There are two ways to get from Lake Louise Village in northwest Banff National Park to the city of Banff in the south of the park. You could take the Trans-Canada Highway, but what's the fun in that? The Bow Valley Parkway runs alongside the highway through almost the whole length of Banff National Park, and unlike the highway, it offers scenic stopping points along the way. If you are road-tripping through Banff, be sure to plan a solid half-day to make this 1-hour drive. You won't regret it. If you aren't driving, you can catch the public shuttle from the city of Banff to the best stop along the Bow Valley Parkway: Johnston Canyon.
No matter how you get there, Johnston Canyon is an absolute must-see stop within Banff National Park. The canyon is carved from Johnston Creek, which flows from nearby Castle Mountain into the Bow River. Along the way, there are two gorgeous waterfalls, and of course the beauty of the canyon itself.
The hike to Johnston Canyon's Lower Falls is 1.2 km, and it's another 1.3 km to Upper Falls. There's also a small hike to the Upper Falls overlook that you don't want to miss! The whole hike is via a wooden boardwalk that alternates between sitting in the midst of the fir forest and dangling off the edge of the canyon walls. It's a beautiful walk that would surely frighten acrophobes - luckily I'm not afraid of heights.
This hike was definitely a little strenuous, but it was so worth it. The Upper Falls is really nice, and I loved being able to hike in the canyon. The rock formations are so weird and unique, and despite all the people, it felt very close to nature. You can hear the water surging through and imagine it continuing to carve out the bottom of the canyon walls. Johnston Canyon was undoubtedly one of my favorite hikes in Banff National Park.