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  • Writer's pictureErin Boukall

Wilderness Escape; Heritage Lodgings at an Iconic Canyon

Updated: Jan 15

Nestled in the heart of Banff National Park is a wilderness getaway with dog-friendly heritage cabins. Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows sits at the entrance to the iconic canyon, an impressive destination for tourists and locals alike. Staying here not only gives you a head start on the trail before the crowds show up, it also allows you to enjoy the pristine surroundings long after the last tour bus has left.

Johnston Canyon and its accommodations have an impressive history. The canyon was named after a gold prospector in 1885 and a small teahouse was built at Johnston Creek shortly after. The shallow creek’s crystal-clear water flowing over multicoloured stones is simply beautiful. Increased tourism to the region prompted the constructions of bridges (some of which were built by work crews from a nearby WW1 internment camp). Visitors began exploring the expansive waterfall systems, discovering more pools and falls the further up they ventured. Today the impressive trail system allows you to “choose your own adventure”, whether you feel like a short walk to the lower falls (only 20 min. approximately) or go all-in and attempt the complete trek (approximately 45 min. but on a steeper path). There are 6 falls in total and their deep basins feature striking turquoise waters. A unique tunnel gives visitors to the lower falls an amazing up-close view from a small perch immediately above the pool (complete with safety railings). In 1926 development began of small cabins and over the next decades it would continue to expand, now offering a total of 42 units.

The Cabins

The quaint cabins are all unique in their own way and feature 8 different styles to choose from. They can accommodate anywhere from 2-6 people and range in price from $395 CAD to $645 CAD (at the time of publication). We stayed in the “Large Bungalow” and loved the historic vibe it had, with original flooring and light fixtures. Inside featured a large stone wood-burning fireplace in the welcoming living room, a complete kitchen (including a microwave, gas stovetop, oven, fridge, etc.), spacious bathroom with claw-footed tub, and two separate bedrooms with very comfortable queen beds. We stayed here late in the fall and really enjoyed the cozy atmosphere. Listening to the creek outside the bedroom window or from the private porch was so serene. It is rare in Canada to be able to stay in cabins that were initially constructed almost 100 years ago, making this a unique experience…

The Food

Given the remote location of this property, it luckily has an on-site restaurant, café, and snack shack. The cute “Market Café” is tucked into their gift shop, serving baking and handcrafted beverages. The shack at the trail head offers ice cream, drinks, and snacks. The restaurant “Blackswift Bistro” serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features classic pub fare. Cozy up by the fireplace here or opt for the scenic patio in the warmer months. During our stay, we sampled a variety of dishes from the menu; from decked-out burgers, classic hearty breakfasts, artful lattes, tasty fries, and more.

As our unit was self-catering, we were also able to bring up our own food and enjoy snacks in the comfort of our cabin in front of the fire. If you forget or need to grab something else, head to the only nearby store Castle Mountain's General Store. And one of the best parts of our stay? Getting to bring our canine companion Lucy (@aussiepupsyyc) who thoroughly enjoyed her stay, whether sniffing along the trails or dozing in front of the fireplace. All of the dogs we saw really seemed to be having a fun time adventuring with their families. Being able to bring your furry friends makes a getaway even better.

If you are a visitor to Alberta or a local, consider staying at the historic Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows. The area is all the more beautiful early in the morning or late at night before/after the day-time tourists come and go. The on-site food establishments will keep you going while you spend your day relaxing, exploring the canyon, or experiencing the surrounding national park. At the end of the day you and your canine companion can return to your very own historic cabin. This experience and article was made possible thanks to Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows.

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