Everything You Need to Know About Hiking and Backpacking to Floe Lake: Kootenay National Park
Floe Lake is everything we could have dreamed of and more! To reach the lake, you have to hike 10.5km one way but the view of the lake is worth every step!
As we got closer and closer to the lake, we started to see more and more snow on the ground and on the pine trees. Excitement began to bubble up from my stomach as the switchbacks finally ended and I could start hiking faster. I had been dreaming of seeing this lake for what felt like years and now we were going to see it with the first snowfall of the season!
Floe Lake is located in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, about a 45 minute drive from Banff. The hike itself is 21km / 13 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 976m / 3,202 ft.
The hike to Floe Lake forms part of the Rockwall Trail, a 54km hike that people will usually choose to backpack over the course of 3-5 days.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about hiking to Floe Lake in a day and also how to camp at Floe Lake.
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📑 Hike Stats
Distance: 21km/ 13 miles
Time: 7 hours
Elevation: 976m / 3,202 ft
Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
Toilets: At the trailhead and at the Floe Lake campground
📍 Where is Floe Lake
Floe Lake is located in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, about 45 minutes from Banff.
How to get to the Trailhead
The Floe Lake Trailhead is located along Highway-93 / Banff-Windermere Hwy / Kootenay Hwy and is easy to miss because the turn is kind of hidden. The parking lot is a pretty good size and fits around maybe 20 cars if I’m guessing.
You can use the map below in google maps to find the parking lot.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
📆 When is the Best Time to Hike to Floe Lake 🍁
The best times to hike to Floe Lake are Summertime or Fall when the larches are golden. There are a few larches that frame the lake so it makes Floe Lake extra pretty during this time of the year.
If you decide to hike up to Numa Pass, you will also be greeted with a field full for larches that make for some especially epic views during Fall when they are golden.
🥾 How Hard is the Hike to Floe Lake
The hike up to Floe Lake is a long one. The trail itself is not all that steep until the very end with a bit of elevation at the beginning as well.
I would rate Floe Lake as moderate to hard, depending on your hiking ability.
🐶 Can dogs do the trail to Floe Lake
Dogs are allowed on the trail to Floe Lake, however must be kept on a leash.
🕔 Floe Lake Hiking Time
Floe Lake takes the average hiker 7 hours to complete. If you have an overnight backpack on like we did, it may take you a little longer.
In the parking lot, there is a toilet. There are no toilets along the trail until you reach the Floe Lake Campground where there are a few scattered around the grounds.
Also at the campground, there are bear caches provided to store your food and anything smelly and picnic tables just up from the lake which can be used for cooking and eating.
🏊♀️ Can You Swim in Floe Lake
Like any alpine lake in Canada, Floe Lake is COLD, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for a dip! There’s nothing better than being able to cool off in a cold lake after a long exhausting hike.
We had planned on swimming in the lake when we were there, but the weather had other plans and it decided to snow so we most definitely did not swim!
🦁 Animals in the Floe Lake area and along the trail
Apart from chipmunks and squirrels, the only animals we saw along the trail was a porcupine! Please note that this is a popular place to see Grizzlies so always make sure you have bear spray with you and make lots of noise on the trail. Once we got back, we were told that there was a Grizzly spotted up by the lake’s shoreline only a day before we were there.
Other animals in the area include Black Bears, Pikas, Snowshoe Hares, Hoary marmots, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Wolves, Coyote, Red foxes, Cougars and Bobcats.
🌲 Leave No Trace
Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.
🥾 Floe Lake Hiking Trail
The Floe Lake Hiking trail is sneaky. We felt that starting out feeling pretty easy but by the time we reached the lake we were completely pooped! The trail is quite gentle with regards to elevation gain until the end, where you climb up steep switchbacks to the lake.
The hike to Floe Lake is 21km / 13 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 976m / 3,202 ft and takes the average hiker about 7 hours in total to complete.
The Floe Lake Trail starts out very easy. You will start by walking along a relatively flat trail through a shrubby forest. Very shortly after starting, you will cross a bridge over a bright turquoise river. It’s worth a quick stop to admire the colour because it is stunning!
Then you will keep walking through the forest until you reach another small river crossing. After this you will start gaining a bit of elevation.
The first lot of switchbacks honestly aren’t too bad. They are pretty gentle and don’t last for too long. Once they are over, the majority of the hike is pretty flat, occasionally going up and down.
The trail will take you around the side of the mountain towards the Rockwall, which will come into view pretty shortly after the switchbacks.
You will hike down to a couple of rivers along the trail. Before you go ahead and hike down, I recommend doing a quick check of the valley below and ahead of you. Don’t forget you are in Grizzly country! We actually spotted a porcupine when we did this, so we waited for him to get down to the trail and cross over before continuing on.
The Final Switchbacks
You will know when you are on the final switchbacks because they are steeper than the switchbacks at the beginning of the trail. It is also at this stage of the hike when you will feel 1000% ready to just be there.
Finally, after what will feel like a life time, the switchbacks come to an end and you will walk for a little longer along a trail that takes you through the trees. If you are hiking in Fall like we did, there will be larches pretty much all around you now.
The first thing you will notice are a few of the campsites. To get to Floe Lake, keep walking past them. Not too much further, you will see a little trail on your left hand side that leads down to the bear caches, picnic tables and the lake. This is where you will want to go for the lake.
To your right is another little trail which leads up to more campsites once you are ready to set up your tent if you are camping.
Adding on Numa Pass
Once you reach Floe Lake, you can hike to Numa Pass which means you will add on a little more to your hike. We so badly wish we had done this, but we were running a little late and we were ready to relax when we arrived at Floe Lake so we skipped it.
Distance: 5.8km / 3.6 miles | Elevation: 329m / 1,079 ft | Time: 2-3 hours
Numa Pass is the highest elevation point along the Rockwall Trail and the views are totally worth the extra few kilometres. If you do this hike during Fall, Numa Pass is covered in golden larch trees which is a beautiful sight to see!
🏕 Camping at Floe Lake
You can do Floe Lake as a day or you can camp at the official campground by the lake. In order to camp, you must obtain a camping permit through the Parks Canada reservation system.
The campsites are spread out through the forest back from the lake and a lot of them have some good trees around them so that you can easily set up a tarp shelter if you want.
Just down from the Floe Lake campground near the lake, are bear caches to store your food and any other smelly items and picnic tables to cook and eat at.
We filtered our water straight from the lake. It was FREEZING!
How to Book a Floe Lake Campsite
To book a campsite, you will need to go to the Parks Canada Website and then click on reservations. Floe Lake can be found under Backcountry – Backcountry Zone – Park: Banff, Kootenay and Yoho Backcountry. Then you just need to select your access point as the Floe Lake Trailhead.
🛌 Places to Stay Nearby that are so worth it!
From Banff, the Floe Lake trailhead is about a 45 minute drive and from Radium Hot Springs, it is about a 50 minute drive to the Floe Lake trailhead. We chose to stay in Radium Hot Springs because if you have ever stayed in Banff, you will be well aware that accommodation is very expensive.
Radium Hot Springs was a much more affordable option, plus we spent the day before hiking to Floe Lake at the Hot Springs which was a lovely experience.
Here are some of the awesome places to stay in Radium Hot Springs.
Mountain Springs Motel
The Mountain Springs Motel is where we stayed the night before heading out on our Floe Lake adventure. We arrived pretty early but the lovely owner checked us in early AND upgraded us to a 1 bedroom apartment.
The apartment was clean and had everything we needed, including a view looking onto the front garden and the Big Horn Sheep, which were very entertaining. The Motel is also a 5 minute walk into town so we were able to walk to dinner which we really appreciate after being in the car all day!
I can’t recommend this motel more! If you are on a budget, it is the best choice!
Inn on Canyon
The Inn on Canyon is a 2 story Victorian-styled inn that is located 1 block from the town centre and is an adults only accommodation option. They are known for their amazing breakfast and beautiful very clean rooms.
Okay, the Destination INN looks like an incredible place to stay! The rooms are lovely and clean, the hotel offers a shared kitchen, a shared lounge, continental breakfast and bike hire for guests. It is also a pet friendly hotel.
🥾 Hiking Boots or Trail Runners for Floe Lake
You could wear either hiking boots or trail runners to hike to Floe Lake, however if it has rained at all recently, I recommend wearing something waterproof as the trail was extremely muddy when we did it. I wore my trusty Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots which were perfect!
The trail itself, is well maintained, so unless it is super muddy, you shouldn’t have a problem wearing trail runners. We actually saw quite a few runners on the trail, so that should tell you how nicely maintained it is.
🎒 Our Packing Essentials for Hiking Floe Lake
These are all of the essential items that we brought with us when we hiked and camped at Floe Lake in the Fall.
What’s in our backpack
For a full list of everything we take with us on our day hikes, check our Day Hiking Gear Guide!
Camera Gear we brought with us to Floe Lake
For a full list of all of the camera gear we use, check out our Camera Gear Guide.
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- Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass: Best Fall Hike in Banff
- Best Fall Hikes in and Around Banff
- How to Spend 1 Day in Banff in Summer
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