Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows: Why You SHOULD Stay Here

Author: Celine Brewer

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Nestled in Banff National Park, the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows offers a serene escape for nature enthusiasts and travelers looking to immerse themselves in the great outdoors. As locals to the Bow Valley, we are no strangers to Johnston Canyon and the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows. Yet, we still get excited about the opportunity to stay in the charming, rustic cabins at the Johnston Canyon resort.

We first stayed in one of the Johnston Canyon Cabins over 10 years ago, before we had kids and before we were full time residents of the Bow Valley. We did have two dogs at the time, so we appreciated that the cabins are pet-friendly.

Two kids at one of the Johnston Canyon cabins.

We recently stayed at the Johnston Canyon cabins for a second time. This time we stayed with two kids and no dogs! In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about staying at the Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows in Banff. We’ll also dive into the details of what makes this lodge a prime choice for those looking to explore the natural wonders of Banff National Park.

This post contains compensated links.

We were hosted for our most recent stay at Johnston Canyon Cabins, but all opinions are our own.

Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows Story

Let’s first start with a little history of the Johnston Canyon cabins. The lodge has a history deeply rooted in the early days of tourism in Banff National Park, adding an extra layer of charm and character to every stay.

Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows has been family owned and operated since Walter and Marguerite Camp purchased the small log teahouse that was built at Johnston Creek in the early 1900’s.

Over the decades, the lodge evolved and expanded. Not only that, but the family can also take much credit for Johnston Canyon as it is today. From Walter discovering the six additional falls above the lower falls to the replacement of the bridges with suspended catwalks.

Johnston Canyon Waterfalls

The rustic charm of the original log cabins remained a defining feature, blending harmoniously with the surrounding wilderness. As tourism in the Canadian Rockies grew, the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows continued to attract visitors seeking a unique and authentic mountain experience.

In recent years, the lodge has undergone renovations and updates to ensure the comfort and convenience of travelers while preserving its historic character. Today, it stands as a wonderful accommodation option within Banff National Park, offering the perfect setting for travelers with a sense of adventure and wonder in a pristine mountain setting.

One of the cabins at Johnston Canyon Resort.

Amenities at Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows

Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows is made up 42 cabins, the Blackswift Bistro Restaurant plus the Market Café. The cabins are open from mid-May to October each year, with Canadian Thanksgiving in October being the last open weekend.

The 42 cabins are nestled in a natural pine and spruce forest, where you’ll also find a tennis court and bikes for guests to use. Scattered around the grounds are vintage cars and other interesting memorabilia. Most importantly, the Johnston Canyon cabins are located right at the trailhead to the popular Johnston Canyon hike.

Bikes for guest of Johnston Canyon cabins.

Within the 42 cabins, there are 8 different styles of bungalows. Many of them fit only 2 people. There are options for families which include the Large Bungalows and the Cottages. The Large Bungalows can fit 4 to 6 people and the Cottage can fit 4 people. Other options for small families are the Small Bungalows that can fit 2 to 4 people (cots or a hideabed are available at an incremental cost of $20).

Two kids walking the grounds at Johnston Canyon Resort in Banff.

The Small Bungalows are also duplex buildings connected to a studio, which is good to know if you’d prefer not to share walls.

The cabins do have free wifi, but if you prefer to disconnect then they also have games and DVDs to borrow at the check-in desk. For those traveling with kids, they do not have kids movies so this is where you might want to bring an iPad for movies.

Games available at Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows.

Most of the cabins at the Johnston Canyon Resort are small and quaint with beds, a private ensuite bathroom and a coffee/tea area with a bar fridge.

The Large Bungalow cabins have full kitchens, which is nice if you want a break from restaurant meals. There’s a gas stove and electric oven plus all the typical appliances like a kettle, toaster and Nespresso with pods. The fridge has a freezer and there’s also a microwave.

All the Johnston Canyon cabins share a large barbeque area, so even if you aren’t in a large bungalow, there’s still the option to self-cater.

Barbeque area at Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows.

As mentioned, there’s also the Market Café and Blackswift Bistro on the property. In the Market Cafe you’ll find souvenirs, clothes and books. They have a great selection of books on the area that are worth perusing. For eating, you’ll find snacks like chips and chocolate bars, but there are also baked goods, milkshakes, sandwiches and coffee.

Cafe at Johnston Canyon.

The Blackswift Bistro, connected to the Market Café, has typical Canadian fare. The restaurant itself is surrounded with large windows and has a large patio to enjoy meals outside. There’s a wood burning fireplace and antiques throughout that give it some rustic charm. The restaurant is open for breakfast at 8 am and for dinner at 5:30 pm.

Family Eating at Blackswift Bistro Johnston Canyon.

We had both breakfast and dinner at the Blackswift Bistro. Our favourites from the dinner options were the poutine and the steak sandwich. We especially enjoyed the breakfast. The avocado toast with poached eggs was delicious as was the French toast.

avocado toast for breakfast at Blackswift Bistro at Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows.

Our son ordered the pancakes, which may have been some of the biggest pancakes we’ve seen and he finished the meal by saying “that was the best breakfast ever”. As parents, we especially appreciated the free coffee refills!

Boy finishing pancakes at Blackswift Bistro at Johnston Canyon Banff.

Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows Location

Johnston Canyon Resort is located on the Bow Valley Parkway between the town of Banff and Lake Louise. The fastest way to get to Johnston Canyon from Calgary or Banff is to drive west along the TransCanada Highway and then turn onto the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A). It will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive from Calgary to Johnston Canyon and only 30 minutes from Banff.

Bow Valley Parkway in fall.

There are three access points to the Bow Valley Parkway:

  • Fireside EntranceThe eastern end of the scenic drive begins just 15 km west of the Mount Norquay overpass. This access point is often referred to as “Fireside” due to the proximity of the Fireside picnic area.
  • Castle Junction EntranceIf you continue driving on the Trans-Canada Highway for another 24 km past Fireside, you’ll reach Castle Junction – the second access point to the Parkway.
  • Lake Louise Entrance: The western end of this scenic route is along the road to the Lake Louise Ski Resort – just a minute away from the Trans-Canada Highway.

Directions from Calgary to Johnston Canyon

Directions from Banff to Johnston Canyon

The Roam Transit bus Route 9 goes from the town of Banff to Johnston Canyon every day in the summer. Additionally, the Roam Transit Bus Route 8S from Banff to Lake Louise stops at Johnston Canyon, making it convenient to stay here even if you are visiting Banff without a car.

Roam bus that goes from Banff to Johnston Canyon.

The Roam Routes 9 and 8S schedules change throughout the year. Always check for the latest schedule before making plans.

The Bow Valley Parkway is one of the best scenic drives in Banff National Park, so getting to Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows is part of the experience.

Bear along Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park.

Restrictions on Driving the Bow Valley Parkway:

In addition to the pilot project for cycling the Bow Valley Parkway, there is an annual road closure in effect every spring to protect our precious wildlife who call this scenic route home.

No activity is allowed on the Bow Valley Parkway (including cars, bikes, walking, etc) between Fireside Day Use and Johnston Canyon Campground between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. every year from March 1st to June 25th. This section of road is through montane forest – a critical habitat for large carnivores, such as bears, wolves and cougars. The evening road closure helps protect these important, amazing animals.

2024 is the final year of a 3 year pilot project where the eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway from Johnston Canyon to the Fireside Day Use will be closed to public vehicle traffic in the spring and fall. The eastern Bow Valley Parkway section closed to vehicle traffic will be 7 days a week from May 1 to June 25 and again in September 1 to 30 each year of the 3 year pilot project.

During these restrictions, access to Johnston Canyon cabins by driving to Castle Junction then onto the Bow Valley Parkway back to Johnston Canyon. This section of the Bow Valley Parkway is always open.

What are the Johnston Canyon Bungalows Like?

We’ve stayed in two different styles of cabins at the Johnston Canyon Resort. The first time was in one of the smaller Red Cabins with our two dogs. The second time was in the Large Bungalow with our two kids.

Smaller Johnston Canyon cabin.

All the cabins are heated with a gas fireplace, which makes them feel cozy the second you walk in. Some of the Studio cabins, the Bungalows and the Carriage House also have wood burning fireplaces.

girl sitting in front of fireplace in Johnston Canyon cabin.

While the small cabin was the perfect fit for us a couple, we really appreciated the extra space in the Large Bungalow. While we try to travel light, we just end up with a lot more stuff when traveling with kids and especially on a cool weekend in September in Banff. We really appreciated all the hooks for jackets and hats. My only recommendation is that I’d like to see a shoe rack to put all our hiking shoes that were either in the way in front of the door or inevitably got accidentally kicked into the living area.

The living area with a couch and two chairs was the perfect place for us to hang out and play games in the evening when it got chilly outside. We loved the large glass windows with the forest and the kids enjoyed getting to stay so close to the hiking trail where they could watch the hikers wander by.

Mother and daughter sitting on couch in one of the Johnston Canyon cabins.

For sleeping there are two separate bedrooms, each with a queen sized bed which fit our family perfectly. While we typically prefer two singles for the kids, they managed just fine sharing a bed (with some middle of the night kicking).

two kids reading in bed at Johnston Canyon cabin.

The large bungalow also has a large bathroom with a claw tub and separate shower. There’s separate toilet room as well.

Finally, our favorite spot was outside on the porch with the two Adirondack chairs where you can hear Johnston Creek and look down on the hiking trail to Johnston Canyon.

two kids sitting in adirondack chairs at Johnston Canyon Resort.

It’s important to note that while the hiking trail to Johnston Canyon can get busy, it never impacts the feel of solitude and tranquility of the cabin.

What to Bring for Your Stay at a Johnston Canyon Cabin

There’s not really too much extra you need to bring for a stay in one of the Johnston Canyon cabins. The onsite restaurant and Market Cafe make it easy to have a meal or pick up snacks and coffee.

Johnston Canyon Cabins.

If you are staying in one of the Large Bungalows with a full kitchen, everything you need is supplied.

There were a few things we brought that we were glad we had:

  1. Slippers – The floors get a little chilly especially in the bathrooms. We were glad we had these.
  2. Snacks – We loved that our Johnston Canyon accommodations allowed us to hike Johnston Canyon without the crowds. In the summer, it’s well worth it to bring some snacks to get you going in the morning to do the hike. After the hike, you can return for breakfast.
  3. Evening Snacks – We loved hanging around in the evening. With a microwave, a bag of popcorn would have been ideal for our family game night.
  4. Kids Games – Our kids are big fans of Exploding Kittens, so that was easy for us to pack.
  5. Camera – Especially important for driving the Bow Valley Parkway and spotting wildlife!
  6. Pet Supplies – When we stayed with the dogs, we brought their pet beds and dishes. Though they preferred to curl up under the table.
Two dogs in Johnston Canyon Cabins that are pet-friendly.

Why Stay at the Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows

While we found the cabins cozy and comfortable (our kids especially loved staying in this cabin), what we really love about Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows is the location.

We love the sense of being in nature the entire time and yet, you are so well situated for so many of the best things to do in Banff National Park.

Hiking to Johnston Canyon is an obvious one, but the real benefit is being right at the trailhead to beat the crowds. We heard many complaints of people not enjoying Johnston Canyon this year because of how busy it is, but it truly is a wonderful hike when you can enjoy it without all the people. Staying at Johnston Canyon Resort makes it so easy to get on the trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon when everyone has left (especially in the summer when the days are long).

Two kids hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.

Thankfully we were staying in October, because we all slept in thanks to the cozy beds! But we were still able to have breakfast and get on the trail before it got too busy.

There’s something really wonderful about getting to start a hike right from your doorstep. Without the driving, means you’ll also have more time to hike to the Ink Pots! Which are definitely worth it!

Summer hike in Banff to ink Pots

Since the cabins are right on the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll love this Banff scenic drive which is ideal for spotting wildlife. In May/June and September, you can also enjoy biking the Bow Valley Parkway car free (only the eastern section and the last year of this pilot project is 2024).

No traffic to be found biking from Castle Junction to Johnston Canyon in Banff
Guide Along App

Recommended App

Before your scenic drive on the Bow Valley Parkway, we recommend getting the GuideAlong app. This entertaining and educational GPS activated audio tour will greatly enhance any drive in Banff National Park.

Get GuideAlong

Other incredible hikes just a short drive away along the Bow Valley Parkway are the Rockbound Lake hike, Silverton Falls and Castle Lookout hike. Further up Highway 93, are Marble Canyon, the Paint Pots plus the hikes to Arnica Lake, Boom Lake and the popular Stanley Glacier.

a family stops to admire a beautiful Banff waterfall.

For photographers looking to capture the mountain landscape, the Morant’s Curve, one of Banff’s best viewpoints, is also one of the stops along the Bow Valley Parkway. You can also stop at Castle Junction exit for an ideal vantage point to capture Castle Mountain (head down to the Bow River through the gate just before the bridge).

Finally, the Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows are only 33 km from Lake Louise area where there’s no shortage of things to do in Lake Louise. During our stay, we enjoyed the most lovely Banff larch hike from the Lake Louise gondola!

Kids hiking to Ptarmigan viewpoint from Lake Louise Gondola.

The only downside to staying here, is that if you want to try different restaurants, then you’ll need to drive into the town of Banff and back for your meals. This isn’t a big deal and we’ve done it in the past without any issue, but it’s something to be aware of, especially in the spring when the eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway is closed overnight.

Final Thoughts on Staying at Johnston Canyon Resort

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in the Johnston Canyon cabins. Our kids also really enjoyed staying there. We all loved how cozy the cabin felt and thoroughly enjoyed getting on the hiking trail right from our front door.

If you have an opportunity to stay at Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows, we would definitely recommend it.

Kids playing cards while Staying at Johnston Canyon Cabins.

Best Things to do in Banff National Park

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Why You Should Stay at the Johnston Canyon Cabins.
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.