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The Hike To Rockbound Lake, Banff National Park

The Hike to Rockbound Lake, 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?

Mostly view-less hiking for the first 90 minutes

Mostly view-less hiking for the first 90 minutes

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.

A couple of ptarmigans provided entertainment along the wa

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 Rockbound 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 Rockbound 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 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.

You get great views part way up the headwall

You get great views part way up the headwall

The Hike to Rockbound Lake

Look up – it’s really pretty

Hike through scattered larch trees on route to Rockbound Lake

Hike through scattered larch trees on route to Rockbound Lake

Done in a Day: The Hike to Rockbound Lake

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 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.

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

Done in a Day: The Hike to Rockbound Lake

It was really helpful to have a group in front of us packing down the trail

Done in a Day: The Hike to Rockbound Lake

The first & last 90 minutes is up and down through the woods – and not so interesting

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.

Further reading on good late season hikes

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Done in a Day: The Hike to Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park, The trailhead is just minutes from Johnston Canyon

 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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

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