The Rockwall Trail is located in Kootenay National Park, a part of the Canadian Rockies UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a 3 – 5 day tough backpacking trip covering 55 kms (34 miles) one way. Start at the Floe Lake Trailhead and finish at the Paint Pots Trailhead. The trailheads are about a 2.5 hour drive from Calgary. The harder days are the first two. Hitchhike back to your car at the end of the trip or arrange a car shuttle before you begin. The trailheads are only 13 kms (8 miles) apart by car. You do need to buy a back-country pass beforehand.
Floe Lake campground is the first destination; hike 10.7 kms up a steep and unrelenting trail from the parking lot through burned forest. Floe Lake is in a lovely setting at the base of the Rockwall.
The next day continue on the Numa Pass Trail to the Numa Creek campground via Numa Pass, the highest point on the Rockwall Trail. It’s 10.2 kms between campsites. The distances sound manageable but there is constant elevation gain and loss over the length of the Rockwall Trail. It used to be possible to get back to the highway via the Numa Creek Trail but with the floods of 2013 that trail is now closed.
It’s only 7.1 kms from Numa Creek campground to the Tumbling Creek campground. Cross gorgeous Tumbling Pass – 4.8 kms into the day’s hike to get there. But pay attention through here as this has been termed by writer Graeme Pole as the grizzly grocery store with its abundance of berries. From there head through a boulder meadow and climb up a scree shoulder east of Tumbling Pass. Enjoy the views of Tumbling Glacier. Continue on through a lateral moraine and then steeply descend to Tumbling Creek. The Tumbling Creek campground is 300 meters west of the bridge.
Then it’s 12.7 kms to get to Helmet Falls campground. There’s some steep climbing initially – a rude start to the day but nothing new – and then you enter the beautiful sub-alpine meadows that make up the Wolverine Plateau. Wolverine Pass is 3.1 kms up from the Tumbling Creek campground. Rockwall Pass is next – just 400 meters away. Easier hiking follows, then a climb to Limestone Summit and from there it’s a steady descent to the Helmet Falls campground. We elected to continue another 8.4 kms – on a mostly gentle grade to the Helmet/Ochre Junction campground . It’s a beautiful spot and if there’s some juice left in your legs at the Helmet Falls campground give some consideration to continuing. Then it’s a relatively short and easy 5.2 kms (3.1 miles) out past the Paint Pots to the trailhead by Marble Creek Campground.
Do make lots of noise on this trail. The rangers monitor the area closely for bears and shut down sections of trail if they deem it to be unsafe because of too much bear activity. Use lots of common sense and keep your tent free of food and fragrances.
Have you ever considered backpacking the Rockwall Trail? It does not disappoint!!
Other backpacking trips that might be of interest:
- Backpacking to Baker Lake, Skoki Area, Banff National Park
- Hiking the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park
- Hiking the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park – Part I