Floe Lake is one of the most ICONIC glacial lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Thousands of hikers flock to it’s shorelines every year to get a glimpse of it’s indescribable beauty. Floe lake is part of the Rockwall Trail, a 55km alpine hike which showcases the best of Kootenay National Parks alpine meadows, glaciers, cliffs and lakes. The Rockwall trail, like many overnight hikes in the Province is notoriously hard to reserve a campsite for. The good news, anyone can do it as a day hike without a reservation/pass. I’ve heard from many hikers that their favourite part of the entire Rockwall trail is Floe lake. If you’re on the fence about doing this as a day rip, stop contemplating and just do it! It’s a very rewarding 20km day hike that is appropriate for hikers of all abilities and backgrounds.
Remember the Backcountry Basics
- Carry your Survival Kit & Essentials
- Let someone know where you’re going with a Trip Plan
- Know how to avoid negative wildlife encounters
- Practice Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness pristine
- Carry a Satellite Communicator like SPOT X
|Distance (Round Trip)||20km|
|Time (Round Trip)||6-8hours|
|Dogs||Yes - On Leash|
|Camping||Yes (Backcountry Reservation)|
How to Get There
If you are coming from Banff, the drive is about 40 minutes. Head West on Hwy/AB-1 then take a left onto the BC-93 heading south. The Floe Lake trailhead is located near the halfway point from the intersection with Hwy 1 and Radium Hotsprings. If you have the option and can drive the other direction from Radium Hot Springs to Floe lake, DO IT, the drive is gorgeous and cuts through some crazy rocks and valleys. The parking lot for Floe lake is consistently full because of hikers doing the Rockwall trail, so try your best to get there in the AM to avoid parking difficulties.
The first 2km of the trail begins very flat and follows aside the icy turquoise Kootenay river. At around two kilometers you will start a gentle ascent traversing along the valley. Numa peak will be to your right, and you will begin to see floe peak towering in the horizon directly ahead. The entire mid portion of the hike is extremely sun exposed and there is not much shade. This is the result of a 2003 wildfire that swept a destructive path through the park and destroyed much of the vegetation. You’ll see plenty of signs of new, old life and the effect that the fire had on the ecosystem. By the 5km mark you will only have gained 166m of elevation.
The majority of the elevation gain begins on the second half of the hike, particularly on the switchbacks at the 7km mark. This means that you will have to trudge the remaining 800m of elevation in just under 5km. The footing is easy going and the trail is very well walked so it really doesn’t feel to challenging. Before you know it the trail will flatten out a tad and your jaw will drop to the ground when you see the lake in person.
I couldn’t even believe the lake was real. The water colour rivalled that of Louise and Moraine and the gargantuan Floe Peak and snowy mountainside resting on its shoreline is what truly makes this lake so special. Do yourself a favour and walk the shoreline so you can take in the view from a few different vantage points.
The hike up took us around 2 hours and 15 minutes. As per usual, I tore my clothes off as quick as humanly possible and went for a glacial dip. The water was freezing and I couldn’t keep my breath for long before I had to get out. There a some great benches to enjoy lunch and plenty of spots to hang out around the lake. Unfortunately, the horseflies, black-flies and mosquitoes were some of the worst we had ever experienced. We were not even able to sit and eat and opted to eat our lunch on the move. We ran into a few groups hiking the Rockwall trail who decided to skip a night a Floe lake because they couldn’t comfortably camp at the lake because of the bugs. Our time at the top was cut short due to our losing battle with the horseflies. We hiked down and arrived back at the car for a total time of 5 hours and 15 minutes.
My Two Cents
Even if you can’t get Rockwall or an overnight Floe booking don’t let that stop you from doing this hike. It’s very easy and can be completed in a morning or afternoon. If you are spending the night be sure to bring bug spray, a head net and long baggy clothes because it may be nearly impossible to enjoy yourself otherwise. Also, remember a bathing suit because you have to take a dip at the top.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments?