Hike: Rockwall Trail – Day 3

Day 3 – Sept 3: Numa Creek to Floe Lake parking lot (20.7 km; 910 m ⇑, 1090 m ⇓)

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We knew we were in for another big climb right out of camp at Numa, so we got started around 9:00 again. Seven kilometers of climbing and switchbacks, but who’s counting?  My hips were complaining a bit, but luckily the shoulder chafing from my pack wasn’t as bad, so there’s that.

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Up, up, up, we climbed. Back up to the larches and the “lorax” flowers.  The day seemed a bit smoky at first, but not so bad once the wind started blowing.  We passed more people hiking the opposite direction that day, and seven trail runners. 

Did you know that it takes about 10-12 hours to run 55 km?  Seeing the trail runners makes you feel like they are sleek, fast race horses, and we are oxen loaded for the Oregon trail.

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We saw unbelievable views that day, and coming over the Pass was so rewarding.

The relatively quick descent into Floe Lake campground went by quickly and we snagged a great campsite with awesome views.

You see, we had reservations for Floe Lake and Dana had been looking forward to our stay there the entire hike. Due to some unfortunate planning/timing, while we were out backpacking, my parents and auntie Dianna had come down to Calgary for a visit, and my sister was also in town.  So you can understand that I was experiencing some guilt/FOMO (fear of missing out) about my family being in Calgary while I was out in the mountains, seemingly ignoring them.  The guilt had weighed on me the weeks prior to our trip, and continued to bother me while we were backpacking.  Finally I suggested to Dana that we hike out on the third, in order to get home and see my family briefly.

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He wasn’t pleased, and it took a lot of discussion, but after a long packs-off break and visit with some other hikers at Floe, we decided to continue hiking and head back to the car. Some hikers needed a shuttle back to the Painted Pots parking lot, so we offered to help them out.

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We began the descent down to the 2003 forest-fire burn area, eating wild raspberries as we went. The switchbacks were endless!  Finally after crossing a messy avalanche area, the path leveled off and we hiked for what seemed like forever through kilometers of tall fireweed and burned trees.

The last few kilometers seem extra harsh because by that point, your body is exhausted, and you can see the highway from the trail. Dana coaxed me along with Haribo candies and finally when I thought I couldn’t walk another step, we saw the parking lot and the hikers we’d offered a shuttle to.

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You can imagine we inhaled our well-earned post-hike dinner at Una Pizza that night!


The Rockwall hike was amazing and also super exhausting. We were happy to be in home in Calgary a day before work so we could relax and have a nap.  I bet it won’t be our last Rockwall hike!

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Hike: Rockwall Trail – Day 2

Day 2 – Sept 2: Helmet Falls to Numa Creek “1:10 to Numa” (24 km; 1120 m ⇑, 1300 m ⇓)

After Dana’s very hearty trail breakfast of rehydrated hashbrowns, eggs, and delicious-smelling bacon, we got our lungs and legs warmed up with our first climb right out of the Helmet Falls campground. I think we got hiking around 9:00 that morning.  We were huffing and puffing in no time.

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We lucked out with another beautiful day and the smoke didn’t seem as heavy, which was great as we were treated to amazing views of the Rockwall once we got to the top.

Here’s where I sheepishly admit we had campsite reservations at the campground before Numa at Tumbling Creek.

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We weren’t racing, but had a good pace going, and got to the Tumbling Creek campground around 12:00. Foolishly, Dana and I hadn’t brought much to read in camp at night, so with the whole day in front of us and energy to spare, we wondered what we would do for the whole day at Tumbling Creek.  We stopped for a pack-off break and some food, and Dana refilled our water bottles.

We worried about having a tent pad if we continued to Numa that day (as our reservation was for Tumbling), but also knew if we stuck with our original plan and did Tumbling to Floe Lake, our planned third day might kill us with elevation gains and losses.

Instead we nearly killed ourselves on our second day! We loaded up our bags and carried on up the mountain over to the Numa campground.  The climb was spicy!  I was so thankful the temperature wasn’t too much higher that day, as the elevation gain was intense enough on its own.  The views were incredible though.

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The elevation loss down to Numa was insane. I felt so bad for the hikers (going the opposite direction from us) climbing that hill.  Dana and I delighted in finding wild strawberries on our hike down, but I’m pretty sure the hikers climbing up didn’t see anything… what a slog!

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The last kilometer before Numa seemed extra long for both Dana and I as our feet were screaming and our bodies were aching. Dana was pretty quick to dump his bag and head for a dip in the icy cold creek!  I took a little bath too and it was refreshing.

The cooking area seemed a bit larger at Numa and better suited for the number of campers. Dana and I ate an early dinner and then played a few rounds of rummy before heading to bed.  I think we lasted until 9:30 amazingly!


Come back tomorrow to read about Day 3: Numa Creek to Floe Lake parking lot!

Hike: Rockwall Trail – Day 1

Parks Canada has quite the flowery write-up dedicated to the Rockwall trail in Kootenay National Park:

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Suffice it to say my expectations were high!

Dana had made campsite reservations months ago as per recommendations from a hiker friend. We were scheduled to hike:

  • Sept 1: Paint Pots to Helmet Falls (14.7 km; 350 m elevation gain)
  • Sept 2: Helmet Falls to Tumbling Creek (12.5 km; 410 m elevation gain, 260 m elevation loss)
  • Sept 3: Tumbling Creek to Floe Lake (17.7 km; 1000 m elevation gain, 1000 m elevation loss)
  • Sept 4: Floe Lake to Floe Lake parking lot (10.7 km; 700 m elevation loss)

My in-laws kindly shuttled us and our vehicle to the Floe Lake parking lot, and then dropped us off at Paint Pots to begin our epic hike. Thanks Barry and Donna!  (The other alternative was hitchhiking between the two parking lots, so the in-law express was much preferred!

Day 1 – Sept 1: Paint Pots to Helmet Falls (15.4 km; 540 m ⇑, 235 m ⇓)

The first day of backpacking was a good warm-up for the rest of the long weekend – not insane elevation gain or distance. Friday was probably our smokiest day on the trail (from the Verdant Creek wildfires).  We got rolling around 12:30 that day, which was fine for the distance we needed to cover.

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From the beginning, we were impressed with the trail maintenance on the Rockwall trail. Great bridges and obvious trail markers, as needed.  Sometimes the mileage was a little questionable on the trail signs, but we’ll cut them some slack.  I’ll include Dana’s Garmin watch’s data in my posts for comparison.

We had a few serious climbs that had us gasping for air at times, but in hindsight, they weren’t too bad. Mostly we hiked through the forest and enjoyed the scenery.

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We rolled into Helmet Creek campground around 4:30 and got set-up. It was pretty busy there with lots of campers, and our campsite wasn’t very private, but at least our stay was just for one night.  The cooking area was happenin’ that night and it was hard to get a table to cook at, but eventually we elbowed our way in and shared with two backpackers we nicknamed Flames and French.

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Proudly reppin’ our friend Wade’s new Calgary brewery

Like the party animals we are, we were in bed and asleep by 8:30 that night. We didn’t sleep amazingly, despite the exercise that day, but managed to sleep in intervals until 7:00 the next morning.


I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 2: Helmet Falls to Numa Creek!