Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park, but did you know you could stay overnight there? My family and I have enjoyed the Johnston Canyon hike many times and I have often glanced at the cute cabins near the trailhead and wondered what it would be like to stay there. I finally decided to find out and booked a two-night stay at Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows. About a 20-minute drive west of Banff, this lovely resort is situated on five acres of forested land near the trailhead of Banff’s most popular hike. Even though the trail is very popular, we found a stay in the cabins to be quite peaceful. Read on for our full review.
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Cute Retro-Style Cabins in Banff
Located on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows has 42 heritage cabins and bungalow-style accommodations. The property has been family owned and operated since 1926 and you get the feeling that you’re stepping back in time right from the moment you arrive. There’s an antique car and an antique gas pump right beside the small building that is used for guest check-in. The cabins are surrounded by forest and trees. They are decorated in a cute retro style and are very comfortable. Our cabin had a wood-burning fireplace, a full kitchen, and a full bathroom with a retro-style clawfoot tub.
The Best Thing – Johnston Canyon Without the Crowds
One of the best things about staying at Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows is that it’s easy to beat the crowds on one of Banff’s most popular trails. If you hit the trail early, you can practically have it all to yourself. If you’re not an early riser, you will also find a less crowded trail by hiking later in the day when tour buses and most other visitors have left. We hiked to the Ink Pots later in the day and had them almost to ourselves.
Don’t forget to bring a day pack for day hikes in Banff. I usually keep one in my vehicle.
The Other Best Thing – Complimentary Bicycles at Johnston Canyon Lodge
Another great thing about staying at Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows is that the property has free bicycles available for guest use. The Bow Valley Parkway is a beautiful place to cycle. In recent years, Parks Canada has been closing it off to motorized traffic twice per year – for a month in spring and a month in the fall. This was done to enhance the cycling experience. The resort has cute retro bikes and helmets that can be borrowed as well has mountain bikes with modern-looking helmets. One the first day of our stay, we borrowed the retro bikes and did some cycling. We took the mountain bikes out for a spin on the Bow Valley Parkway on the second day of our stay. Bicycles are available on a first come, first served basis.
There’s a Tennis Court at Johnston Canyon – Who Knew?
Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows has a tennis court for guest use. It’s up on the hill behind the cabins. It isn’t fancy and it’s not new, but we took the time to play a set and had a great time doing it. If you had told me there is a tennis court near the trailhead at Johnston Canyon, I wouldn’t have believed you. I have hiked the Johnston Canyon trail many times and I had never seen any signs that there is a tennis court there, but trust me – there is a tennis court not far from the trailhead.
Antique Stuff at Johnston Canyon Lodge
If you love funky antiques, you’ll love this resort. There are several antique vehicles scattered around the resort as well as other items – indoors and out. Antique photos of Banff and the resort adorn the walls of the cabins, the restaurant, and the café. There’s an antique popcorn machine and other funky and fun furnishings scattered around the restaurant. Our cabin was also decorated with some retro-style furnishings including a clawfoot bathtub. My husband opted to use the modern shower, but the bathtub was calling me, and I enjoyed a long leisurely bubble bath.
Wi-Fi – Yes; Cable TV – Nope
Johnston Canyon Lodge and Bungalows has good Wi-Fi, but it does not have cable TV. For some that would be an issue, but for me it wasn’t. When you’re staying in a cozy cabin in the woods not having cable TV is a good thing in my opinion. There’s something to be said for taking a break from technology for a few days. There are televisions and DVD players in the rooms and free DVD rentals at the front desk. You can also stream content on your own device if you want to.
Cook Your Own Meals – Kitchens and a BBQ Area
If you plan ahead and bring groceries, you can be self sufficient in these cabins in Banff. The cabin we stayed in had a fully equipped kitchen with a full-sized fridge and freezer. It also had a dining area with a table and chairs. The resort also has a communal barbecue area with barbecues and outdoor picnic tables. If you want to cook your own meals, it’s completely doable.
Johnston Canyon Lodge – Restaurant, Café and Giftshop
If you don’t feel like cooking, there is an onsite café and restaurant. Blackswift Bistro, the main restaurant, does not have a huge menu, but the food we had was good and the servings were a good size. My favourite dinner meal was the grilled cheese sandwich. It was the cheesiest grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had. We also tried the steak sandwich, fish and chips, and the bison burger for dinners. The breakfast food was also good. I liked the avocado toast, but I didn’t like the dehydrated crispy onions they put on top of it as a garnish. In fairness, I am very picky when it comes to avocado toast.
Overall Impression – Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows
We had a wonderful stay. I liked the retro feel of the cabins and the resort. I loved the antique cars, the old pictures on the walls and the other antiques scattered around the property. Borrowing bicycles and cycling along the Bow Valley Parkway is a highlight of any stay – especially when the Parkway is closed to motorized traffic. Hiking to Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots minus the crowds is another huge benefit of staying at this resort. The cabin we stayed in had kitchen facilities, but the onsite restaurant was good when we chose not to cook. Even though the resort is beside one of the most popular hiking trails in Banff National Park, it felt like an escape to nature. The cabins are just far enough away from the trailhead to separate them from the crowds of people that come to this beautiful spot. The cabins do not have cable TV and while this might be an issue for some, it didn’t bother us. If you’re looking for cozy cabins in Banff, Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows is a good choice.
Related: Read out review of Baker Creek Mountain Resort, another cozy cabin-style accommodation in Banff National Park.