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post #1 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 01:58 AM Thread Starter
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Default Johnston Canyon - Bike & Hike

There is first time for everything. Biggest Tourist trap in Canadian Rockies -- Johnston Canyon. Even in off season, on a work day, you need elbow space and wait in line walking through the canyon. In summer 'gong show' doesn't even begin to describe it -- tour buses, strollers and who knows what else. But this year everything is different. Parks closures and no vehicle access rules. In addition, 1A (Bow Valley Parkway) is seasonally closed to through traffic as well. So I thought it would be perfect opportunity to cycle in, which is still legal. And what a day, and total solitude in the canyon. Almost surreal to walk on these planks with nobody around. Murky water from spring melt, but still quite snowy and I was glad I took icers.


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[Johnston Canyon parking lot. Empty. Can you believe it]


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[Bicycles socially distancing on entrance to Johnston Canyon (I was with a friend)]


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[Lower canyon. Most people know this place and how insanely busy it always is]

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[Icefall from the cave in lower falls. You always have to wait in line to get here. Not today]

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[Huge ice sheet by the cave at upper falls]


Return cycle was fabulous along 1A -- going in several locals were cycling, but noone on return. Only Parks Truck zoomed by with a friendly wave. Stopped frequently for photos as sun was in the right position, and air is so clean due to reduced traffic. Couple of shots:


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Should also mention quite a bit of snow on Legacy trail & had to push bike at times but 1A was snow free.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 04-23-2020, 09:34 PM
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Nice report! Looks like the National parks closure is not as severe as the BC Parks closure.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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Nice report! Looks like the National parks closure is not as severe as the BC Parks closure.

Thanks! Cycling is still allowed & some trails are open, but you have to live relatively close to make use of that. Isn't it the same in BC Parks? I.e. we know Golden Ears are closed, but are you allowed legally to cycle in if you live say in Maple Ridge?
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by zeljkok View Post
Thanks! Cycling is still allowed & some trails are open, but you have to live relatively close to make use of that. Isn't it the same in BC Parks? I.e. we know Golden Ears are closed, but are you allowed legally to cycle in if you live say in Maple Ridge?
The roads up to Cypress and Seymour Provincial Parks have manned road blocks at the bottom and I'm 90% sure they don't allow bikes through but I have not tried myself.
As for Golden Ears park, this is direct from the park operator twitter @AlouetteParks:
"Access by the public is not permitted until further notice. All trails, roads, day-use areas, beaches, lakes and backcountry areas are closed to public access"
It's a damn shame because with no cars on these roads they would be ideal for bike riding. If it can work in the much more crowded Stanley Park ...
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
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I think cycling should be ok. Practically, casual recreationalists (i.e. party crowds) will never grunt steep road up Seymour or Cypress. If indeed they turn back even bicycles, it would be major difference BC Parks vs AB Parks / National Parks. I.e. there is manned gate above Canmore for Spray Road but will wave you happily as you pass them on bike.

On this bike trip to Johnston canyon (~20 km one way from Banff townsite) we saw alltogether maybe 10 cyclists, all locals of course, and well spaced out. So it is not issue from "social distancing" perspective at all. Park Ranger was patrolling the road & passed by couple of times, but also waved as he drove by.

Last edited by zeljkok; 04-24-2020 at 03:59 PM.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-03-2020, 12:54 PM
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I had the pleasure of living in Banff when the twinning of the 1A was just finished. Perfect pavement, not a ton of traffic back then (early 80s), and we even could roller blade it.

Back then it was pretty common for someone to call you up (on the landline) to see if you wanted to bike to Johnston Canyon for an IceCream and before you knew it you had 10 people going for IceCream.

One on my first Parks Canada jobs was wheelbarrowing supplies up to re-build the walkways up the Canyon. Believe me, coming back down was a lot more fun.

I love JC in the snow/ice.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-12-2020, 02:25 AM
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Stunning photos as always, that is one very impressive chunk of ice and snow, by the cave.


K

Hiking is what keeps you young of mind and heart. When the going gets tough, the tough get going..............
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 03:17 AM Thread Starter
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Second half of April '21

It appears 1A is going to remain closed from Banff to Castle Junction for time being. This has outdoor crowds in Bow Valley rejoicing, as this is just such a nice spring bike ride with no car traffic. So I went again, this time parked at Fireside gate (grabbed last spot). Beautiful ride, then put spikes and ventured up the canyon. So sublime having it to yourself and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring icy scenery. Then, as there was enough compact trail, I easily booted to Ink Pots, and enjoyed sunshine for half an hour in total silence. Sawback Range call was very strong. Some photos:

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[Cycling and not driving means different kind of road signs! There was also salamander sign, and one of these electronic roadside speedometers; limit was 20kph, and as it was telling me I was going 26, I hit the brakes a bit]

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[Later on this guy. Judging by dance it did, I think it considered my bicycle as potential mate]

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[Approaching Jonhston Canyon with Castle mtn in background. Unreal to see all parking spots available ]

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[Upper Johnston Canyon Falls. This is usually popular ice climbing area]

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[More scenery in upper Johnston Canyon]

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[Ink Pots. Largest pool (photo) was completely ice free, others were just melting. This is one of really sublime spots in Rockies, despite what some think. Specially when there are no crowds]

No signs of traffic beyond Ink Pots. This was actually decent exercise, as it involved ~35km of (road) cycling and ~11km of hiking, with ~350m vertical. I am getting quite fond of this area now that crowds are gone because of Covid restrictions
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Last edited by zeljkok; 04-21-2021 at 03:20 AM.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 11:10 AM
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gorgeous! The 1A paving and improvements (with the super fun one way sections added) were done when we lived there in the 80s and biking to JCanyon for Ice Cream was a fun outing. We would also drive out and park along the one ways and roller blade. There was hardly anyone there off season.

COVID has some pluses, returing some places (and air spaces) back in time to less crowded days. Cherish every minute before the Spray Lakes onslaught hits you instead.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Cherish every minute before the Spray Lakes onslaught hits you instead.

Spray is already quite bad & I expect it to be real gong show this summer, like most of the Rockies. Problem is also that Spray road is getting worse and worse; it's now a challenge to drive just from Canmore to Goat Creek (Ha Ling trailhead). Whiteman Gap stretch has so many potholes it is unreal.



But yes, 1A is quite nice. Small parking lot by Fenland gate will not be big enough & ppl might have to start from Fenland in Banff or Vermilion Lakes. I also learned Lake Minnewanka loop road will be closed on Mondays and Thursdays in May for enhanced cycling experience. Good read here:


https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calga...kway-1.5948867
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 09:51 PM
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Nice photos and good job on taking advantage of the unusual covid closures. I read the first post not noticing it was a year ago already. Groundhog year? Are we going to repeat everything again?
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 10:21 PM
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Castle Mtn is quite eye-catching. It appears to be commonly photographed at sunrise or sunset?
Take advantage of these touristy places while you can before it becomes over-run again.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 11:00 PM Thread Starter
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I read the first post not noticing it was a year ago already. Groundhog year? Are we going to repeat everything again?

Groundhog indeed! I didn't realize, year to the day, till you said it. This time I hiked further, as I was alone & could do as I wanted. Great catch!
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2021, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Castle Mtn is quite eye-catching. It appears to be commonly photographed at sunrise or sunset?
Take advantage of these touristy places while you can before it becomes over-run again.

Sunset is good time as Sun reflects of west facing cliffs. There is also popular tourist pullout of Trans-Canada few km before Castle Junction. Many 'Canadian Rockies' calendar shots were taken there



But much better is if you hike to Rockbound Lake behind Castle mtn (about 2 hrs, comparable to Garibaldi from Rubble Creek), then up ridge system above. These are morning shots. When I was there last time photography still didn't interest me, maybe I'll drag my butt up this summer again.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 04-24-2021, 12:48 PM
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A visually stunning place. I went up Johnston Canyon in mid-September, and the crowds were dispiriting, even late in the day. Turned dark before I got to ink pots, so will probably re-do some day just to see trail's end.

I think the "Wolves" sign on 1A came down?
Love the return of critters -- frogs, grouse -- to their habitats.

zeljkok, these early spring hikes you have been posting are fomenting some idea to visit in April with my spikes. You are filling in the guidebook gaps with texture, meaning, and history. So thank you!
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