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Snowshoeing to the Ink Pots in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is full of winter trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Last weekend we decided to start exploring and chose the 12 kilometre (return) snowshoe to the Ink Pots via Moose Meadows.

Getting to the Ink Pots Trailhead

You’ll find the trailhead a few kilometers east of Castle Junction along the Bow Valley Parkway on the north side of the road. Signage is excellent. Allow 30 minutes from either Banff or Lake Louise – especially if you’re driving the slower going Bow Valley Parkway.

"Ink Pots Trailhead is close to Castle Mountain"

Ink Pots Trailhead is close to Castle Mountain

"The start of the trail to the Ink Pots"

The start of the trail to the Ink Pots

The Trail to the Ink Pots

The snowshoe trail is well defined the entire way. Begin by heading up through thick forest for 3.2 kilometres until you reach the junction with a trail leading to Johnson Canyon. Bear left to continue to the Ink Pots and continue for another 2.7 kilometres. This section of the trail sees the bulk of the 220 metre elevation gain. The higher you get the better the view.

"Peek a boo views as you climb higher"

Peek a boo views as you climb higher

Eventually you break out into a valley. The Ink Pots stand before you – throwing off a bit of warmth too. In non winter months they’re brilliant coloured mineral hotsprings – but in winter they’re not so good. If you’re here in the summer months, you can continue hiking up the valley and over Mystic Pass to Luellen Lake, a further 11.8 kilometers away

"Ink Pots and Valley Views"

Ink Pots and Valley Views

"Some coloration in an Ink Pot"

Some coloration in an Ink Pot

When we got to the Ink Pots the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in. This area would be spectacular on a sunny day.

"Interesting rock formations up the valley"

Interesting rock formations up the valley

The return trip is fast since it’s mostly downhill. All told it took us 3¼ hours including a short lunch break. It’s a wonderful way to spend half a day.

"Excellent snow conditions"

Excellent snow conditions

More Snowshoeing Information

The Banff Parks Office at 224 Banff Avenue in Banff is staffed with helpful, bilingual rangers who can direct you to a trail that best suits your ability. Around Banff itself there are 10 easy snowshoe trails if you just want a short burst of exercise and fresh air. Otherwise near Banff you can snowshoe to the summit of Tunnel Mountain or try the busier alternative to the Ink Pots – a trip to see the waterfalls up Johnston Canyon.

The Lake Louise area has three easy trails, two moderate trails and one difficult one – which sounds like a must do trail since it takes you 6.3 kilometres to a scenic hanging valley below Mount Bell.

So many choices and not enough weekends in a winter.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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