skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Rockbound Lake In Early November

Rockbound Lake Hike, Banff National Park

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.” 

But 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? Rockbound Lake turned out to be a great choice.

Mostly view-less hiking for the first 90 minutes
Mostly view-less hiking for the first 90 minutes

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Rockbound Lake – the first 5 km

I would agree that the first 5 km of hiking to Rockbound Lake isn’t very interesting. It’s steep (you gain 518 m) 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.

A couple of ptarmigans provided entertainment along the way
A couple of ptarmigans provided entertainment along the way

And then in short order we were into snow so everything seemed prettier.

Snow always seems to make hiking more interesting
Snow always seems to make hiking more interesting

The backside of Castle Mountain

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.

Our first views of the backside of Castle Mountain
Our first views of the backside of Castle Mountain
You see the backside of Castle Mountain on the way to Rockbound Lake
You see the backside of Castle Mountain on the way to the lake

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 the lake.

Continuing past Tower Lake - reportedly pea green in colour when the ice is gone
Continuing past Tower Lake – reportedly pea green in colour when the ice is gone

Next there’s about 10 minutes of steep hiking up the headwall to reach the high point of the hike at 2,210 m.

From there it’s an easy walk through larch forest to reach Rockbound Lake. If there is snow on the trail, 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.

You get great views part way up the headwall
You get great views part way up the headwall
Look up as its very pretty
Look up – it’s really pretty
Hike through scattered larch trees on route to the lake
Hike through scattered larch trees on route to Rockbound Lake
 It would be really pretty here in September when the larch are ablaze in yellow
It would be really pretty here in September when the larch are ablaze in yellow
Rockbound Lake was stunning in the light of late October
Rockbound Lake was stunning in the light of late October

I think the 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.

With snow on the ground now it's easier going down with icers on
With snow on the ground now it’s easier going down with icers on
It was really helpful to have a group in front of us packing down the trail
It was really helpful to have a group in front of us packing down the trail
The first and last 90 minutes is in the woods
The first & last 90 minutes is up and down through the woods – and not so interesting

Hike details

Total distance return: 16.8 km

Total elevation gain: 760 m or 2493 feet

Time needed: Approximately 6 – 6.4 hours

Dogs: Allowed on leash

Map: Gem Trek Banff and Mt. Assiniboine

Finding the trailhead

The trailhead for the 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 m later turn left into a large parking lot. There is signage on the highway.

For more information on Banff National Park visit their website.

Further reading on good late season hikes

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Hike to Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park - the trailhead is just minutes from Johnston Canyon

 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. lots more to enjoy here than what you listed. I go to rockbound in larch season, its phenomenal. There is another waterfall (Silverton Falls) along the way, with a small side hike to get over to it, a nice multi tiered falls. Once at the lake, the hike around the lake is beautiful. Its another 5km or so, but secluded, lots of great views of the lake and walls around you, plus some awesome bouldering (house size boulders) on the south side of lake to play on, around and under. Spend a couple hours around the lake and the few kms of uneventful forest approach to get there is long forgotten.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search
Cart

Pin It on Pinterest