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Kootenay National Park

Backpacking

Floe Lake © Parks Canada
Most backpacking in Kootenay is on the famous Rockwall Trail.  This Rocky Mountain classic is worthy of any “bucket list”. Experienced backpackers longing for extended
treks can link trails in Kootenay with trails in Banff and Yoho national parks, and in Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park.

Where to Go  |  What to Bring  |  Reservations  |  Safety  |  Trail Report 

Warnings and Closures


Where to Go

Campgrounds

Kootenay National Park Backcountry Guide Kootenay Backcountry Guide
© Parks Canada
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There are six backcountry campgrounds in Kootenay. Five are located along the Rockwall Trail, while the sixth is on the Verdant Creek Trail connecting to Banff National Park. Campgrounds are equipped with: 

  • tent pads 
  • dry toilets 
  • communal picnic tables 
  • food storage cables or lockers

Backcountry campgrounds in the Shadow and Egypt Lake areas of Banff National Park are also accessible from Kootenay trails. Contact the Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre in Radium to book.

The Rockwall

The Rockwall Trail is a 55 km (34 mile) superlative-laden feast traversing three alpine passes through subalpine meadows and past impressive hanging glaciers. The trail’s defining feature is a single, massive limestone cliff, towering in some locations more than 900m (2953 feet) above the trail below.

There are four access points to the Rockwall Trail along Highway 93 South:

  • Helmet Creek Trail, access via Paint Pots Trailhead
  • Tumbling Creek Trail, access via Paint Pots Trailhead
  • Numa Creek Trail, access via Numa Falls Trailhead
  • Floe Creek Trail, access via Floe Lake Trailhead

Contact the Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre for information and reservations.


Trail Descriptions

Trail Distance (km) Time Elevation (m) Description
Easy Trails
Helmet - Ochre Junction 12.6 2 days 50 A good backpacking destination for beginners through lush forest. Alternatively, a 4 hour day hike.
Numa Creek 12.8 2 days 60 A good backpacking destination for beginners on easy, forested creekside trail. Alternatively, a 4 hour day hike.
Moderate Trails
Tumbling Creek 21 2 days 440 A forested trail with lush undergrowth, flower-filled avalanche slide paths and Tumbling Falls.
Helmet Creek & Falls 30 2-3 days 310 A forested trail with lush undergrowth, a few prominent avalanche slide paths, and the 300 m Helmet Falls..
Difficult Trails
Tumbling / Helmet / Ochre Loop 38 2-3 days 800 An abridged loop version of the Rockwall Trail with its famous high meadows.
The Rockwall 55 3-4 days 2600 One of the finest backpacking routes in the Canadian Rockies, featuring high passes and the famous “Rockwall”.
Honeymoon Pass and Verdant Creek 17 2 days 730 A rough trail for skilled backpacked with multiple creek crossings and prominent avalanche slopes. Watch for bears.
Helmet-Ochre Junction

This day hike leads to the Helmet / Ochre Junction backcountry campground. It is the northernmost access point for the popular Rockwall multiday backpacking route.

Length: 12.6 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 50 m
Trailhead: Paint Pots parking lot, 84 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Forested trail with lush ground cover leading to a river.

Description: A good backpacking destination for beginners through lush forest. Alternatively, a 4 hour day hike.

Numa Creek

This trail leads to the Numa Creek backcountry campground and is a middle access point for the popular Rockwall multiday backpacking route.

Length: 12.8 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 60 m
Trailhead: Numa Falls parking lot, 80 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: A forested, creekside trail opening into prominent avalanche paths.

Description: An easy, forested, creekside trail. Good backpacking destination for beginners. Alternatively, a 4 hour day hike.

Tumbling Creek

This trail leads to the Tumbling Creek backcountry campground. It is one of the northernmost access points to the popular Rockwall multiday backpacking route. The initial portion of the trail is shared with the Helmet / Ochre Junction trail.

Length: 21 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2 days (round-trip)
Elevation: 440 m
Trailhead: Paint Pots parking lot 84 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Forested trail with lush ground cover opening into prominent avalanche slopes.

Description: Forested trail with lush undergrowth, flower-filled avalanche slide paths, and Tumbling Falls.  

Helmet Creek & Falls

This trail leads to the Helmet Falls backcountry campground. It is the northernmost access point to the popular Rockwall multiday backpacking route. The initial portion of the trail is shared with the Helmet / Ochre Junction trail.

Length: 30 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2-3 days (round-trip)
Elevation: 310 m
Trailhead: Paint Pots parking lot 84 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Forested trail with lush ground cover opening into prominent avalanche slopes.

Description: Forested trail with lush undergrowth, a few prominent avalanche slide paths, and the 300 m Helmet Falls.

Tumbling / Helmet / Ochre Loop

This trail takes in three backcountry campgrounds on the northern portion of the popular Rockwall Trail, multi-day backpacking route.

Length: 38 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2-3 days
Elevation: 800 m
Trailhead: Paint Pots parking lot, 84 east of Radium Hot Springs
Habitat: Forested trails opening into high, alpine meadows.

Description: An abridged loop version of the Rockwall Trail with its famous high meadows.

The Rockwall

This route takes in a maximum of five backcountry campgrounds.

Length: 55 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 3-4 days
Elevation: 2600 m
Trailhead: Multiple trailheads, from north to south: Paint Pots parking lot, 84 km east of Radium Hot Springs; Numa Falls parking lot, 80 km east of Radium Hot Springs; Floe Lake parking lot, 72 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Forested trails, multiple alpine passes, creeks, waterfalls,meadows, large lake.

Description: One of the finest backpacking routes in the Canadian Rockies, featuring high passes and the famous “Rockwall”.

Honeymoon Pass and Verdant Creek

This route leads to Verdant Creek backcountry campground and the Egypt Lake area of Banff National Park.

Length: 17 km (round-trip)
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 730 m
Trailhead: Vermilion Crossing parking lot 64 km east of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Thickly forested, rough trail with prominent avalanche slopes. Watch for bears.

Description: A rough trail for skilled backpacked with multiple creek crossings and prominent avalanche slopes. Watch for bears.