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Rockwall Pass {Kootenay National Park}

Rockwall Pass {Kootenay National Park}

Rockwall Pass {Kootenay National Park}

  • Distance – 31 km round trip
  • Elevation – 1,300 meters
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Trailhead LocationPaint Pots Trailhead, Kootenay National Park

The Rockwall is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is mystical, engulfing with its beauty, and extremely accessible for a long day hike. A few years ago, Speedy and I hiked up to Floe Lake, which is at one end of this magical loop. Having had a taste of its beauty, it has been on my list for awhile now.

Most people backcountry camp the 56 kms and take 3-4 days to see everything.

I am with a crazy and extremely fit man who decided that he and his super insane, fit friends would run all 56 km in one day.

There is no way that this mere mortal of a woman named Donloree should even attempt such a thing.

So instead of dying while attempting to run 56 km in the mountains all in one go, I opted for a 31 km hike up the middle of the circuit to see some of the Rockwall and then come back to the car where there were snacks, more water, and pineapple.

  • Mmm! Pineapple!

Lucky for me, there is another sensible woman in our group and she opted to trek up the middle of the Rockwall with me. We had an incredible day! Much more fun than the crazies had breaking their toes and being caught in a hailstorm while trying to keep their gels and water down.

Sometimes, I do know how to do it right.

If you want to see the Rockwall, but don’t want to backcountry camp and are fit enough to do a 30+ km day of moderate hiking, I highly recommend Rockwall pass!

My only regret is that we didn’t make it a circuit and go to Helmet Falls, but next time!

How to hike Rockwall Pass

Start at Paint Pots parking lot and hike to the Paint Pots. Then keep going. A few kms after you pass the Paint Pots, you will reach a junction at 5.1 km. Take the left trail for Tumbling Creek.

You will follow the creek for 6.4 km.

rockwall pass kootenay national park
Within minutes, you are crossing the river. The water in Kootenay is SUCH a gorgeous shade of steel blue / green.

Waterfalls, gorgeous forests, and the river accompany you for the next hour and a half. Elevation is gained by you don’t really notice it as there is never an extremely steep climb.

Suddenly you find yourself at a junction in the middle of the forest – Tumbling Pass to the left or south and Rockwall Pass to the right or north.

Take the trail right and cross the river one final time.

rockwall pass hike
Finally seeing glimpses of the Rockwall!

As you continue on the trail, you will find yourself in one of the backcountry campgrounds that is completely void of decent signage. Stopping here for lunch or a snack at one of the small picnic tables is perfect timing.

Or if you are me, it is the perfect place to take off your Gortex shoes that collected all the water from the little bushes along the trail and were literally sloshing with water.

Without any shame, I wrung out my socks, dumped my shoes, and had a fabulous lunch while my feet got a reprieve from swimming rather than hiking.

Note to self – pack of pair of extra socks on all hikes from now on.

Once your belly is full and your feet somewhat dry, it is time to hike up to the pass.

  • There is no signage to differentiate the campground trails from the trail for Rockwall pass.

By trial and error, head north and eventually you will cross a creek which means you are back on the trail and no longer stuck in campground trail chaos.

After 3.3 km more of climbing some switchbacks with intermittent views of the Rockwall, you will find yourself in Rockwall pass.

Make sure to take your time here and enjoy the views!

It is actually hard to not stop and take it all in. Make sure to look

rockwall pass hike
The Rockwall is beautiful and the mountains around it are stunners as well!
rockwall hike
You can see why they call it Rockwall ….
Rockwall Pass Hike
Everywhere you look there are amazing things to take your breath away!
Rockwall Pass Hike
A pano shot in an effort  to try and capture some of the magnitude of this stunning pass!

At this point, you can simply enjoy the next few kilometers and turn back whenever you feel like it is time to make your way back to the car which has all those snacks and water waiting for you.

Conversely, you could continue on and head towards Helmet Falls and Helmet Pass and head back to the Paint Pots trailhead via Helmet Creek Trail and Ochre Cr. Trail, but it means an additional 4 km (so a 35 km day) and what looks to be 400 meters of elevation gain, so a harder day than just hiking through half of the Rockwall Pass trail.

Unfortunately, I do not have my fill of Rockwall. Now I need to do the loop from Rockwall Pass to Helmet Pass and Falls as well as go the other way to Tumbling Pass and Floe Lake.

Isn’t it funny how the ‘must do’ list grows as you cross things off?

Have you done any of the Rockwall? What did you love about this incredible place?



Let me know what you think!

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