Province/Territory: Alberta

Walk among pinnacles of blue ice

  • 05 kilometres of snow covered trails and hanging catwalks
  • 01 narrow meandering canyon
  • 02 frozen waterfalls

Ice! It’s everywhere you look clinging to rocks, cascading over cliffs and frozen like billowing pillows at the bottom of a solid waterfall. Discover Banff Tours will take you and a small group of inquisitive hikers on an extraordinary adventure to see a remarkable landscape created by water. The Johnston Canyon Icewalk is a hike through a narrow canyon where thundering waterfalls of summer are silenced in the chill of winter. Pause and feel the cool crisp air against your cheeks. Walk on snow covered paths and steel walkways suspended from the canyon walls to see stunning views of ice and rock formations. Discover how the canyon continues to change due to the erosional influences of the water. See how the rock –far from any ocean holds fossils of coral reefs. Walk through a natural cave to view the backside of the frozen falls and marvel at the different colours of the ice. The ice-cleats on your boots steady your steps as you walk further up the trail. Your professional guide will point out the footprints of others who use the path including moose, big horn sheep, deer, wolf and cleverly camouflaged rabbits. At the end of the canyon, you are met with a massive wall of ice where there might be daring ice climbers with ice picks in hand navigating routes up the cliff. The Johnston Canyon is a beautiful hike in the summer, but a visit in winter is a must-do adventure.

Why you should visit
  • The adventure starts as soon as you enter the tour van. Learn about Banff and the Bow Valley Parkway en route to the canyon.
  • Walk along cat walks and frozen trails into natural caves and behind gigantic pillars of ice.
  • Watch the ice climbers pick their way up the frozen wall of ice at the end of the canyon.
  • Check out the Grotto Canyon walk where you stand and walk on a frozen creek through a narrow canyon. Watch for ancient paintings on the canyon walls.
  • Ski or snowboard in feather-light powder at “The Big 3” mountain ski resorts of Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Area and Mount Norquay.
  • Take a walk to Bow Falls to see a massive frozen waterfall.

Weather

  • The weather in The Canadian Rockies is unpredictable, so be prepared by bringing a variety of layers. The sun at these alpine altitudes is strong year-long, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for protection from UV exposure are suggested.
  • Winter is wonderful in Banff, but cold. December brings frosty air with an average daytime high of -3°C dipping to -14°C at night. Cold spells of -30°C can occur, so heavy coats and warm boots are essential. If a Chinook wind blows through expect to see the temperatures rise above 0°C. Banff National Park sees an average of 2 metres of fluffy dry snow to fall over the course of the winter months.
  • The fall season is short for Banff and Lake Louise with the leaves quickly turning colours in September with chances of early snow in October. In November, watch as the snow works its way down the peaks with night time temperatures starting to dip below freezing. With daytime highs hovering around 10°C it’s best to bring warm clothes.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
Visitor information
  • Four-hour tours are offered twice daily.
  • Tour van picks up at Banff hotels.
  • Guests should be able to walk confidently. Minimum age is 8 years old.
  • Hot chocolate and maple cookies are offered on the tour.
When to go
  • Johnston Canyon Icewalk is offered from early December to mid-April and is determined by the weather.
  • Consider the shorter 2.5 hour evening tour on select nights for a hike using headlamps to illuminate the ice.
Need to know
  • For the Johnston Canyon Icewalk warm clothes are mandatory. Warm hats, mitts, coats and boots are needed as the walk is mostly in the shade. Dress as if you are going skiing.
  • Ice cleats and hiking poles are provided to make the hike easier.
  • Private tours with a French speaking guide are offered.
  • Discover Banff Tours offers a variety of tours throughout the year.
Getting Here