From cactus to glacier Established in 1920, Kootenay National Park represents the south-western region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. From glacier-clad peaks along the Continental Divide to the semi-arid grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Trench, where cactus grows, this park is home to a rich diversity of landscapes and ecology.
It's only when you get to the lower lookout does the adventure begin. Take the trail right up the side of the valley wall to a waterfall and cave. Then continue up to the upper plateau for amazing views of the glacier and valley. Watch out for a fast running stream that can be difficult to traverse between the cave and the plateau. To get down, go to the opposite side of the plateau to try the north face back down. Be cautious of the scree and loose gravel in a steep decline back down to the lookout. The extra hiking to the plateau likely added 2 hrs but well worth it.
This was a very pleasurable hike - about 10 km out and back. It is rated easy but some may find it a challenge. It takes about 45 mins or so to break through the trees, then the views of the glacier and falls in the distance become amazing. We did the hike with 3 kids, 9 and 8 years, and they handled it fine.
Great hike! Views of the Rockwall are fantastic. We went from Helmet falls to Tumbling Creek to Floe Lake and then out. The hike to Helmet was along a creek for much of it and the park crews have been out and cleared all but a few dead fall out of the way. The suspension bridge has been repaired and made the river crossing a non-issue. The alpine pass from Helmet to Tumbling is awesome in early August with alpine flowers in full bloom, some of the reddest paint brushes! and ones with pink highlights. We did not take the short walk to Wolverine pass and we regret it a bit. Part of the walk down to Numa is a bit like a jungle but the switchbacks up out of Numa were very nice ( if that is possible). and not to steep and often a 10-30m flat section after a climb. Great view of Floe lake from the pass. Parks Canada has done an awesome job of trail maintenance, food lockers at each campsite and running water close by all camps. I would recommend the hike to anyone that loves fresh air and the mountains.
Completed this trip in mid July with our route taking us from Paint Pots to Floe Lake with nights at Helmet Falls, Tumbling Creek, Numa Creek, and Floe Lake. The trail was very challenging with every day but the first and the last involving large, sometimes steep elevation gains. However, every tough kilometre uphill during days two through four lead to beautiful alpine meadows and incredible view after incredible view.
I recommend the route we took as our mountain passes involved steep ascents followed by gradual descents while the opposite direction appeared to have gradual ascents followed by steep descents.
Many parts of the trail were overgrown and some portions included fallen trees that required some effort to get around. A bridge on the route to Helmet Falls is currently out requiring an alternate crossing. A fallen tree has been placed downstream of the former bridge location, however it has no bark on it making it quite slippery. To complicate matters, the river during our crossing was passing over the log making it treacherous. We were able to find an alternate crossing upstream involving two crossings using fallen logs, however, the second portion is somewhat tricky and a member of our group nearly fell in. If weather permits, I suggest travelling further upstream to a location where you can take your boots off and cross the river on foot. If you choose to use the upstream log crossing, we had some success with using trekking poles braced against the river bottom to help balance during the first portion of the second crossing, however, the depth of the water during the second half leaves you to balancing on your own. Remember to unclip your pack of you choose to cross via a log!
Each campsite includes tent pads and pit toilets. Don't forget your own toilet paper! Each campsite is located in a valley with great water access. Expect most days to begin with an ascent out of a valley and ending with a descent into one.
If you're up for a rewarding, challenging backpacking trip this truly is a premier Canadian Rockies experience and I would recommend it to any able bodied backpacker.
Forested hiking route to a quiet lake in a mountain valley.
Mountains are visible from the lake (unfortunately it was rainy during my hike so they were covered by clouds).
Almost has a rainforest vibe to it! Very wet with lots of ground brush.
Saw a wild pheasant on the trail as well as a few small animals.
The hike was very quiet with no passerbys.
Great quick hike for all skills levels!
Lots of hiding places for bears and less traveled, so I was a bit warier on this hike than the others I did around the area.
Good for all skill levels
Different hiking options on the trail (It is 2.7 km one way and we took the loop to East Kootenay Trail, so totaled about 7 km instead of 6)
Lots of wildflowers and great lookout points
It was cloudy so I didn't get great mountain views - still worth it!