The Rockwall Trail – Floe Lake trail

The Rockwall Trail – Floe Lake trail

If you are hiking the entire Rockwall, or just fancy a rewarding day hike; The Floe Lake trail is an incredible adventure. This was our final section of the Rockwall trail; Hiking out from the spectacular Floe Lake back down to the trailhead along the Banff-Windermere Parkway in Kootenay National Park, Canada.

If you camp at Floe Lake, you’ll wake up in backpackers heaven. The early morning reflections in the lake are stunning, and you get to enjoy them with your breakfast! The hike down is great. We hiked past a gushing waterfall, through countless wildflowers and got to see the rejuvenation of this area that was ravaged by wildfire at the turn of the century.

Click here for my full Rockwall Trail Guide.

Map to Floe Lake

Map of the Floe Lake trailhead to (or from) Floe Lake below. See the whole route here. Or my strava recording of our day here.

Floe Lake trail – the basics

Distance: 10km to hike out (20km if you visit Floe Lake as a day hike)
Cumulative Elevation gain: 170m (or over 950m if you visit as a day hike)
Cumulative Elevation loss: -800m
Highest Point: 2045m Floe Lake
Time: 3.5 hours to hike out
What to bring: The 10 Essentials, bear spray (have it handy), gaiters were helpful.
Facilities: There are outhouses at Floe Lake Campground and at the trailhead. 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? Hiking out from Floe lake is pretty easy (after several days on the trail.) However this is a challenging route to do as a day hike.

Hike to Floe Lake or the whole Rockwall trail?

This was the fourth and final day on the Rockwall trail for us, so we’d already hiked for around 44km. You can read about the previous sections and alpine passes:

Tumbling Creek to Numa Creek along the Rockwall Trail  

If you want to visit Floe Lake, but don’t have time for multiple days on the Rockwall trail, you can hike in straight from the Floe Lake trailhead.

Camping at Floe Lake

If you read my previous post you’ll know there are 18 camping pads at Floe Lake. There are two kitchen areas with food lockers and benches, as well as a couple of (quite stinky) toilets. You can collect water from the lake, or from the stream at the edge of the campground.

Waking up at Floe Lake was an absolute pleasure. We were slow to get going as it felt best to have a leisurely breakfast and enjoy the golden mountains lit by the morning sun. The water was calm for us, creating the most perfect reflections of Foster Peak and Floe Peak.

Hike out along the Floe Lake trail – Getting started

Eventually, once we were ready to go, we followed the single track east (keeping Floe Lake to the right). The trail starts off flat-ish for a few hundred meters to get you to the edge of the hanging valley to start the main descent.

There are a few large switchbacks to help you hike down 450 in just over 2km. At the top the trees are lush and green, but you’ll soon find yourself hiking through the tree-skeletons that burned in the massive wildfire in 2003.

It is always a bit sad to hike through burn areas. But, on the plus side, there are oodles of wildflowers and it means you can see the surrounding peaks.

Floe Lake Falls

There’s a waterfall! Floe Lake Falls is right next to the trail as you wander down the switchbacks. Later, when you’ll be treated to fantastic views of Floe Peak from below.

Plenty of sunshine

Once you’ve made it down the switchbacks, there is a long section of trail that hugs the edge of Numa mountain. This area must have burned badly during the 2003 wildfire, so there are very few trees standing. There is no shade, and when you look down to Floe Creek, you’ll see huge log jams where the fallen trees have gotten stuck in the creek.

Rockwall trail fireweed

The pretty purple flowers of fireweed (normally the first flower to bloom after wildflowers) covers the trail on the hike out. Lisa’s hiking dress matched the flowers perfectly.

The trail was a little overgrown in some places, but it was still easy to follow. I saw trail reports from later in the summer when this was very overgrown. Just be aware you may need to fight through plants at some points!

Final switchbacks

At the far end of the valley, there are a few more switchbacks down to Floe Creek and the Vermillion River. I loved that this part of the trail was covered in red paintbrushes. I say red, but lots of them were the colour of peaches.

Huckleberry time

One of the highlights of our hike out were the little-leaved huckleberries along the edge of the trail. We found plenty of them between the bridges over Floe Creek and the Vermillion river. These were the tastiest berries I have ever eaten; Like teeny, flavorful skittles.

Vermilion River

The vermilion river was looking beautiful (but not at all vermilion – it’s bright blue!)

The bridge over the Vermilion river is a great spot to see the layers of limestone. They jut out at a jaunty angle so you can clearly see the geology. Once you cross the river, it is only a few hundred meters to the Floe Lake trailhead parking lot.

Panoramas along the Floe Lake trail

As always, I’ll finish with some panoramas of our final morning on the Rockwall trail. Floe lake was the highlight, but it was a fun (if hot) trail the entire way back to the trailhead.

The walk down from Floe Lake may not have had any alpine passes, but the bright wildflowers and tasty berries still made it a fun morning! If you are unable to do hike along the entire Rockwall, doing this as a day hike would be a great way to have a taste of the incredible mountains in Canada’s Kootenay National Park. Or, if you decide to hike the Rockwall from South to North, this is where you will start.

23 thoughts on “The Rockwall Trail – Floe Lake trail

  1. Josy, Please can you give your panoramas a slightly bigger font for their titles. Not even my magnifying glass makes then readable. Love, Lis

  2. This trail looks gorgeous and it’s great you have to option of doing this hike as a day hike. It’s a shame that the wildfires have destroyed a lot of the trees

    1. Yeah that fire must have been massive! It is cool to see how much has rejuvenated in less than 20 tears though!

    1. It’s funny, I looked into it as a day hike a couple of years ago…I am not sure why we didn’t do it! I guess I didn’t expect Floe Lake to be quite that fabulous!

  3. It’s always nice to end your hike on a high note with such lovely weather and beautiful scenery. I know what you meant about seeing the devastation from a forest fire, but as you said, at least you get to enjoy all the wildflowers.

    1. I think I used a roast dinner wishbone to wish for good weather (back in January!) Somehow the roast-wish came true!

      As you’ve hiked in this area, would you be tempted to come back to Kootenay NP and attempt this one?

      1. I love that that’s what you wished for! And yes, I would totally love to return to Kootenay to hike the Rockwall Trail!! I could spend the entire summer hiking in the Canadian Rockies and never get bored, just super fit!

  4. Floe Lake is absolutely beautiful! Your pictures are stunning. I’d love to try the fresh water or Huckleberries. Hiking would be great too!

  5. Wow, waking up by Floe Lake really does look like a backpackers dream! I also can’t believe the color of vermilion river – it’s so beautiful! Thanks for sharing this trail 🙂

    1. It’s mad isn’t it! We visited this area before, and I ended up taking soo many photos of that crazy-blue river!

  6. It looks like you had the perfect day for this hike – absolutely stunning! I love the small flowers along the way as well <3

    1. It really is a gorgeous spot isn’t it! You know I don’t think it has a good review from the “don’t waste your time” book as a day hike… that is why we didn’t head up here last time we were in the area.

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