Climbing
Snow/glacier/ice route
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade III
Elevation Gain
210.00 m (688.98 ft)
Distance
4.79 km (2.98 mi)
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Johnston Canyon is a incredibly popular destination year round. As a hike in the summer, it offers two beautiful waterfalls in a stunning canyon with well-developed hiking access. Its age-friendly accessibility and canyon beauty makes it hard to beat. In the winter, freezing temperatures create solid ice in a bowl that offer technical ice climbs—a rarity in the Canadian Rockies. If you don't mind spectators, it's a great spot to hang out on technical ice climbs unavailable elsewhere.

Johnston Canyon is a very easy approach through well-manicured, busy trails, even in winter. The tourist crowds are the biggest obstacle. Follow the main trail north for 2.44 kilometres. Frequent turnoffs lead to quick viewpoints; if you have time, you can't really go wrong. Eventually the trail forks up a switchback or down to a steel walkway that sits in the middle of a broad bowl with ice everywhere.

Hop the guardrail at the concrete slab and clamber down. It's a quick walk across what is normally, but not always, solid ice. To proceed one climber at a time is a good idea. You'll have to climb a very shallow but icy slope to get to the base of the routes.

The Crag

On the right hand side are WI2 and WI3 routes. Going left are mushroomy WI4 and even WI5 routes that form. Anchors are trees at the top. The route tends to get a lot of sun, so be wary of using ice screws as anchors as they often heat up and melt the ice. Make sure to check on them as the day progresses.

Also be mindful of tourists. Many hop the guard rails and come stand directly in the line of fire without helmets. Be sure to let them know they shouldn't be there and the risk of icefall. It is not unheard of to see a refrigerator-sized chunk of ice dislodge on warm days. If spectators are present, it could cost lives. Be forewarned.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Very easy and beautiful canyon approach.

Cons

Crowded with tourists. Short routes. No top rope accessibility.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

4,396.33 ft (1,340.00 m)

Highest point

5,085.30 ft (1,550.00 m)

Features

Flushing toilets
Cave
Historically significant
Waterfalls
Geologically significant

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

South facing

Drinking water

Unfrozen water

Location

Field Guide

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