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Ice Walking

This Famous Banff Hiking Trail Has A Secret: It's Even More Beautiful In Winter

Travel Alberta

Sep 26, 2017 - 2 minute read

Ice Walking

You’ve been to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park in the summer, right? Everybody has. Well, most everybody. But you need to come in winter. Why? Follow along.

Stevin Tuchiwsky

Ice Walking

Let’s get started! The hiking trail begins in the woods just steps from the parking lot. In winter, staying warm while hiking is easier than you might think because your movement keeps your internal furnace humming. On particularly cold days, wear a base layer of thin merino wool beneath your jacket and pants, and make sure you have warm socks, mittens and a warm hat on your head. A steaming (but sealed!) mug of a tasty beverage helps too, just don’t drink it quite yet.

Stevin Tuchiwsky

Ice Walking

It’s called Johnston Canyon for a reason: the hike follows a steep rocky gorge that has been worn into the limestone rock over the eons by the creek far below. Not to worry: Some nice Albertans have installed walkways along the trickier parts of the trail.

Stevin Tuchiwsky

Ice Walking

The trail brings you alongside the sheer rock walls. In winter, when the trail gets covered with snow, it’s a good idea to wear little spikes on your shoes, called ice-walking cleats, which you can purchase or rent at outdoor clothing and gear stores. If your mind isn’t focused on staying upright, you can better enjoy the amazing scenery around you.

Stevin Tuchiwsky

Ice Walking

Keep going, we’re almost there. This bridge crosses Johnston Creek (which empties into the Bow River), and gives you a hint of what you are about to see. You just have to make your way through that little tunnel through the rock for the big finale.

Stevin Tuchiwsky

Ice Walking

We made it! The falls of Johnston Canyon are beautiful in summer, of course, but in winter, when the tumbling water freezes, the entire scene takes on a whole new feeling. At certain times of the winter, vibrant colours are trapped in the ice, while the flowing creek is frozen into a ever-changing sculpture of ice. OK, now unscrew that Thermos and sip that warm beverage. You earned it.

Stevin Turchiwsky

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