Ink Pots via Johnston Canyon Trail, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

Just across the road from Johnston Canyon Campground was the Johnston Canyon Trailhead. We departed our campsite on foot walking through the campground to the trailhead, crossed a bridge over Johnston Creek and picked up the paved trail past the ice cream shack heading up the canyon. We got in line with everyone else from all over the world and like ants in an ant farm crawled our way the trail. I hate paved trails, but i get it, when a thousand people are hiking a trail daily you need it to prevent erosion. Johnston Canyon is impressive, it would be impossible to see this place without the marvel of engineering it took to construct the trail. Bridges anchored to sheer rock give access to an otherwise impassable canyon. At times the trail is suspended a hundred feet above the polished limestone rocks below. It didn’t take long to reach the first falls, an impressive cataraft carving its way through a rocky chasm and falling to a plungpool below. There was a line to cross a bridge to a cave on the other side but we didn’t want to waste time in a line that looked like something straight out of Disneyland.  After taking in the falls we pressed on continuing uphill through forest before reaching a junction with the Ink Pots trail. 

At the trail junction we went straight and continued on toward the upper falls. Approaching the falls we discovered another line except this time we couldn’t see the falls so were forced to wait it out.  Waiting in line sucks, this is just not my style, I escape to wilderness for solitude, reflection, peace and quiet. I get it though, it’s a national park and crowds are expected. We stood in line and eventually saw the falls, it was cool, the lower falls is more impressive in my opinion. Once out the line we cruised back to the trail junction with the Ink Pots. We paused here for a bit and talked to a few people coming down who said it was worth the extra effort. I could tell Robin was up for it, but talking the kids into it would be tricky. To our surprise they too were up for the challenge, we may have bribed them with ice cream at the end from the ice cream shack, but hey, whatever it takes. 

With everyone on board for a side trip to the Ink Pots we continued uphill to the pools above the upper falls. People were clambering everywhere, some even clinging precariously to the rocks above the creek, there was no shortness of stupidity on display. Continuing above the upper falls overlook we lost a lot of the crowds, it was nice. We soon reached another junction with the trail coming up from Moose Meadows and a good view across the valley. We pressed on continuing up an abandoned road which got surprising steep at times before topping out at another view point before heading down hill, thankfully the hard work was over.  We had enough with the climbing and could now enjoy the steep descent before the grade eased at our first spectacular view across the valley near a creek crossing. The admirable summit of Mount Ishbel dominated the skyline and only peaked our interest as we made the final descent into the magnificent Johnson Creek valley. 

The meadows surrounding the Ink Pots and upper Johnston Creek are dramatically different than that of the lower gorge. The upper valley is broad offering endless views into the lofty silver and grey summits of the Sawback Range. The Ink Pots in my opinion are only a consolation prize when compared to the stunning landscape that surround them. We walked the pots admiring there emerald waters and the interesting geologic history and mystery surrounding the strange display of air as it escaped the sandy bottomed pots, and bubbled to the surface. We took a break on a bench before wandering toward the creek which flows broad, clear and cold in this part of the valley, it was spectacular. We lingered for a while before heading down, the descent went quick, except for the final mile which always takes forever. Nearing the trailhead we found the ice cream shack we passed on the way up where we all enjoyed a well-deserved treat for our hard work. We made it back to camp with plenty of light left so I decided to cook a quick meal in order to catch a sunset back at Moraine Lake. The hike into the Ink Pots was tough covering 8.3 miles with about 2,000 feet of gain, we had all worked up an appetite. For more pictures from the hike click the link. Ink Pots via Johnston Canyon Trail Pictures

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