2 weeks in the Canadian Rockies: Banff & Johnston Canyon

Two weeks in the Canadian Rockies has been split into a number of posts as there is just so much to say. However there is also a post of 2 weeks in the Canadian Rockies in a Nutshell if you want to read the summary.

Tips:

– We suggest that where you can reserve campsites online on https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/ParksCanada for what you can. Don’t worry if cannot book everywhere as there are walk in campsites available too as detailed in the post below.

– How the walk up campsites work is you turn up and find an empty plot. Plots are reserved with a slip of paper which you pick up from the hut at the entrance, which states your arrival date and how many nights you will be staying. Picky your plot and then put your money in an envelope, which is also provided at the camp entrance and you post into a letter box. We suggest you arrive at about 11 as people have to vacate at 11.

– You will need to buy a parks pass to visit the rockies. You can buy this pass on entrance Banff national park, if coming from Calgary then he place to buy is a couple of km after Canmore. Don’t worry you won’t miss it and will more than likely queue with everyone else! If you are staying more than 6 Days it is cheaper to buy a year long pass.

– Pick up maps from the tourist information, these are so so helpful and you will take it on all your hikes/use them to plan your hikes. The great thing about this trip is that all the walk are signposted and will also tell you how many kms so you will NEVER get lost!

– We flew into Calgary, hired a camper and headed from Calgary to Jasper and back and it took 2 weeks. We hired our Camper through Wicked Campers and couldn’t recommend them enough. They are cheap, cheerful and suited us perfectly for what we want.

Banff:

We suggest staying 3 nights here to make the most of it, which gives you 2 full days.
The couple of campsites to stay in are: Tunnel mountain (largest With tunnel mountain 1 and 2) or Two Jack (Two Jack and Two Jack Lakeside)

The best way to get around is by bus, there are 5 bus routes in total which take you to the Main places. The bus is free from your campsite to wherever you want to go and then $1 return. Each day work out how many buses you will be taking as you may find it cheaper to get a day pass for $5

The busses do not give change and you can pay with a maximum of $20 However if you need change the bus driver gives you a slip of paper with how much you are owed and you can collect this money in cash from a number of shops on Banff high street. Ask your bus driver and he will give you a slip with all the participating places.

When in Banff we suggest you hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain . You can take the gondola but it will set you back $64 each Which is a little crazy. The walk takes 2-3 Hours and is constantly up hill so make sure you wear hiking boots. However the good news is the views are spectacular and so worth it, also another bonus is that after 7pm the gondola is free to ride down so time your walk so you can take e gondola back down for free.

At the bottom of Sulphur Mountain is Banff Upper Hot Springs. Now we are going to be frank here and we genuinely were disappointed with these springs. We had an idea in our head that there would be a number of different hot pools to visit, hot tubs swimming pools etc. However there is just one swimming pool that’s nice and warm. After a long walk it is nice to relax but if you are pushed for time don’t worry about making visiting here a priority.

A visit to Lake Minnewanke is an absolute must. If you are staying at Two Jack Campsite it is pretty close to here. The lake is simply stunning and you can walk along the edge and take some epic photos. You can also rent a number of different boats, from speed boats to canoes. We also walked to the Lake Minnewanke lookout and picked the bus home up here.

Banff itself is a very busy place and there are many shops, bars and restaurants. Bars we suggest you enjoy an evening drink at are Park Distillery who make their own gin and vodka. This place is very popular and busy especially for food, if going for a drink request to sit on the balcony upstairs. We also really liked Banff Avenue Brewing Company, again this place has gorgeous outside sitting at the front. A little tip is on a Monday they do half price beers which is brewed in Calgary and the local area.

Somewhere to go for delicious ice cream is called Cows and there are soooo many flavours to choose from, they all very unique so it will be hard to pick your flavour! They also make their own waffle cones.

The supermarket to visit here is called IGA, so you can pick up any groceries here, but its always busy so be prepared to queue.

Johnston Canyon:

We suggest staying for 1 night in Johnston Canyon, a couple of campsites to stay in are: Johnston Canyon Campground or Castle Mountain Campground

30 minutes from Banff is Johnston Canyon which is very popular. We suggest trying to get a reservation online for Johnston Canyon Campground however we didn’t manage to so jut did walk in at Castle Mountain. We also recommend getting to the carpark for Johnston Canyon super early to get a car parking space otherwise you could be parking 1-2 miles away from the start of the walk on the road. We got up early and left our campsite and headed straight for Johnston Canyon.

We did the long walk all the way to the Ink Pots passing the Lower and Upper Falls on route. Personally I preferred Lower Falls as they are amazing and you go though a tunnel to see the waterfall. The round trip takes roughly 4 hours. We did the walk and then headed straight to our campsite to get a spot on the first come first serve.

In the afternoon we hiked to the top of Castle Mountain Lookout. This was an epic walk which was constantly up hill and took us also 4 hours return. This walk was not as popular as the others so we hardly saw other people, only a couple of serious hikers (like ourselves, haha!!).

We loved Castle Mountain Campsite as it was so rustic, we had a little fire and our cute little plot. You can share spots if you want to save money as 2 vehicles are allowed per plot. A camper came in late looking for a spot so we kindly offered to share to get some extra dollar!

Read more about visiting the Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake and Icefields Parkway & Jasper