Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 550 m View map Download GPS track
After two trips with windchills of -30 C or below we'd had enough of the cold and wind and so decided to stay below treeline today. Our destination was the Ink Pots in Banff National Park, a popular summer hike or winter snowshoe trip. They can be accessed from either of two trailheads: Moose Meadows or Johnson Canyon. As I've heard the route via Moose Meadows is entirely viewless I decided to take the Johnson Canyon approach and play tourist for a few kilometers, figuring the ice in the canyon would make up for the lack of solitude.
We arrived at the Johnson Canyon trailhead around 10:30 am and were surprised to find it nearly half full! We'd assumed that the -18 C temperature and midweek timing would keep the crowds at bay, but that certainly wasn't the case today. With the trail packed solid we used microspikes, but still carried our snowshoes as I wasn't sure how packed the Ink Pots trail would be.
We were pleasantly surprised by the walk along Johnson Canyon. The ice formations were quite spectacular and sufficiently varied that they kept us happily entertained and despite the cold we spent well over an hour on this section of trail. I even found a cave along the creek that I'd been looking for; it's easy to find if you can recognize the cliffs in everyone else's photos. The trail to the Ink Pots was packed solid as well (no showshoes necessary at all), but unfortunately the entire trail was in the trees and dead boring.
The meadows at the end holding the Ink Pots, however, were quite nice and just as we arrived the sun came out. With no wind at all we were able to eat a quick lunch and wander around the various ponds. They're no longer colored as they once were (I've heard that people have killed the organisms that caused the color), but at least today they were adorned with fancy ice crystals.
It wasn't our usual summit trip, but for a trip in the trees this one was quite nice!