Banff National Park is full of winter trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Some are well-marked well others take you into the backcountry.
Snowshoeing to the Ink Pots near Johnston Canyon is one of the great options. It’s 12 kilometres (return) via Moose Meadows. The trail is well-signed and easy to follow.
Getting to the Ink Pots Trailhead
You’ll find the trailhead a few kilometres east of Castle Junction along the Bow Valley Parkway on the north side of the road. Signage is excellent. Allow 30 minutes from either Banff or Lake Louise – especially if you’re driving the slower going Bow Valley Parkway. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the road.
The trail to the Ink Pots
The snowshoe trail is well defined the entire way. Begin by heading up through thick forest for 3.2 kilometres until you reach the junction with a trail leading to Johnston Canyon.
Bear left to continue to the Ink Pots and continue for another 2.7 kilometres. This section of the trail sees the bulk of the 220 metre elevation gain. The higher you get the better the view.
Eventually you break out into a valley. The Ink Pots stand before you – throwing off a bit of warmth too. In non-winter months they’re brilliant coloured mineral hot springs – but in winter they’re not so good.
If you’re here in the summer months, you can continue hiking up the valley and over Mystic Pass to Luellen Lake, a further 11.8 kilometres away.
When we got to the Ink Pots the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in. This area is spectacular on a sunny day.
The return trip is fast since it’s mostly downhill. All told it took us 3¼ hours including a short lunch break. It’s a wonderful way to spend half a day.
More snowshoeing information
The Banff Parks Office at 224 Banff Avenue in Banff is staffed with helpful, bilingual rangers who can direct you to a trail that best suits your ability.
Around Banff itself there are lots of easy snowshoe trails if you just want a short burst of exercise and fresh air. Some I’d suggest are the trails in the Cave and Basin area. There are pretty loops and an out and back along the Bow River.
The Spray Valley Loop is a good choice as is the hike or snowshoe to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. Or try the busier alternative to the Ink Pots – a trip to see the frozen waterfalls up Johnston Canyon. If you want a full day snowshoe I’d recommend Sulphur Mountain via Cosmic Ray Road.
The Lake Louise area also has lots of snowshoe trails. Try the easy one up to Mirror Lake or the trail alongside Lake Louise.
Further reading on winter activities in Alberta
- 13 Incredible Things to Do in Banff in Winter
- 8 Things to do in Kananaskis Country in Winter
- Where to go Cross-Country Skiing if You Live in Calgary
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