The trail to the lower falls of Johnston Canyon is perfect for family hiking. It is relatively flat and beautifully scenic. The hike was so doable in fact that I was able to wear our toddler in the hiking pack and give my husband a rest. A feat that was only accomplished twice in our ten day hike (I mean she is HEAVY!).
At the end of the hike to the lower falls there is a small cavern you can walk into to view the waterfall up close. I give it a “meh”. I wore our daughter into it which was a mistake because I immediately felt uncomfortable with how much head space we had and how slippery it was. But honestly, you are just closer to a waterfall and you have to wait in line so I personally would skip it.
In general, Johnston Canyon was relatively crowded, likely due to the ease of the hike. We never felt like we weren’t enjoying ourselves but I would definitely suggest getting there early or late in the day to avoid some of the crowds. Also, the trail to the lower falls covers very little elevation and is therefore more popular. We decided to continue on to the Upper Falls and the crowds certainly wane as you hit the stairs. The whole trip took us about 3 hours (~2 miles one way) and we stopped at the upper falls to eat some sandwiches I had pre-packed.
Beyond the upper falls the trail goes to the ink pots which is supposed to be spectacular but this was meant to be one of hiking recovery days and we were pretty spent so we headed back after the upper falls. I figure there its always good to have an excuse to go back
Location from Banff: About 30 minutes from Banff headed in the direction of Lake Louise so it makes a perfect pit stop if you heading from one town to the other.
Johnston Canyon for a toddler: Very easy, with the caveat that your toddler is in a hiking pack. I did see families using strollers but there were times when this would be difficulty due to crowds and uneven crowd. And it would preclude you from going to the upper falls. If your toddler was walking I would be a little nervous on some of the bridge like structures plus with the crowds. So while this is a very easy pretty flat hike I definitely recommend wearing your child for your own sanity.
Overall rating: 8/10. It is a gorgeous hike and really very easy but so very crowded. I would strongly recommend only doing it if you plan on at least doing the upper falls add on.