Banff Diary – Day 3: Johnston Canyon, Mistaya Canyon & Bow Lake

On day 3 of our Banff trip, we planned to visit Johnston Canyon, Mistaya Canyon, and then loop back to Bow Lake to finish off the day.

This is the third post in the series about our Banff trip during July 2022. Read the first blog here and the second blog here.

Johnston Canyon

As the name suggests, Johnston Canyon is a canyon just off the Bow Valley Parkway and it’s about a 30 minute drive from Banff town.

I’d read that Johnston Canyon was another popular spot for tourists and that it can get quite busy after 9:00 AM. As we were planning to visit on a Saturday, we got up early and aimed to be there before 8 AM to beat the crowds. We got there about 7:45 AM, so the carpark and trail were both very quiet. The only downfall about getting there at that time was that because it is a canyon, there wasn’t a huge amount of sunlight coming down into the canyon itself. But as we made our way up to trail and we came back, the sun was starting to rise over to canyon, so we did end up getting to see it in different lighting, which was nice.

The trail itself brings you up alongside the canyon and up towards the lower falls. It’s not a very long trail and you definitely don’t need hiking shoes as a lot of it is paved. You can go right up the the lower fall, and there is a small cave that you can enter that brings you under the waterfall, but you will get wet! There is also an upper fall that you can visit, this part of the trail is not as well paved and accessible. It’s a short hike up to the upper falls, and you can also continue on to the Ink Pots trail, if you wish to do a longer hike.

Mistaya Canyon

After Johnson Canyon, we hit the road and headed for Mistaya Canyon Trailhead, which is just off the Icefields Parkway and roughly an hour and 15 minute drive.

Mistaya Canyon

Mistaya Canyon is beautiful Trailhead and only short five minute walk to the lookout from the carpark. You can walk down onto the rocks to get a closer looks at the canyon and a better view for photos (of course, be careful if doing this). It was about 10:30 AM when we got there, and the trail and viewpoint were both still quiet. It’s worth noting that the carpark is very small and may fill up during busier times.

The waterfalls and views are spectacular, and the weather was great on the day we visited. It’s a must-stop location on the Icefields Parkway!

Bow Lake & Bow Glacier Trail

After Mistaya Canyon, then drove back toward Bow Lake. But first, we took a quick pitstop at Waterfowl Lake to take some photos (and take in the view!). It’s a really lovely viewpoint, that’s just before (or after, depending on the direction you’re coming from) Bow Lake. It’s also one of the many turquoise lakes in the area and great spot for a quick snack or take a few photos.

Waterfowl Lake

We then continued onto Bow Lake, which is practically next to Waterfowl Lakes. The plan we had was to walk along the lakefront, but in fact, we ended up doing the Bow Glacier trail! We hadn’t intended on doing a trail there, but once we got to the waterfront, we could see in the distance that there was a waterfall. That intrigued us, so we decided to walk towards it and see what the trail was like. The trail itself is about 10km (return trip) and not steep at all until you get closer to the waterfall.

Bow Lake

It’s such a nice trail. You walk alongside Bow Lake and then you get to these steep wooden steps that bring you up and over this hill, and then it opens up to the waterfall, which is flowing out from a glacier. It is beautiful!

The trail took us a couple of hours to do and it ended up being my favourite trail of the entire trip!

Wrapping Up on Banff Day 3

After we finished the Bowl Glacier trail, we drove back to the hotel to relax and freshen up. We went out for dinner and drinks at a nearby Mexican restaurant that was next to us. We were planning on getting really early the next day (3 AM, so more like the middle of the night!), so we packed our bags and had an early night, as we were doing a day trip on the Icefields Parkway to Jasper!

Have you done the Bow Glacier Trail? If not, definitely add it to your Banff hike list!

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