The Rockwall Trail – Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek

The Rockwall Trail – Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek

This was our second day on the spectacular Rockwall trail, from Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek. You can read the first part here. This section climbs up to the giant cliffs of Ottertail limestone that make up the actual Rockwall. The trail goes by Rockwall Pass (and you can take a mini detour to Wolverine Pass) before descending down to the pleasant campground at Tumbling Creek. We saw incredible mountains, glaciers and regal marmots along the way.

We were unable to book a campsite at Tumbling Creek, so we kept going on to Numa Creek (it was over 20km and over 1000m elevation gain.) However I took sooo many photos that I split the day into two halves.

Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek trail map

This is the map to Tumbling Creek – See the whole route here. You can find my strava recording of our day here.

Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek – The basics

Distance: 13 km
Cumulative Elevation gain: 720m
Cumulative Elevation loss: -580m
Highest Point: 2230m at Rockwall Pass
Time: 5-6 hours
What to bring: The 10 Essentials, bear spray (have it handy), gaiters were helpful.
Facilities: There are outhouses at Helmet Falls Campground and Tumbling Creek Campground. Bring your own loo roll or a kula cloth.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on this trail if they are on a leash.
How hard is it? If you stop and camp at Tumbling Creek, this day is moderately challenging. If you continue on to Numa Creek (like we did) it is a very challenging day.

Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek – Getting started

The day starts with a 400m climb up to the meadows by Limestone Peak. As you gain elevation you can look back at Helmet Falls and the rainbows it paints in the morning sunshine.

I have to admit, this was the day that I was most nervous about. We needed to continue to Numa Creek for our camping reservation. So this was going to be the longest day (and most elevation) I’d ever attempted while carrying backpacking gear. Our solution was to start early.

Meadows below the Rockwall

Once you’ve hiked up to the first nameless pass, the views will blow your mind! There is a gentle slope that takes you through flower-filled meadows to a lake at the base of a moraine. You’ll be able to see glaciers and giant hunks of limestone continuing for miles. And you get to hike the whole way alongside these beauties!

The limestone cliffs of the Rockwall reach up for a kilometer (1022m) above you and completely fill your field of view. The meadows are also full of larches (the hardy alpine trees that turn golden in autumn.)

Wildflower displays

Wildflowers and biting insects were both in abundance along the Rockwall. I’ll post a few photos of red paintbrushes, western spring beauty and western anemone (which I think of as Dr Seuss poofs.) But there was so much more.

Moraine and rocky ascent

About halfway along the Rockwall, the path reaches a beautiful glacial lake at the base of the moraine. This is where the trail starts to climb again. You just need to ascend 300m to reach the pass.

If you look carefully on my photo below, this is where we started to meet the most regal marmots. This first marmot marquis had climbed up onto the largest boulder and was surveying territory from up high.

The trail may be rocky, but it is still easy to follow. Don’t worry too much about navigating through the scree. Trails in Canadian National Parks are really well built.

As you get closer to the Rockwall Pass, there are more and more larches lining the trail. It must be gorgeous in the autumn. You will be treated to fantastic glacier views and can look up to the dramatic limestone peaks that surround you. (Squeee!)

Rockwall Geology

This imposing rampart is made of sedimentary rocks, laid down in the Cambrian era (around 500 million years ago) back when this area was a large, shallow sea. This created a kilometer-high barrier that juts out along the spine of Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

Rockwall Pass

This was our lunch spot at Rockwall Pass. It is one of the coolest lunch views I have ever experienced.

On, towards Wolverine Plateau, the trail flattens out. So you can enjoy the phenomenal views without expending much effort. This was the best section of the hike. Take it slowly and enjoy the scenery.

In late July there was still snow on the trail near Rockwall Pass. Still, it was not too deep and not hard to traverse over it. We’d read reports from the weeks before we did the hike, and it sounds like it can be much tougher earlier in the season.

I was a bit slower than my friends for this part because it was just so flipping pretty! I stopped for photos after every few steps! All my selfies involve me grinning like a loon.

Wolverine Pass

It is worth taking a few minutes to take a mini detour to Wolverine Pass. The turn-off is in between Drysdale Peak and Mount Gray. It’s only a few hundred extra meters walk, but you get to peer down into the valley below.

This is the view back to the Wolverine Plateau from the pass.

After Wolverine Pass the trail starts to descend, slowly at first. Don’t forget to turn around and look backwards! Mount Drysdale looks so different from this direction!

Wonky Larches

The last section of alpine meadows had quite a lot of storm/avalanche damage to the larch trees. Many trees were growing at a 45° degree angle. Lots had fallen over the trail, so we had to clamber over or around them. If you look beyond the wonky trees, you can see the next high point, Tumbling Pass next to the enormous Tumbling Glacier.

Descend to Tumbling Creek

Once you have made it around Mount Gray, the trail descends 300m over about 2.5km. It starts off as a gentle slope, but you’ll soon find yourself zooming down steep-ish switchbacks looking down at the rock-flour-filled white waters of Tumbling Creek.

Tumbling Creek Campground

This is a lovely spot to camp! Tumbling Creek Campground has shady areas for the tent pads. It then opens out into gorgeous meadows with views of the surrounding mountains.

Tumbling Creek Campground Facilities

There are tent pads (18 available), a couple of outhouses, food storage lockers, as well as groups of tables and benches. There are two areas to eat; One close to trees, and one with fabulous views – if you can, keep going to the benches with the views! You can fetch water from the creek along the edge of the campground.

We did not spend very long at Tumbling Creek as we needed to continue on to Numa Creek. But it looked like a fab backcountry campground if you can snag a reservation!

Rockwall Panoramas – Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek

Just to give you more of an idea about how impressive the scenery is along this hike…

So, that wraps up the first half of our second day on the Rockwall Trail from Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek. This is a challenging trail when you are carrying a heavy backpack. But somehow the picturesque views seemed to give me extra energy so I didn’t find this as hard as I expected. The toughest part of the day was still to come, but I’ll cover that in my next post!

Have you heard of the Rockwall trail before? Do you like the idea of backpacking into the gorgeous Canadian Rockies? Click on the pins below to save this for later.

Rockwall Pass - Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek along the Rockwall Trail

40 thoughts on “The Rockwall Trail – Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek

  1. Love it! It really is a giant wall of rock isn’t it? That’s such a gorgeous section of the trail and so glad you had wonderful weather for it. Your panoramas always turn out so well too! Pity about not being able to stay at Tumbling Creek – it is indeed a lovely place to camp (and much nicer than Numa Creek in our opinion).

    1. To be fair, it was such a rush to get bookings (all three of us were up early, waiting for the site to open!) we were just happy to get reservations at all!

      Lol panorama-wise, I think I had about 60 to choose from at the end of the hike. Some of them were less good, those just didn’t make it into posts!

    1. Thanks Araceli! This is the walk I was telling you about when we were in the UK. I was a bit worried if I could manage it, but it turned out to be amaaaazing!

  2. The cliffs, glaciers, flowers, and overall scenery truly make this adventure look spectacular! I’d definitely love to visit this trail myself one day and will definitely be referring back to your tips when I go to plan it!

  3. I haven’t been to the Rockwood Trail, but I’m adding it to my list. I would have been nervous for this hike as well. It’s quite a distance with many obstacles and elevation to be carrying gear. But I agree with you, the scenery would be a great distraction.

  4. Well done – that’s a long hike with a lot of elevation gain! That lunch view is amazing – it’d be hard to get up and keep going 🙂 Looks like you had perfect weather for this adventure!

    1. We really did! We were chatting that we can never go back, as the experience could not be better! Normally this trail is famous for storms and soaked hikers!

  5. I’m so glad you did! I felt it was definitely a trail that leaves you wanting to do it again. Ah, so it was just a numbers game then 😀 I should take more panos then…

    1. I normally just take loads of photos in a row. Google attempts to stitch them together, but I often find it works better if I stitch them together myself.

  6. Wow, wow, wow! These views are spectacular! It looks like a challenging hike but worth it! Crossing my fingers I’ll get to do this hike someday 🙂

  7. This must be one of a kind hike! Even though it must be challenging, I see the pictures and the views are stunning, so you just want to go for it!

  8. The scenery here is truly breathtaking. I don’t know if I could do this type of hike these days but I sure enjoyed hearing your experience!

  9. Stunning photos and awesome guide of Rockwall trail from Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek! I would love to explore this area and take in all the views!

  10. This is just so stunning! I always take SO many pictures as well. I love the wildflowers you encountered, and YES, the anemone totally look like they could be from Dr Seuss!

  11. Stunning photos! I love the colors of the Rockwall pass, the mountains and also the Wolverine Pass. It must have been a challenging hike, I am sure. I am adding this to my bucket list. 🙂

    1. Oh yay! I am glad to introduce it to you Jan. Yeah, the colours were amazing in the summer…but I think it’s be even more gorgeous in the fall when those larches go golden.

    1. Hiking in Canada is amaaaaazing! I hope you can visit if you are into hikes. There are countless great longer hikes like this, as well as day hikes at various levels of difficulty. Honestly, hiking is the best thing about living/visiting here.

  12. I really like the content of your blog. You always write in a way that inspires us to travel and see the world. Thank you very much for that. Greetings from Calgary.

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