtown Ba, ice cleats, a hiking pole, and treats like a light snack and hot chocolate.
Bike to Johnston Canyon
The Bow Valley Parkway is a fantastic road to bike along and if you are up for a little cycle adventure, we recommend renting a bike (or bringing your own if you have one) and cycling to Johnston Canyon. You can easily bike from Downtown Banff, along the Legacy Trail, to access the start of the Bow Valley Parkway. Remember to bring a lock so you can lock your bike up while you hike to Johnston Canyon!
The bike ride from Vermilon Lakes to Johnston Canyon is about 25 km, and there are a few uphill sections, one which is a big grind. However once you get past the “big grind” of elevation gain, it’s all downhill to Johnston Canyon. Lock your bike up, and hike to the Upper Falls. Head back the same way for a truly epic bike and hike day.
If you can time your bike ride with the Parks Canada vehicle closure you’ll have an car free adventure. Yes, Parks Canada has approved a three-year pilot that restricts vehicles from May 1 to June 25 and from September 1-October 1 only along the eastern 17-kilometer section of the parkway to allow for vehicle-free cycling. It’s the perfect time to get on the bike and enjoy no vehicles on the road between Banff and Johnston Canyon.
**E-bikes are permitted on the Bow Valley Parkway and the Banff Legacy Trail, which can be used to access the Bow Valley Parkway from the Town of Banff.
Johnston Canyon Parking Facilities
You can expect a few “fancy” facilities at Johnston Canyon that you don’t find everywhere in the park. There is a heated washroom facility at the Johnston Canyon parking area. There are also flush toilets here. It’s best to utilize them as there is nowhere to step off the trail and quickly pee in the bushes on the Johnston Canyon trail, which is very busy with few points for privacy.
There is also a nice cafe and bistro with a gift shop and toilets at the start of the trailhead, but you should only use these facilities if you are a patron of the business.
For those who ride a bike to Johnston Canyon, it’s important to note that bike racks are at the main entrance and in the P1 parking lot. Make sure to bring a bike lock for your bike.
Hike to Johnston Canyon Waterfalls
Lower Falls Trail
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length 1.2 km one way
- Hiking time: 1 hour round trip
Upper Falls Trail
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length 2.5 km one way
- Elevation gain: 120 m
- Hiking time: 2-hour round trip
Bow Valley Parkway Road Restrictions
There are a few road restrictions to be aware of when driving from Banff to Johnston Canyon. They happen mainly in the summer, and if you don’t plan accordingly, it could extent your drive time.
Is the Bow Valley Parkway Open? Important Notice
From March 1st to June 25th and September 1 to October 2, 2023 travel is not permitted between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. from the Johnston Canyon Campground to the Fireside Picnic Area (17km). This restriction applies to all forms of travel (vehicle, walking, and biking). The restriction is to ensure a high quality home remains in place for the wildlife.
All businesses remain open during this time and can be accessed via Castle Junction. Although 2024 dates & exact rules are yet to be released, we can expect them to be similar.
In addition to the nighttime closure above, there is another closure to be aware of.
Parks Canada has approved a three-year pilot that restricts vehicles every day from 8am to 8pm from May 1 to June 25, 2023 and from September 1-October 2nd, 2023 only along the eastern 17-kilometer section of the parkway to allow for vehicle-free cycling. This closure is between the Fireside Day-use Area and Johnston Canyon.
So if you would like to go to Johnston Canyon during this time it’s recommended to cycle in (make sure to bring a bike lock!). Your other alternative is to access Johnston Canyon via the Castle Junction exit by car. 2024 dates and regulations on these restrictions are yet to be released, but we can expect them to be similar.
Visitors planning to cycle the Bow Valley Parkway should park their vehicles at the Banff Train Station parking lot accessible via the Mount Norquay Road entrance to the townsite.
Stay at Johnston Canyon Bungalows
If you stay nearby, you won’t need to worry about getting to Johnston Canyon! Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows are situated right at the start of the trailhead to Johnston Canyon, and are among some of the best Banff cabins. If you want a truly unique experience in the woods, consider booking a stay here!
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service that will connect you right from YYC to the town of Banff or Canmore.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.