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Alberta’s Best Canyon Walks with Waterfalls

7 Alberta hikes with waterfalls

Johnston Canyon- Banff National Park:

This beautiful canyon is a must see while visiting the park. The first 1.1 Km of the path ambles along walkways bolted to the canyon walls.  The views of the blue-green river snaking through the gorge are spectacular.  Once you reach the lower falls cross the bridge and enter a natural cave, created by erosion and feel the cool spray of the lower falls mist your face.  But don’t stop here; continue the additional 2.5 Km through lush forest to the Upper falls.  The path meanders along the top of the canyon ridge, overlooking the beautiful Johnston River. Until finally, you come to a viewing platform that showcases the breathtaking Upper falls.   This an extremely popular hike, quite easy for most fitness levels. We HIGHLY recommend doing this hike in the early morning or late afternoon in order to avoid the large crowds that come to see this scenic canyon.

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

Marble Canyon- Kootenay National Park:

Technically just outside of Alberta, but only short drive from Banff and Lake Louise this unique interpretative walk explaining how this canyon was formed by shifting tectonic plates, Glacier erosion and powerful river currents that dissolved the limestone walls of the gorge.  This short 0.8 KM walk (one way) takes you over 7 bridges as the trail crisscrosses high above the icy blue waters of Tokumm Creek.  Keep a keen eye out for fossils in this area as there was a major new find of fossilized soft-body organisms in the are of Marble Canyon. This find seems to challenge the rich fossil deposit of the nearby Burgess Shale fossil site.

Marble Canyon Waterfalls

Mistaya Canyon- Banff National Park:

This deep narrow gorge, named after the Cree word meaning ‘Grizzly Bear’ is a must-see stop on the Icefield Parkway.  For thousands of years the powerful flows of the Mistaya River have continued to sculpt the majestic grey limestone rocks and canyon walls.  You can feel the rumble under your feet as these swirling turquoise waters thunder path you on route to connect with the North Saskatchewan River.  This impressive canyon is a short 15 minute walk from the parking area. A majestic hidden gem within Banff National Park.

Grizzly Bear in green field

Grotto Canyon- Canmore, AB:

A beautiful winter hike!  The ice-covered stream allows you to walk up river, through a stunning box canyon to an amazing frozen waterfall at the end.  Many times you can find climbers traversing the solid ice falls at the end. .  Keep a keen eye out for the red Pictographs and ancient aboriginal wall painting on the left side of the canyon walls.  And don’t forget to explore to the left of the waterfall, where the canyon opens up into a gully full of hundreds of Inuksuk’s.  The word Inuksuk means ‘you are in the right location’ and with the pretty view from here the Inuksuk seem to be right.  Decent shoes with extra traction or crampon’s is a good idea for this hike.

Red Pictographs at Grotto Canyon

Maligne Canyon-  Jasper National Park:

This very interesting walk has superb views all along the way.  Maligne Canyon is considered to be one of the deepest river canyons in the Canadian Rockies. This Spectacular gorge is a magnificent place to explore in summer or winter. This hike has many unique characteristic, including six foot bridges that crisscross over the deep plunging chasms left behind by melting glaciers. Some of the canyon walls measuring up to 160 feet deep! This is a kid friendly walk with many opportunities to find fossils or discover interesting formations created by the melting spring waters bubbling out of the limestone boulders. Follow the well-kept path to view the graceful waterfall in summer or to the stunning icefalls in the crisp winter months.

Boulder with fossils

Red Rock Canyon – Waterton Lakes National Park:

This canyon is a rare and beautiful work of art by Mother Nature. The scenic red gorge is full of interestingly shaped rock formations, extraordinary brilliant colors and interpretive signs about the history of the area. Photographic opportunities are everywhere, the most spectacular scenes lie at the bottom of Red Rock Canyon.  Dip your toes in the crystal-clear waters of the canyon while rock-hopping along the brick colored shoreline.  And keep an eye out for a bird called the American Dipper that makes thi unique canyon its home.  This  are is extremely busy due to the fact that this is the trailhead location to several other hikes in the area… including a short walk 2 KM walk to Blakiston Falls.   The walk from Red Rock Canyon to the falls meanders through a charming forest until you are rewarded with a view of the gorgeous falls at the end. Waterton is said to be the place ‘where the mountains meet the prairies.’ And that is especially true as you explore this fascinating little canyon.

Narrow gorge of Red Rock Canyon

Crescent Canyon- Nordegg, AB:

This is a spectacular stroll along the top of the impressive Bighorn Gorge that ends at the double waterfalls at Crescent Falls.  Begin walking upstream from the viewpoint overlooking the Bighorn River. The twisting path winds its way through a pleasant forest with glimpses of the extraordinary Crescent Falls in the distance.  The jagged ancient walls of Bighorn Gorge make for a number of fantastic photographic opportunities, and you many even be able to spot a black bear on the other side to the gorge.   This is an easy 6.2 Km walk, with a short, steep scramble at the end.  But views of the powerful Bighorn River plunging over the crescent shaped cliffs into the plunge pool 30 meters below is simply amazing and well worth the effort!

The double waterfalls at Crescent Falls

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View of Moraine lakes deep blue colour from the rock pile

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