Day 1 – 8/18/2016
The day started somewhat cloudy. After picking up snacks and fruits along with a case of water from Safeway in Calgary, we headed toward Banff. （It turned out there was a Costco right off highway, next time we will stop there for our needs. ）
Johnston Canyon Trail, 2.7 km one way, easy, 12pm
When we arrived at Johnston Canyon at noon, it started to drizzle. We decided to continue with the hike anyway. Rain stopped almost immediately after we got on the trail. Trail to waterfalls at Johnston Canyon is very popular and busy. There were way too many people on the narrow paved path, particularly on the first stretch till we reached the lower fall. The canyon-clinging cat-walks and cliff-mounting staircases to the gorge’s falls with turbulent turquoise colored water flowing below were quite unique. At 1.1km, Lower Fall was reached. There was a bridge going across the creek, and it served as a viewing point (and a photo stop, busy busy busy). On the other end of the bridge, there was a short and very low-hanging tunnel through the canyon bedrock, it offered even more intimate look at the roaring waterfall.
The trail from lower to upper fall wasn’t nearly as crowded. It was so much more pleasant. There were plenty of chances to see the canyon, ousels, waterfalls and streamside rocks. The upper fall has 2 viewing areas.
We stopped at Upper Fall and turned around. The trail actually goes further up to Ink Pots, another 3km one way of hiking.
Banff Sulphur Mountain Gondola – 4pm
There are 3 sky lifts in Banff-Jasper area, Banff Sulphur Mountain, Lake Louise and Jasper Skytram. Pick a sunny day and ride one of them.
By the time we arrived at Banff, the sun came out and clouds started to disappear, we decided to ride the Gondola. The ride up took about 10 minutes, 700 meters with a view of Banff, Fairmont where we were staying, and Bow Valley. The weather was actually getting better, a little big foggy at higher elevations. After reaching the upper terminal, we continued north on a well-constructed broad walk, stairs and multiple viewing platforms to a stone weather observatory at Sanson’s Peak (2337-m). The walk was 0.6-km one way, very easy yet very beautiful.
There was a little flutter during this excursion. As the gondola was riding up, it was sunny, maybe a little hazy, all the way up. As soon as we got out of the upper terminal, dark clouds rolled in, and it started to rain, not drizzle, rain, big, huge drops of rain. Many people scurried to take shelter or head back to terminal. But we just got up there and haven’t seen anything yet! Thank God we didn’t give up and kept on going despite the rain. As fast as it came, the dark clouds got blown away, and we were once again blessed with beautiful blue sky. Weather can change quite drastically on top of the mountains, be prepared and never give up :D.
Banff Townsite – 7pm
The town of Banff was very pleasant and picturesque. Nested in Banff National Park and the Rockies, it has many restaurants, gift shops, art galleries and museums. It’s touristy, yet homey at the same time. Parking is free in the town. On weekends, it was a bit harder to find a spot. Banff and Jasper have this well printed booklet about local restaurants. It’s good read to have some idea where the restaurants are and what they serve.