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Photo Gallery: The Rockwall Trail in the Canadian Rockies

Posted On May 7, 2017 at 3:03 am by / Comments Off on Photo Gallery: The Rockwall Trail in the Canadian Rockies

By Michael Lanza

A few hours into our hike’s first day, we came around a bend in the trail to a sight that stopped us cold: a pair of skyscraping stone monoliths rising thousands of feet above the treetops. Silhouetted by the sun arcing toward the west, the peaks resembled a pair of El Capitans standing shoulder to shoulder. A little while later, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Rocky Mountains came into view: Helmet Falls, plunging 1,154 feet (352m) over a cliff.

After that, the scenery really got good.

My family was backpacking the 34-mile (55k) Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park, in the vertiginous heart of the Canadian Rockies. Well known among Canadian backpackers but less so among Americans and international trekkers, the Rockwall arguably deserves a place on any list of the world’s prettiest trails. (I included it among “My 25 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever.”)

Backpackers on the Rockwall follow the base of a nearly unbroken, massive limestone escarpment in Kootenay’s Vermilion Range, plastered with glaciers and towering in some locations about 3,000 feet (900m) above the trail, for more than 18 miles (30k) of the route. As I think you’ll see in the photo gallery below, it’s no exaggeration to liken it to dozens of the tallest cliff in Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, lined up in a row stretching for miles.


Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.
Helmet Falls, Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.
Rockwall Trail.
Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.
Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.
Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.
Mountain goat near Tumbling Pass.
Near Tumbling Pass, Rockwall Trail.
Hiking to Numa Pass, Rockwall Trail.
Hiking to Numa Pass, Rockwall Trail.
Hiking to Numa Pass, Rockwall Trail.
Floe Lake Trail on the Rockwall Trail route.
Floe Lake, Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park.

Over four August days, we hiked through larch forests and across meadows carpeted with wildflowers. We saw mountain goats scamper along a moraine below a hanging glacier. We crossed four passes between about 7,100 to 7,700 feet.

Although it’s in grizzly country (we saw no signs of bears) and the passes can be tough climbs, the Rockwall Trail is, in many ways, a beginner-friendly backpacking trip. Trails are well marked and easy to follow. The passes aren’t so high that the elevation greatly affects many people. There are bridges over the creeks (we never got our feet wet), and designated camping areas with bearproof, metal lockers for food storage, pit toilets, and even picnic tables.


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Now is the time of year to reserve a permit to backpack the Rockwall Trail. See my full story about that trip, “Best of the Canadian Rockies: Backpacking the Rockwall Trail,” for more photos, a video, and trip-planning information.


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See also all of my stories about the Canadian Rockies, family adventures, and international adventures at The Big Outside, including these:

My Top 10 Family Adventures
Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites
My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips
10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier
The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.


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