Floe Lake is a little known day hike in Kootenay National Park with an impressive rock wall surrounding the lake. Commonly known for British Columbia, the trail is surrounded by greenery rather than rocks, as it’s the case of hiking trails in Alberta.
Kootenay National Park is not often visited for a simple reason. Much of the park is inaccessible and a big part of the forests burnt down during wildfires. Those few hiking trails in the park were closed in 2019 due to the reconstruction of parking lots or other amenities.
Being little-visited also has a huge advantage – very few people on trails.
When we’ve heard about Floe Lake being over 20 km hike, we’ve decided to push our limits and go for a trail run. We’ve met a few hikers at the lake who were hiking in a day, but most visitors were staying at the Floe Lake Campground as a part of a multi-day Rockwall Trail.
In this blog post, we’ll share with you our trail run report, tips for hiking, and an extensive photo gallery, so you know what to expect when you visit. Enjoy!
For activities in the neighbouring national park, read our post 100 things to do in Banff National Park
More hiking ideas:
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Floe Lake Hike
- Few people on the trail
- A good option for an overnight backpacking trip for beginners
- Tranquillity by the lake
- Picnic tables and outhouse at the lake
- A beautiful lake surrounded by a giant rock wall
- A bit far from any town or city
Where is Floe Lake & how to get there
Floe Lake is in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia at 2,053 meters above sea level.
When coming from Calgary, Banff (64 km) or Lake Louise, take Trans-Canada Highway and follow signs near the Castle Junction towards Radium Hot Springs, #93. If you’re coming from Radium Hot Springs, it’s about 72 km to the trail.
The trailhead is clearly signed along the Banff-Windermere Highway/#93. The parking lot is quite big and has an outhouse.
Floe Lake Hike in Kootenay National Park
- Distance: 22.2 km out-n-back (it took us 3,5 hours; hiking would take around 7 hours)
- Elevation gain: 1,000 m
- Difficulty: difficult
- Best time to go: June to October
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up from the creeks or waterfall), windproof jacket, running/hiking shoes, bear spray
- Tips: the trail is straight forward, no need to have a map
The narrow trail starts at an elevation of 1,334 meters through a forest. It’s winding and flat for about one kilometre until the bridge across Kootenay River. This was surprisingly our first stop as we got mesmerized by the turquoise colour and interesting rock formations lining its banks.
We were steadily holding a good running pace as the trail slowly and gradually inclined. Even though the tallest trees were bare and burnt out, we were running through a valley which offered us views of surrounding mountain peaks, only briefly when the clouds cleared a bit.
The autumn provided some colours to the meadows and even super tasty raspberries. I wondered where all the bears were when they left us so many raspberries along the trail.
I like how the trail was built and that it was being taken care of. Long stretches of the trail are almost flat, and then you gain elevation on a few switchbacks. The trail has been obviously brushed out on both sides which meant no scratches from the bush on our legs.
At about 8 km mark from the start, we quickly changed from running to slowly hiking. We reached a dried out creek where some good soul marked the trail with orange tape, so we knew where to cross the branches and continue on the trail. It steepened significantly.
We were slowly climbing the never-ending switchbacks. Luckily a lot of raspberries kept us entertained. When we got to the top and the trail flattened, it was only a few minutes until we got a glimpse of the lake, passed picnic tables and arrived at the Floe Lake backcountry campground.
The weather was very moody, and the wind by the lake was unforgiving, we were above 2,000 meters after all. Our warmed up bodies from the strenuous uphill hike got cold very quickly. We came prepared with layers packed in our backpacks and put on everything we had.
The calm Floe Lake was astonishing, and the peaks of the giant rock wall behind the lake were covered in thick clouds.
We ran around the lake a bit, trying to warm up and admired autumn colours. During our quick snack break by the lake, a very curious chipmunk started to circle around us. We had to carefully watch our backpacks and all the food we had because that little creature had no problem climbing all over our stuff looking for food.
Fuelled up and still cold, we headed back. After the steep downhill switchbacks and losing some elevation, we were warmed up and happily running again. I was feeling very tired but running in the mountains is my favourite thing, and the endorphins kept me going.
We love visiting British Columbia because of its moist air and greenery everywhere (unlike dry and rocky Alberta). It reminds us of our home country Slovakia.
This trail delivered everything we hoped for, a nice flow, challenging switchbacks, gorgeous lake and even a sweet surprise in the form of raspberries.
Know before you go
When you enter any national park in Canada, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Staying in Kootenay National Park
To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Check out our Smile Campervans; they can be your home on wheels in the Canadian Rockies.
The closest campground to Floe Lake Trailhead is Marble Canyon Campground, around 15 km north. It’s open June 25 to September 7 for a fee of 21,97 CAD per night per campsite and offers toilets but no showers.
If you’d like to visit from neighbouring Banff National Park, read our comprehensive guide about camping in Banff National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.
- Road closure
For trail closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Yoho National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Our favourite hikes in the Rockies
Canmore & Kananaskis Country:
Banff National Park:
- Sulphur Mountain
- Johnston Canyon in summer and winter
- Aylmer Lookout
- Glacier Lake
- Mount St. Piran
- Healy Pass
- Boom Lake
- Rockbound Lake
- Peyto Lake
Yoho National Park:
Jasper National Park:
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