Campground: Johnston Canyon Campground
Location: Approx 30 mins north of Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway.
Driving Directions: You can either take the scenic route and drive up the parkway until you reach it or you can take hwy 1 to Castle Junction and then turn right on the parkway to shorten the journey time.
Pre-Registration Available? No. This campground is first come first served. We have had good luck arriving in the early afternoon on a Friday to get a spot for the weekend. It is easy to get a weekday spot - we arrived Sunday afternoon and had our pick of the sites. Group sites can be pre-booked but are much less private than individual sites
Amenities: flush toilets, hot/cold running water, potable water, treed sites, sites available with or without a fire pit (permit required for fire but wood is included in permit fee), convenience store/restaurant/ice cream stand nearby at Johnston Canyon Resort.
Proximity to Kid-Friendly Attractions: Very close. Hiking trails of varying lengths and abilities are nearby. Located adjacent to beautiful Johnston Canyon and a memorable hike to two gorgeous waterfalls. Also located on a stream for kids of an age to be entertained by merely tossing rocks into water. Short drive to Banff or Lake Louise for other family-friendly activities.
Years ago, in the land before Kids, hubby and I LOVED this campground. It's amenities, proximity to great hiking and beauty were unparalleled in our minds. It was with great excitement that we planned a week for our family there this summer. Of course - with flooding comes mosquitoes and this campground was taking it's fair share of the hit for the buggers this summer. Add a sick kid to the works and our family vacation lasted a mere 26 hours before we packed it in and headed home. BUT, next year...we'll be back. It remains our family favourite.
The sites are fairly large and quite private with large numbers of trees. We had no shortage of places to hang a tarp, hammock and clothesline. Washrooms are well places throughout campground and closely accessible from the majority of campsites. Showers are located only in specific washrooms but still just a short walk.
While the mosquitoes were not as thick as they were at Dinosaur Provincial Park a few weeks ago, the park staff were quick to let us know that the nearby flooding had definitely caused a huge increase. We had luckily brought our new bug jackets and found they helps immensely. If the girls had just kept their hoods up, the bites might have been restricted to just their hands.
This isn't really a "social" campground as so many of the other campers were using the campground as a place to sleep after hiking and adventuring all day. Can't really blame them as that was me and hubby back in the day, but it did mean that the girls had to entertain themselves a lot more. There are also fewer common areas where "vacation friends" can gather and play...something to keep in mind if you have kiddos and usually rely on these types of areas to help occupy your kids at least part of the time (like we do).
As for activities - if you are a hiker, there is no end to amusement along the Bow Valley Parkway. One of hubby and my favourite hikes is to the Inkpots at the end of Johnston Canyon. At 11k round trip, it is a bit lengthly for the midgets right now so we merely took them up to the lower falls and that was about enough for them (probably around 3-4k round trip from our campsite).
Seeing a "really huge waterfall" was the highlight of the trip for them, though they found the cave a bit spooky.
The entire trail to the lower falls is paved and involves catwalks and bridges for a large part of the hike. There are safety rails, but gentle reminders to keep most of their bodies on the path side are probably a good idea for the smaller set.
The path is stroller accessible for a single stroller but doublewides may have trouble. At the end of the hike, there is an ice cream stand at the resort at the trailhead which, when open, should be good for bribes to keep little legs moving.