Rockwall: Marble canyon to Floe lake trailhead

The Rockwall Trail is definitely the best and most popular backpacking trip in Kootenay National park and a portion of the trail is part of the notorious Great Divide Trail. The horseshoe-shaped route travels beside a spectacular formation known as the Rockwall - an imposing wall of Ottertail rock that rises up to 900m above the landscape. We will be doing a great portion of the full route. You’ll walk past spectacular glaciers, beside prodigious blue lakes, and through charming subalpine meadows. Notably, you'll have the chance to see Marble Canyon, the Paint pots, the Tumbling Glacier, Floe Lake, the spectacular cliffs along the Rockwall, and more.

Is this Trip for me?

This trip is rated moderate based on distance, elevation gain and terrain.

We will be hiking at a regular and steady pace and we will move to a different campsite everyday. We will travel an average of 12,2 kilometers/day with some elevation gain up to 830 meters carrying a backpack weighting up to 16 kg (35 lbs.). Participants will be carrying personal clothing and gear, and equitable share of group gear and goods (food, tents, stoves, fuel, etc.).

All trails are generally in good shape but we will travel on rugged terrain. Prior backpacking experience is not mandatory but is recommended. You must be in good physical condition and it it suggested that you train prior to this trip.

Itinerary

 

Day 1: Marble Canyon to Tumbling Creek campground

At 7 am we meet at a prearranged location in Banff or Canmore. We will go over the trip details with you and make sure you have all the needed gear before leaving for Marble Canyon.

Duration: Approx. 30 mins

 

We drive along the Trans Canada Highway then we turn onto highway 93 south where we will cross over the continental divide and at the same time enter Kootenay National Park. Just over 5 mins into the park, we will park at Marble Canyon where we will start our journey.

Driving: Approx. 45mins

 

Our trip starts with a short walk on the marble canyon interpretive 1,4 km loop. We then follow the Vermillion River for a bit and the trail brings us through the paint pots, an area where first nations were collecting the ochre; an important resource to their trading activities. The trail is mostly in the forest but offers many opportunities for great views across the ochre valley. We take a turn on the tumbling creek trail where we cross a suspension bridge over ochre creek. The steep banks of tumbling creek display the impacts of Avalanches and floods on the landscape. The trail finally crosses over the tumbling creek waterfalls and shortly after, we arrive at the tumbling creek campsite and its beautiful meadows opening up to the Rockwall. The milky color of Tumbling creek proves the presence of glacier activity nearby.

Distance: 13,9 kms. Elevation gain: 500m.

Day 2: Tumbling Creek campground to Numa Creek campground

After a hearty breakfast, we will get ready for a side trip to wolverine pass. The trail rapidly climbs up the valley where we can admire the views of the Rockwall and Tumbling Glacier. The trail goes through a beautiful forest of larches before reaching Wolverine pass, the border of KNP, where you can see as far as the Bugaboos on a clear day. We come back to camp to resume our quest to the next campsite and be prepared for the breathtaking views that await us. We steadily make our way up on the Great Divide Trail which eventually parallels a moraine that offers the greatest viewpoint on the Tumbling glacier. Once on the south side of Tumbling pass, the trail descends into the Numa drainage where we will have to ford creeks before re-entering a thick forest and reach the Numa Creek campsite where we will spend the night.

Distance: 14,9 kms. Elevation gain: 620metres, 995metres loss.

Day 3: Numa Creek campground to Floe Lake campground

There's a gorgeous day in front of us and we don't need to rush it. First, a slow climb out of the Numa drainages that steepens after crossing a meadow that features a beautiful waterfall in the distance. We steeply climb on switchbacks to reach the treeline and Numa pass is the last push up scree on a solid trail where we'll be able to enjoy amazing views of Kootenay National Park and a large portion of Banff National Park. If the day allows, we'll be able to see from the peaks of Lake Louise to the notorious Mount Assiniboine. This viewpoint is also the best to witness the full length of the Rockwall. The trail goes down rapidly to Floe lake and our campsite, through flowery slopes and a forest of larches.

Distance 9.5 km. Elevation gain: 830 meters, 315 meters loss.

Day 4: Floe Lake to Highway 93s

It's the perfect morning to take it easy and enjoy the scenery of the majestic Floe lake and the Rockwall. On this last leg of the trip, a steep trail rapidly takes us down into a valley marked by a burnt forest where it's fascinating to witness the way forests recover after a wildfire. We will happily take our packs off and enjoy the scenic drive back to Banff.

Distance: 10.5 kms. Elevation loss: 715 meters.

What's Included

Professional Hiking Guide

Our Hiking Guide has 12 years exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains and some other parts of the continent. He is a certified Hiking Guide of the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides). He is also a member of the IGA (Interpretive Guide Association) and an accredited Wilderness First Responder.

Complementary certifications: ACMG Hiking Guide Winter Travel, AST1 (Avalanche Safety Training Level 1).

Your guide speaks 3 languages: French, English and Spanish.

Gear
We supply group camping and cooking equipment, as well as an emergency communication device, bear spray, water purification equipment and a backcountry emergency first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal backpacking equipment and clothing. 

Food

We provide all meals and snacks on this trip; from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day. We make healthy and nutritious meals to keep you energized throughout the whole trip . You will be consulted for food preferences and allergies when booking.

Transportation

We provide transportation from your accommodation in Banff or Canmore to the trailhead and back. Different pick-up locations can be discussed as well. We can also offer a shuttle from Calgary to your accommodation for a reasonable rate.

Camping and parks fees

The backcountry camping fees as well as the Park ‘Wilderness Pass’ are included. Also, valid entry day passes to the National Parks for the duration of the backpacking trip are covered.

Equipement List

Having the right gear is key to safety in the mountains. We have to be ready for the Rockies' unpredictable weather and also to be ready to stay warm in case of emergency. Here's a list of the gear you need to bring:

Footwear
  • Hiking boots: ​You need hiking boots with a great ankle support, good tread and sturdy soles. They also have to be waterproof. Make sure you spend time to get used to them and that they are broken in before the trip. Uncomfortable boots could literally ruin your trip. 

  • Light Footwear: Crocs, active sandals or running shoes for the occasional creek crossing and use around camp.

Gaiters(optional)
  • ​Gaiters are really helpful, especially in early and late season and when encountering snow, rain or dew. They will help keep your socks and your boots dry and they will prevent the debris from getting stuck in your boots.

Clothing

Layers, layers, layers!

  • Socks​

    • Wearing an appropriate pair of socks can make a big difference on your footwear fit and comfort during the hike.  

    • Good choice: wool hiking socks. ​

    • Bring at least 3 pairs.

  • Base layer: short or long sleeves. 

    • Good choice: merino wool, synthetic materials.​

  • Mid-layer 1: Medium weight (i.e. fleece, wool).

  • Mid-layer 2: Thick layer (i.e. thick fleece, down jacket)

  • Waterproof Jacket: with hood.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Light weight pants or convertibles. 

    • Good choice: nylon.

    • No jeans.

  • Gloves or mittens.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Sunhat or cap.

  • Hat/Tuque, ear warmers or Buff.

  • Waterproof pants.

    • Good choice: with side zippers, Gore-Tex or equivalent.​​​

Gear
  • Large Backpack: 55 to 75 L. Keep in mind that you will be transporting your fair share of group camping gear and food(usually 10-20L of space)

  • Pack Cover: You need to keep your gear dry at all time so a cover big enough to protect the entire outside of your pack. It is also recommended to put your gear in dry bags or whichever plastic bags.

  • Sleeping Bag: We recommend a 3 season sleeping bag with a rating of 0ºC to –9ºC. At any time of the year, it is frequent to encounter cold temperatures that can drop below freezing at night.

  • Sleeping Mat – Lightweight “Therm-a-rest” mats are recommended. They should be at least the length of you body. 

  • Pillow – A small, compressible pillow or a spare stuff sack into which you can stuff extra clothes to create a pillow.

  • Trekking poles: helps reduce impact on knees and back, specially on the way down. Must be collapsible.

  • Water Bottle/bladder: 1-2 Liters capacity.

  • Sunglasses with 100% UV protection (with a hard case recommended).

  • Headlamp: Make sure you have fresh batteries. 

  • Sunscreen and lip balm: Strong with UV protection.

  • Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer: keep to minimum and chose unscented products.
  • Mosquito repellant​​​
  • Personal First Aid Kit – Our guide carries a group first aid kit so keep this small. Band-Aids, blister care, Tylenol/ibuprofen, etc.

 

If you are missing any of the above, contact us to see if we can provide it for you.

Interesting information

Kootenay National Park was established in 1920 as part of an agreement to build a new road across the Rockies. This 1,406 km² park offers natural diversity featuring glaciers along the continental divide and hot springs and cacti to the south.

 

Marble Canyon is a beautiful gorge carved in Cathedral dolostone, not marble. It features turquoise glacial water and impressive tall and narrow walls that we can observe while crossing multiple bridges. A natural fire occurred in that area in 2003 and the landscape shows the aftermath of that with the regrowth of a lodgepole pine tree forest along with many flowers and shrubs.

 

The Paint Pots are probably Kooteney's most famous mineral springs and are known for its iron-rich ochre and vibrant colours. In early times, the Ktunaxa(formerly Kootenay) as well as the Stoney and Blackfoot tribes collected the ochre for important ceremonies and for trade. The yellow ochre was cleaned, kneaded with water into small balls, then flattened into cakes and baked. The red powder was mixed with fish oil or animal grease (such as bear's) to paint their bodies, tipis, clothing or drawings on the rocks.

 

The Great Divide Trail traverses the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, wandering through the vast wilderness of the Canadian Rocky Mountains for more than 1100 kilometres. It is one of the most spectacular and challenging long‐distance trails on the planet.