After endless days of arctic weather our weather forecast was finally looking up here in Calgary. I wanted to make the most of the warmer temperatures and go play outside. Four years ago I had a great time hiking Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots in Banff National Park in the winter and ever since then I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to hike it again with Neil. The trail is very popular and extraordinarily busy in the summer months, but things are a bit quieter in the winter.
As we drove towards the mountains on Saturday morning the sky was a lovely clear blue. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to last!
The highway was clear and easy to drive, but once we turned off on to Bow Valley Parkway there was a ton of snow on the road.
We even wound up right behind a snow plough for part of our drive!
We parked our car at the larger lot near the trail head, which luckily still had open outhouses. We geared up and slipped our microspikes on over our winter boots and headed out!
The walk to the falls is still very popular with tourists in the winter. Most of the people making the walk to the falls don’t have any kind of traction on their shoes. In the morning the snow was a bit fluffier and easier to walk on, but in the afternoon several spots were really packed down and icy and many people were slipping and sliding along.
The walk to the lower falls is beautiful, some of it on trail, some of it on catwalks.
The canyon walls were covered in frost which was really neat to look at!
It didn’t take long to get to the lower falls.
There is a neat little cavern that you can walk through to get a closer look at the falls.
The upper falls was a lot busier. This is where most of the people out hiking stop and I think they wanted an opportunity to just hang out, enjoy the scenery and watch the ice climbers before turning around.
We didn’t stay long at the first view point…
…and we headed up the trail to a second view point where it was a bit quieter.
At this point the interpretive trail ends and the quiet trail on to the Ink Pots continues. This route is a lot less travelled and the snow was wet and fluffy. It was gathering into big clumps on our microspikes so we wound up taking the spikes off.
The footing was good along here though, so no worries! We saw a few other groups on snow shoes and XC skis so there are plenty of options to travel the trail. The majority of the trail to the Ink Pots is within the trees.
Finally as you get close to the Ink Pots things open up. Last time the view was spectacular!
This time the mountains were hidden behind a veil of snow.
It was still worth the hike to see the Ink Pots!
We spent a bit of time snapping some photos…
…but snow was coming down so I figured we probably shouldn’t linger too long. I had picked up a chocolate chip cookie for us to enjoy at the Ink Pots but I had completely forgotten about it until we started to make our way down. Oh well, it was a good snack on the way back!
We were pretty swift on our descent. Once we hit the upper falls we put our microspikes back on as the trail got a whole lot more icy. It took us about 2.5 hours to climb up to the Ink Pots and 1 hour and 20 minutes to descend.
We had a great day out there! The temperature was lovely. It was just a shame that we didn’t quite get those same stunning views as the last time I was there but I enjoyed the quality time with my husband in the mountains. He’s so supportive of all of my training so it was nice to spend the day out there with him.
We hiked for 12.89 km (or 7.99 miles). My elevation readings on my Garmin have been so wonky (and you can see on the return trip where it didn’t read the elevation properly at all and is just flat) so I’m not too sure how much we climbed.
Have you been out to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots before? I’d love to see how different it looks in the summer, I’m just not sure about fighting the crowds!