When it’s late October and you still have the itch to hike in the mountains where do you go from Calgary – especially if it’s a windy day?
I’ve wanted to hike to Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park for some time despite the fact it’s one of the ‘don’t do’ hikes in the book Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies. The author actually suggests “it helps to wear colourful boot laces so you’ll have something interesting to look at.”
The first 5 km to Rockbound Lake
I would agree that the first 5 kilometres of hiking to Rockbound Lake isn’t very interesting. It’s steep (you gain 518 metres) with occasional peek a boo views but not much else. We did see a couple of ptarmigans – perhaps one of the stupidest birds out there as you almost step on them before they take off. However they did provide a welcome distraction.
And then in short order we were into snow so everything seemed prettier.
When you finally reach the meadows, the landscape gets your attention as the backside of iconic Castle Mountain slowly comes into view. (Everyone who drives the highway between Banff and Lake Louise has admired Castle Mountain at some point but few have ever see its backside.) Large boulders, scattered larch, a couple of streams and some lovely distant mountain views also show up. You certainly don’t need colourful boot laces here.
Getting to Rockbound Lake
It’s about 45 minutes of easy hiking from the time you break out of the woods to reach Tower Lake. It’s already frozen but reportedly it’s a pea-green colour. From Tower Lake cross a footbridge over the outlet stream. This is the one place on the hike, except at the beginning of the trail, that you’ll see any signage pointing to Rockbound Lake.
Next there’s about 10 minutes of steep hiking up the headwall to reach the high point of the hike at 2,210 metres. From there it’s an easy walk through larch forest to Rockbound Lake. The snow is here to stay now so take gaiters. If we’d had to break trail we would have been up to our knees in snow. The same thing will happen to you if you step off the trail.
I think Rockbound Lake makes a great destination for a fall hike especially on a windy day as you’re largely protected. Another great time to do this hike would be in mid-September when the larch trees start to turn yellow.
All told the hike took us 5.75 hours to complete including about 30 minutes by Rockbound Lake for lunch. Its 16.8 kilometres round trip with a total elevation gain of 760 metres.
Finding the trailhead for Rockbound Lake
The trailhead for Rockbound Lake is a snap to find. If you’re coming from Calgary drive the Trans-Canada Highway west to the intersection with Highway 93. Turn right and drive over the Bow River to reach Castle Village. (You can purchase lunch supplies here.) Turn right again onto Highway 1A and 200 metres later turn left into a large parking lot. There is signage on the highway.
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