Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park, Canadian Rockies.

Best of the Canadian Rockies: Backpacking the Rockwall Trail

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, International Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

By Michael Lanza

A few hours into our hike’s first day, we round a bend in the trail to a sight that can stop you in your tracks: a pair of skyscraping stone monoliths rising thousands of feet above the treetops. Silhouetted by the sun arcing toward the west, the peaks resemble nothing less than a pair of El Capitans standing shoulder to shoulder. Farther along, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Rocky Mountains comes into view: Helmet Falls, plunging 1,154 feet (352m) over a cliff in two braids that recouple before the column of water crashes into the rocks at its base, spraying a fine cloud of mist into the air.

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One Response to Best of the Canadian Rockies: Backpacking the Rockwall Trail

  1. John Kelly   |  September 5, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Hello Michael, I finally backpacked the Rockwall after having two previous trips aborted. One by when my father-in-law had a heart attack and the second when we awoke to 18″ of snow at Helmut Falls. Last week, August 30 – September 1, I completed the route from Paint Pots – Helmut Falls – Tumbling Creek – Numa Creek – Floe Lake – Out to the highway.

    I also hiked up to Good Sir pass on the first afternoon. Detoured up to the ridges on second day hike to Tumbling Creek being rewarded by absolutely stunning vistas to Mt. Assinaboine, Banff and further North, East and South. Day three my original plan was to set up camp at Numa Creek and day hike to Floe Lake and then hike back to my car at Paint Pots. By the time I reached Numa Creek I decided I did not want to camp in the heavy forest, deep valley at Numa so hiked the 28 km (17 miles) to the Floe Creek trailhead – with a couple small side trips to capture some more sublime views.

    I can confirm your assessment of the beauty of this small piece of Canada. But it is only one small, but spectacular gem, to be found in Western Alberta and British Columbia.

    I was extra fortunate as two grizzly bear shared the adventure with myself and the other backpackers. The first, unfortunately, was hanging around the Helmut Creek campsite but was still young enough and shy to stay on the periphery, even if that was as close as about 15 meters (50 feet). The second, at the Wolverine pass area, was substantially larger and was on the edge of the trail excavating roots or more likely a ground squirrel den. The bear trundled off when four nervous and noisy hikers came up the trail from Floe Lake. When they spotted the bear they all drew their bear spray but wisely detoured the area.

    While I spoke with them it quickly became apparent that these four, like so many others I spoke with later, were probably at greater risk because of the false security of their bear spray. None of the people I spoke with had ever used or had training with the bear spray. Most did not know the limited distance the spray is effective or how it it effective. Or how disabling it can be if you, the user, is standing down wind. May I suggest/request you dedicate an article to bear spray. It’s proper and safe use, risks, etc.

    But I digress. The Rockwall Trail is a great trip and may I suggest to your readers if they come North for this hike to stay a while and explore some other equal or better trails in Kootenay, Banff, Yoho or Jasper national parks or Assinaboine (and other Provincial parks). We are blessed with a world class playground.

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