“An icon of the Canadian Rockies and one of the best hikes anywhere.”
— Ryan Jansonius
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This route is a point-to-point adventure, typically enjoyed as a 4-6 day hike from end to end but makes for a great long run. The route features four mountain passes, which you'll surmount as you traverse alpine meadows in the shadow of the majestic Rockwall. The Rockwall is among the most beautiful in Canada and a glowing representation of the ruggedness of the Rockies.
These trails can be experienced as a hike or run starting from either end but is recommended as a run starting from Floe Lake in order to conquer the hardest sections of the trail earlier in the day. There are also many shorter variations of this route, including a loop from Paint Pots for those averse to hitchhiking or looking for a shorter day.
From the trail start to the 25.1-mile mark this trail is a segment of the GDT (Great Divide Trail)
Need to Know
Water is abundant along the trail. Expect an opportunity to fill a bottle every 5-8 km, with the best water sources found at each campsite.
Begin your journey with a car drop or hitchhike from Paint Pots to Floe Lake. These parking lots are separated my 13 km along the highway. The hitchike can be completed at the end of the day, but your future self will thank you for getting it out of the way early.
From Floe Lake trailhead, follow the well-signed route into the recently burned forest. The trail is runable and scenic for the first 8 km until the final switchbacks to the lake. Power hike up about 400 m of elevation to the beautiful alpine lake nestled in the shadow of the 1000-m tall Rockwall. The route is flat through the campsite at the lake, then continues upward another 300 m of elevation to the summit of Numa Pass, the highest point of the route. From the summit of Numa Pass, you can see the next 20 km of the route northward to the summit of Rockwall Pass. Enjoy the view!
Descend 400 m to the Numa Creek campsite on switchbacks and fast, flowy singletrack through the forest.
The subsequent section of the trail is the longest climb of the day. Follow the trail gently upward (at first) for 2 km, then steeply upward to gain the meadow near the top of the pass. There is a short section of meandering trail through the meadow, then a final push to the summit of Tumbling Pass. Descend steep trails to the Tumbling Creek campsite hidden in the treed valley below.
Climb out of the Tumbling Creek campground on a moderate trail, through about 400 m of elevation. The trees give way to a sensational alpine plateau at the summit of Wolverine Pass. Enjoy 4 km of incredibly scenic hiking along this plateau as you climb gently to the end of the meadow. The trail then descends into a sparse forest adjacent alpine tarns, before the roughly 200-m climb up Rockwall Pass begins. Upon gaining the forested col, the trail descends on switchbacks to Helmet Creek campsite. This is possibly the most enjoyable descent of the day!
There is a junction at the bottom of the descent, where left heads to the Helmet Falls viewpoint, and right to the campsite. If you have any legs left, take the time to hike the extra 500 m each way to the falls - they are beautiful!
From Helmet Falls, the hiking is straightforward. Hike through the forest on rolling trail to Ochre campsite at 9 km past Helmet Falls, then complete the hike at Paint Pots, 6 km beyond the final junction at Ochre.
There are five campsites along the trail at the following locations (approximate distances from Paint Pots/Floe Lake):
Ochre - 6 km/49 km
Helmet Falls - 17 km/41 km
Tumbling Creek - 26 km/29 km
Numa Creek - 36 km/ 22 km
Floe Lake - 47 km/10 km
Ranger huts for emergency shelter at:
Wolverine Pass (3 km north of Tumbling Creek campsite)
There are two junctions to return to Hwy 93 if you need to bail early:
Numa Creek 6.4 km to highway
Tumbling Creek 10.5 km to highway
The Gem trek map for Kootney National Park provides a detailed description of this trek for further reading.
Flora & Fauna
Bears - be sure to include countermeasures (bear spray or bangers) in your packing list.