15 Things to Know About Johnson Lake, Banff

Johnson Lake is one of our favorite lakes in Banff because it’s often overlooked by the more popular Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. It’s known as a local favorite for various reasons, but it is one of my favorite lakes in Banff.

Heading to Johnson Lake is one of the best things in Banff on a sunny summer day. There’s great swimming, hiking, and paddling at this stunning lake. There are so many interesting things to know about Johnson Lake and, surprisingly, many things to do at Johnson Lake!

All About Johnson Lake in Banff

Johnson Lake Isn’t Windy

People Swimming And Paddling On Johnson Lake

The first thing I love to mention about Johnson Lake (not to be confused with Johnston Lake or Johnston Canyon) is that it’s well-protected from the wind. Much more protected than nearby Vermilion Lakes or Lake Minnewanka. You may think this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but once you are out on the water and experience the wind the Canadian Rockies have in store, you may think differently.

Unless it’s a near-perfect day, there are always some strong winds in the afternoon. This makes paddling on a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard tough. So when you get a smooth and calm lake like Johnson Lake, you enjoy it to the fullest!

You Can Swim in Johnson Lake

Natasha In A Swimsuit In Johnson Lake

With all that talk about the wind, I should also mention that Johnson Lake is one of the few lakes in Banff National Park that you can comfortably swim in. You can swim in any of the lakes – technically, but they won’t be enjoyable for more than 10 seconds.

Johnson Lake is typically much warmer than the other big lakes in Banff, including nearby Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. So don’t forget your swimsuit when you head to Johnson Lake. There’s also a big open area for sunbathing and picnic benches to enjoy lunch at.

Ice Skate on Johnson Lake

Cameron Ice Skating On A Frozen Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake isn’t just good for swimming in the summer. You can also enjoy the lovely lake in the winter. If you time it right, Johnson Lake is one of the best places in Banff to ice skate. The key to ideal conditions on Johnson Lake is to hit the lake right after it fully freezes but before it snows again and the snow sits on the lake. Like most of the lakes in Banff, the ice skating window is small, but it will be an amazing day if you catch it. We suggest you check the ice and ensure it’s safe to skate on first.

Where to Go Ice Skating in Banff and Canmore

Johnson Lake is a Local’s Favorite

Natasha Stands On The Road To Johnson Lake

Most of the lakes in Banff are well-frequented by tourists, and for a good reason! Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Emerald Lake are stunning; everyone knows it. Johnson Lake, while beautiful, is not as well known as the other famous lakes in Banff and, therefore, is much quieter than other lakes. Few visitors venture to it even though it’s near Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. It’s known as the one place locals can head to right from town, soak in the sun, and go for a leisurely dip or walk.

Johnson Lake is Close to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake At Sunset
Nearby Two Jack Lake

Johnson Lake is at the end of Johnson Lake Road, right off Lake Minnewanka Loop Road. The turn-off to Johnson Lake is right before Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, meaning you should stop if you’re heading to either of these lakes.

One of the best “water” days you can have out in Banff is along Lake Minnewanka Loop Road. First stop at Cascade Ponds, then Johnson, Two Jack, and Minnewanka. They are accessible in winter and summer, and the drive is stunning! We almost always see wildlife along the road, most commonly elk or bighorn sheep.

Johnson Lake is Great for Relaxation


We love Johnson Lake for its tranquility and the ability to unwind along its shore. Unlike many grand lakes around the Rockies, it’s easily digestible and provides plenty of ways to have fun. It’s the perfect spot to sunbathe on a warm summer day.

There’s ample space to spread out a towel with friends and plenty of picnic tables to enjoy lunch. Johnson Lake is an ideal spot for any type of watercraft. There is a walking trail around the lake, and it’s even possible to swim. It’s where many Banff locals come for a morning walk with their coffee or an afternoon dog walk around the lake.

The loop is a straightforward Banff hike with an even elevation profile that makes for a great evening or morning walk as it’s not too far from Banff town and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite. The trail works its way through the forest and offers some astounding views across the lake of Cascade Mountain, which looms high above.

Johnson Lake has a Rope Swing!

Ice skating in Banff

I won’t say much more than this because you’ll have to explore on your own to find it, but there is a rope swing on Johnson Lake, and it is enjoyable in the summer and winter!

Things To Do At Johnson Lake

Natasha Johnson Lake Sunset Ice Skate

There are many things to do at Johnson Lake. You can easily spend the entire day here and never get bored. Just pack a lunch and some drinks for an epic time.

  • Cycle Lake Minnewanka Loop Road: Starting in May, you can cycle Lake Minnewanka Loop Road. It’s a fabulous cycle that will take you to Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka!
  • Have a Picnic at Johnson Lake: Johnson Lake has picnic benches for all to enjoy. Bring a lunch here and have a picnic. Or grab takeout from one of the Banff restaurants nearby. Please don’t forget to throw away your garbage in the bear-safe trash bins and always Leave No Trace.
  • Stand-Up Paddleboard: Due to the hills surrounding the lake, it is protected from the wind, which makes it a fabulous place to stand up paddleboard.
  • Kayak at Johnson Lake: Launching a kayak or even a canoe into Johnson Lake right from the lakeshore is easy.
  • Swim at Johnson Lake: Johnson Lake is one of the “warmer” lakes in Banff, so if you are up for swimming in one of the Canadian Rockies lakes, this is a great option.
  • Hike Around Johnson Lake: The Johnson Lake Lakeshore trail is a popular 3km hike around the lake. It doesn’t have much elevation gain and is great for children.
  • Ice Skate on Johnson Lake: In November, Johnson Lake freezes over enough to ice skate on it. If you hit the lake when frozen over but before a big snowfall, you’ll have a fantastic time skating under Cascade Mountain.

Watercraft at Johnson Lake

Although Johnson Lake is one of the best places in Banff to paddle, there is nowhere to rent canoes, paddleboards, or kayaks at Johnson Lake. You can rent equipment at the Banff Canoe Club or the Adventure Club on Banff Ave. They offer half-day and full-day rentals.

New to prevent the spread of Aquatic invasive species visitors must now fill out a Self Certification Permit with Parks Canada for any nonmotorized watercraft entering the water. This includes kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. The Self Certification Permits can be found online.

How to Get to Johnston Lake in Banff

Johnson Lake is super easy to get to. Johnson Lake Rd is off Lake Minnewanka Loop Road, which you will turn off to access Johnson Lake. There is a large parking area at Johnson Lake with bathrooms and trash bins; however, the lot can fill up quickly on weekends in the summer. Then people will start to park on the road, subject to ticketing.

It will take you about 15 minutes to drive from the Town of Banff to Johnson Lake. The drive to Johnson Lake will take about 1.5 hours from Calgary, so if you are making the drive, it’s best to see Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, and Cascade Ponds for the day.

  • Rent a Car in Banff: One of the best ways to get around Banff is to rent a car. This ensures you see everything you want on your Banff itinerary. It will give you the flexibility to do what you want when you want.
  • Take Public Transport: Roam Route 6 services Lake Minnewanka Loop Road. The service operates 7 days a week, and the first bus departs at 8AM.
  • Cycle: Park at Cascade Ponds or leave right from Banff and cycle to Johnson Lake. During May 1 – 20, Parks Canada has the Lake Minnewanka Loop road closed to vehicles which is the best time to cycle to the lakes, although you can cycle them year round as Minnewaka Loop road isn’t crazy busy.

Get a Parks Pass for Johnson Lake

Natasha Ice skating On Johnson Lake

You need a Parks Canada pass to visit Johnson Lake, as it is within Banff National Park. You can purchase a Parks Canada pass at any park gate before Johnson Lake. Or you can buy them in advance online.

A Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year, is only $151.25 for a family. Day passes are $11.00 per person, so depending on how many days you are staying and if you have plans to go to Banff, you may want to consider the Discover Pass.

Parks Canada Day Pass Rates
Pass TypeRate
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$22.00
Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.
ULTIMATE Guide To Purchasing A Banff Park Pass (Parks Canada Pass)

Facilities at Johnson Lake

Unlike many Alberta lakes, Johnson Lake has some great amenities and facilities. These include:

  • Public (clean!) bathrooms
  • 15 Picnic Tables
  • Trash bins
  • Watercraft washing station
  • Bike racks

Where to Stay Near Johnson Lake

The best place to stay near Johnson Lake is Banff or Canmore. The town of Banff is closer, but honestly, Canmore is not much further and can often provide better value. The closest hotel to the lakes on Lake Minnewanka Loop Road is the Juniper Hotel and Bistro by Mt. Norquay.

Check Rates on the Juniper Hotel

Other Lakes We Love

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • 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!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to 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.
  • Cheaper Airfare: 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!

↓ Join the community ↓

The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for Canadian Rockies travel advice and information, including hike and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.

the banff blog facebook group

About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

Leave a Comment