As a self-proclaimed ‘non-adventurer who loves to adventure’, I try to squeeze in at least a handful of generally beginner level adventures that still yield beautiful, Instagrammable views, each season. My angle is—if *I* can do it, YOU can do it!
With winter quickly coming to an end this season (where does the time go!?) I managed to get away in March 2022 with Mike and our adventure friends for what turned out to be “A Weekend of Waterfalls”—where we did two pretty easy, family-friendly hikes that, you guessed it, offered up stunning views of Rocky Mountain waterfalls!
If you’re staying in the Lake Louise, Alberta area, you’re well positioned to access adventures in both Banff National Park (in Alberta) AND Yoho National Park (in British Columbia!)
Did you know: Yoho National Park, B.C. is literally just 30 minutes from Lake Louise.
I actually blogged a Day Trip to Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park back in Sept. 2019 noting its convenient proximity to Lake Louise.
Takakkaw Falls is super accessible during summertime but less so in winter, and while during winter you can walk or cross country ski across the frozen Emerald Lake, personally, I prefer it when you can see (and paddle/kayak!) the beautiful teal-green lake when it’s not frozen over.
So if you’re in the area during summer, definitely do Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake.
But if you’re looking for some winter adventure in Yoho National Park, I’m here to tell you more about the winter adventure I had at Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park, about 45 minutes from Lake Louise, as well as some waterfall fun at Johnston Canyon in the Bow Valley Parkway of Banff National Park Alberta, about 30 minutes from Lake Louise (in the other direction).
A Weekend Of Waterfalls – Hiking Wapta Falls (Yoho National Park, B.C.) And Johnston Canyon (Banff National Park, AB)
Wapta Falls (Yoho National Park)
Let’s start with Wapta Falls!
During wintertime, Wapta Falls is still considered a pretty beginner hike, however it is double the kms because the main road to the trailhead is closed to traffic, so you need to add 4 km (2 km there and back) to the hike, which means the Wapta Falls hike we did was nearly 10 km total.
Despite the additional kms, the elevation of this hike is really not too high. According to Parks Canada it’s only 30 m elevation, however All Trails says it’s 130 m. I would say it’s probably closer to 130m and in terms of general layout of the land, the hike goes up and down a fair bit but you’re never going up for too long or too steep—it is a primarily flat hike that is also fairly treed in, so the views aren’t necessarily stunning until you actually get to the waterfall—which once you get there, is REALLY quite incredible! (okay, like the views on the way in are still nice but they’re primarily just trees lol).
I think what I loved most about the Wapta Falls hike is that the rewarding “view” at the end is not just a view at a distance. You can get right up to the water fall—while still being safe.
When we went, parts of Wapta Falls was still frozen, but parts of it were also rushing water.
In winter, there’s a sort of hill you can walk up that gives you some nice elevated views of the falls as well (again—be safe!)
I’ve been told that when you hike Wapta Falls in the summer, you can also bring your bathing suit and splash around in the water too! Obviously don’t go too close or directly under the waterfall itself—safety!!!
Wapta Falls is 30 m high and it’s the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River.
Some sections of this hike do get quite slippery during winter so all of us used traction aid/micro spikes and I had hiking poles as well during our adventure to ensure that it was a pretty smooth hike. Generally when hiking in winter, I would recommend investing in traction aids/micro spikes and bringing along poles—it truly makes the hike easier (and dare I say, fun!)
My traction aid/micro spikes and hiking poles were gifted to me by Breathe Outdoors—Alberta’s outdoor adventure store (I’m a #BreatheOutdoors_Partner for the year!)
You can get 10% off Breathe Outdoors in-store or online (they ship across Canada) with code LINDORK by April 11, 2022. I don’t get anything from it—just the satisfaction you saved a little bit using my code lol.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you are hanging out in Yoho National Park, you’ve got to grab some food at Truffle Pigs in the small community of Field, B.C.
My adventure friends and I stopped at Truffle Pigs on our last trip out here back in 2019 (it’s conveniently located near Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake as well!) and you can also stay at this location too as it’s a Lodge / hotel.
For this March 2022 adventure, we headed to Wapta Falls and then to Truffle Pigs for drinks and an early dinner before heading back to our cabin at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise. It was a perfect adventure, meal, and day (I highly encourage you to copy it!)
Note: if you’d like 10% off your booking at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, use code LINDORK. Like my Breathe Outdoors code, I don’t get anything from it if you use it—just the satisfaction you saved a little bit using my code lol. (#BakerCreek_Partner)
Johnston Canyon (Banff National Park)
You may have heard of Johnston Canyon before—because it’s the most popular hiking destination in Banff National Park, Alberta!
Now due to that popularity, it is also one of the most crowded but most maintained and family / beginner-friendly hikes you can do in the park.
This location, nestled along The Bow Valley Parkway, offers multiple scenic views and experiences all in one—that adds to the popularity of it for sure.
If you’ve ever wanted to walk among towering canyon walls, Johnston Canyon is for you. If you want to see some frozen waterfalls, Johnston Canyon is for you. If you want to be surrounded by lush forest, Johnston Canyon is for you.
Like Wapta Falls, Johnston Canyon is accessible year-round.
At Johnston Canyon there’s three main destinations for your hike, as well as what I call some incredible “side quests” during winter that you can also take (but ONLY during winter—I’ll explain why below).
- The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon, is about 1.2 km one way. There’s a small tunnel and cave you duck into to see the Lower Falls in all of its glory (feel the mist from the falls in the cave!) Depending on when you go and crowds, plan to wait in a line to experience this view.
- The Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon, is about 2.5 km one way (so really just another km if you’re already at the Lower Falls) and offer a pretty fantastic view (though unlike Wapta Falls, you’re mostly just viewing at a distance). The Upper Falls offers a dramatic 40 m drop to a deep pool below, and there are two main viewing points here. In winter, it’s very common to see ice climbers on the Upper Falls!
- If you want to go even further at this destination, there is something called the Ink Pots at Johnston Canyon, which is 5.7 km one way. The Ink Pots are seven pools of green coloured mineral springs located in an open meadow about 3 kilometres on from the Upper Falls (you only see the colour of the springs if it’s not wintertime so personally, I wouldn’t go that far in during winter).
So there are generally three nice points to visit and explore at Johnston Canyon year-round, no matter the season, however if you do plan to stop by during winter, you will also get the opportunity to embark on those scenic “side quests” like my group did—taking you right into the canyon floor and up pretty close and personal to more waterfalls, massive caves and standalone, towering rock formations. These side quests yield super Instagrammable moments (which, as regular readers know, is the main reason why I hike lol).
During wintertime ONLY, you can access the canyon floor at Johnston Canyon shortly after the Lower Falls for the beautiful waterfall and rock formation pictured above and again between the Lower Falls and Upper Falls (closer to the Upper Falls) for the stunning Instagrammable cave and rock formation pictured below.
You can attempt to visit these bonus scenic locations on your own, or there are also tour guides that will take you down to the canyon floor during winter as well.
These locations are ONLY accessible during wintertime because at other times of year they are home to endangered black swift bird nests.
Venturing into these closed areas at Johnston Canyon when it ISN’T winter is a BIG no-no.
Not only do you risk endangering these birds further (they are very sensitive to human activity), you can also be slapped with a hefty fine! 💰
So please adventure responsibly!
All told, during winter, Johnston Canyon actually offers up to 5 beautiful experiences in one location (with a pretty big parking lot at the trailhead). The multitude of adventures to be had at one location, plus the general easy/family/beginner-friendly nature of the hike, should definitely put it at the top of your list to experience if you’re in the Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta area.
You should plan to visit Johnston Canyon early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Because it definitely gets crowded, and the trails can get pretty tight with traffic going in and out.
A few more things to note:
- Both Wapta Falls and Johnston Canyon are also dog/pet-friendly as long as they are leashed.
- Both experiences have stretches that get pretty slippery/slick, so I recommend you get traction aid/micro spikes for your shoes and/or hiking poles to help make the hikes easier.
- Also, and this is something I care about it but intense adventurers would not lol, there is cell service / signal along both hikes! Ha ha.
These two waterfall adventures were a lot of fun—and I loved that they weren’t super intense hiking experiences. They both felt pretty accessible and I think both work as a great adventure that yields fantastic views for hikers of all ages and experience levels.
I hope you enjoy if you decide to copy my Weekend of Waterfalls!
Don’t forget to check out my related travel blog posts:
- Baker Creek Mountain Resort: Like Staying In A Real Life Hallmark Christmas Movie – March 2022
- Explore B.C: Day Trip to Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake – Sept 2019
- #ExploreABWithMe – Read my Alberta Travel Guides (various, curated list)
You can get 10% off Breathe Outdoors in-store or online (they ship across Canada) with code LINDORK by April 11, 2022.
You can get 10% off your booking at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, near all of the adventures referenced in this blog post, by using code LINDORK too.
(I don’t get anything from code use—just the satisfaction you saved a little bit with it lol).
Note: This blog post is NOT sponsored—but my stay at Baker Creek during this waterfall weekend was hosted, and some of my hiking gear was gifted from Breathe Outdoors.
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