Just google Floe Lake and Rockwall trail and you’ll know why it’s one of the most popular trails and locations. In fact, that’s probably how you got to this blogpost. It’s accessible, and possible as a day hike or run. The entire 55km Rockwall trail can be done in 3-5 days but the highlight is definitely Floe Lake and Numa Pass. Usually most people hike from Paint Pots to Floe Lake and we wanted to do the same, but booking the trail because our biggest issue.
Dogs are allowed on Rockwall trail but must be on leash, and there is wildlife (more about that later) that you must be prepared for (even on leash!).
The Rockwall trail is a classic of the Canadian Rockies and difficult to book campsites in! I waited in line online when the booking opened and was 7000s on cue. By the time I got to book, most everything was taken. Floe Lake campsites is one of the most popular backcountry sites in the Rockies so of course it was taken. I booked some random days in Tumbling creek campground and Numa creek campground and hoped for cancellations. You can hike into each campground from the road and I just really wanted to see Floe lake with the dogs.
Eventually, we checked daily and were able to secure cancellations at Floe Lake during our vacation time. We booked every cancellation we could and joined up the dates (and cancelled the ones we were not going to use). Unfortunately the way the booking system works is that your reservation fee is separate than a booking fee and you do not get the booking fee back. In the end there’s no benefit to cancelling an unused reservation (you will not get your money back) other than to let someone else use the campsite. I strongly encourage everyone to cancel unused campsites though, because it’s so limited and for all the evenings we were at Floe, there were usually unused tent pads.
Because we were not able to book campgrounds in order for the Rockwall trail, we just aimed to book whatever we could at Floe Lake and do day hikes from the campground. Since Numa Pass and Floe were the highlights of Rockwall, we figured we would explore Numa Pass and check out other areas we could hike to within a day. Everything would be limited to what the dogs could do (Bodhi gets heat stroke and isn’t the most agile of dogs) and what we felt like!
The Hike In: Floe Lake Trailhead to Floe Lake
The hike in is not technically difficult, and about 10.5km from the Floe lake Trailhead. Most of the trail is narrow with a slight incline across a forest that is bare from a recent forest fire. When we hiked in, the trail was very overgrown to the point your couldn’t see your own feet and made for difficult footing with a dog on leash in front and a huge pack with awkward balancing. The trail is mostly exposed so if you’re heading out in the summer with dogs that are sensitive to heat, head out as early as possible.
At some point near the end of the trail (at 8km) the trail climbs up dramatically and then you’re at the lake. There is a couple water sources that may or may not be running in the summer but we had access to water before the climb. This was my first hike with a pack in the year so I really struggled in the heat! Erica was kind enough to wait for me in the bug-infested breaks I had to take. I also lost a water filter I had not secured well enough to the front of the pack. All and all, not my best hike, but we did get there eventually!
Normally most people are worried about the Grizzlies and Black bears but we found porcupines and squirrels to be the most dangerous. Squirrels and chipmunks are awful because they run across your path without warning and then your dog instantaneously jumps at them pulling you and your 40lb bag down. Porcupines were a bit of a surprise! We encountered one on the hike up to Floe (halfway up the incline, so about kilometer 9 going in). It was right off the trail hidden, so Bodhi almost got quilled, on leash, on the trail before Erica saw what it was.
The second porcupine was between Floe Lake heading up Numa Pass, about 1km in. We never actually saw it, but Bourbon somehow got quilled by stepping on a quill on the ground after the dogs seemed VERY interested in sniffing around the area. Needless to say, keep an eye out for the creatures!
Camping at Floe Lake
The tent pads at Floe are all over a wide area, and not organized in any way we could understand. The best site with a view over the lake is the first ones you see as you hike in from the Floe trailhead. We chose one further away from others with dogs and settled in just as it started raining.
There is a wonderful eating area with bear lockers right by the lake that has the best views. We loved starting and ending our day there, watching the light move across the mountains and lake and were always able to find a place to sit at a table or on the beach. The first couple days there were still ice floes moving across the lake but eventually they melted by the time we left.
We met a couple dogs each day we were at the campsite but were able to steer clear of them without issues. Every evening we moved our tent closer and closer to the “best” spot and the last evening we snagged a photo-worthy tentpad!
Day treks and scrambles from Floe Lake
In the end we stayed at Floe for 4 days, 3 evenings leaving us 2 days to explore. The first day took us to Numa Pass, up to a couple viewpoints, and a look at Numa Mountain. From the viewpoint, we then spotted some lakes in the far distance so we aimed for those (no trails, just wandering). We scrambled over a boulder field and scree and as the weather changed we decided to stop, take some photos and head back.
I had seen some treks to Numa Peak before we hiked out but there was very limited information on if the peak was doable with dogs or not. The next day we decided to aim for Numa and head back if it ended up being too difficult. It’s always hard to know how tough something is until you actually try the scree and test the angle. We made it to just below the notch of the peak before we stopped for lunch and called it. It would have been sketchy to get Bodhi past the point with exposure and the views would not have been better. We were just meters from the peak and were further along than we had been expecting!
Numa Peak was such a highlight, but I would not recommend it for people and dogs that are not comfortable hiking and scrambling. You can walk right up to the scree and see for yourself but there is no rescue or rangers here so you must be self sufficient and be extra careful if your dog is not full capable and under control. I also recommend a harness made for lifting, and paw care if your dog’s paws are not weathered for scree.
Would I hike the Rockwall trail again?
Oh yes!! This was such a lovely location, very peaceful for how popular it is. Definitely be aware that you are in the backcountry and take extra precautions but Floe Lake was such a highlight of my year. I’m so thankful I have a friend to do this with, one that understands my dog limitations and is willing to camp, hike, explore and scramble with me!