Welcome to the first post in what promises to be a truly picturesque series on hiking the national parks of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Today we’ll be showing off Johnston Canyon and The Ink Pots in Banff National Park. Our family discovered right here that we’ve reached a stage where we all love hiking, and I can’t think of anything better. The littlest Cope, now 8, needed some encouragement from time to time in the form of, “Think of how all this altitude training will improve your gymnastics!” But otherwise we fielded few complaints. Small price to pay for a new world of magical experiences.
At Johnston Canyon you can choose your own adventure. There’s a more crowded 1.7-mile hike to the Upper Falls (3.5 miles round-trip), which takes you on paved paths and the catwalk type thingy in the photo above. There’s an elevation gain of about 120 feet (which doesn’t begin at sea level, let me tell you), and the scenery is MAGNIFICENT, but otherwise this part of the journey feels a little less hikey and a little more touristy.
The second phase of the trip, from the Upper Falls to the Ink Pots, climbs higher through the woods on dirt paths and is much less crowded. The trail opens up at the end to beautiful meadows and the Ink Pots, seven cold mineral springs that bubble to the surface. Although they’re all in close proximity, each is a different color due to the mineral composition of the spring. I’m surprised how few people decided to continue on for the additional 1.9 miles to the Ink Pots. Maybe they’ve packed their schedules, or maybe they don’t know what they’re missing. But dudes. Do it. The total round-trip distance for this hike is 7.2 miles. We got a seriously late start on the day and still had plenty of time, even with kids.
Here’s a link to the official website for the area in case you’re in information-seeking mode. If you’d like to browse photos and endure some of my color commentary (both literal and figurative), keep scrolling. (more…)