Hello friends! Day 2 of our mini-getaway to the mountains included a small group hike up to Tower Lake and Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park. We told the couple who took us on our first snowshoe trip that we were planning a weekend of hiking, and they mentioned they were going to the mountains to camp, so they would love to join us on Saturday. And since they are experts (in my opinion) on hiking in the area, the hubby and I were ecstatic to see where they were taking us! They were tottering between Mt. Bourgeau and Rockbound Lake. Mt. Bourgeau is considered a moderate to difficult hike, approximately 23 km to summit and back, while Rockbound Lake is considered a moderate to difficult hike, approximately 17 km round trip. Since the couple we were going with was planning to carry their 3-year-old son, we ultimately decided on Rockbound Lake.
Distance: 17 km roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,493 feet/760 meters
Time: 4-6 hrs
Location: Banff National Park: Castle Junction Area. Trailhead – Drive to the parking area on the north side of the Bow Valley Parkway 0.2 km east of Castle Junction.
We all met up at the Rockbound Lake trail head at 9 am, packed up our goods in our hiking bags, and hit the trail around 9:30 am. Again, the weather was forecasted to be predominantly overcast with a chance of rain at higher altitudes, but the majority of this hike is through a dense forest, so we figured we would have decent coverage. The initial trail surface is fairly flat and on crushed stone – and the best part was being surrounded by fir and spruce trees whose aroma was magnified by the threat of rain. I wish I could just bottle up the smell!!!
Shortly after the trail began, the path diverged: Silverton Falls veered to the right and the Rockbound Lake veered to the left. The trail was wide and consistently aggressive, with elevation gain shortly after passing the split trail. Although the hike was pleasant, we didn’t take a ton of pictures along the way because there were few highlights. I did find a few pics on AlbertaWow.com which capture the essence of those highlights, including occasional plank bridges and stepping-stones over shallow beds. Near the 5 km (3.1 mile) mark the trail narrows and turns into rolling terrain, and rock features, compromised by fog and cloud cover, slowly start to emerge between treetops. Our little 3-year old companion kept asking when we could hike in the clouds – it was so adorable!!!
The forest eventually gave way to a small meadow with towering rock walls to the left. The view was stunning! Before this hike, I couldn’t even imagine that meadows and lakes existed ON mountains – hidden from view and captured only by those willing to brave the elements!!! At the far end of the meadow, a small emerald lake beckoned us forward. It was a beautiful area, and the ambiance was dramatically enhanced by the fog hugging the cliffs.
When we arrived at Tower Lake, I thought we had reached our destination! Little did I know that an additional short, steep climb over rocky switchbacks would offer some EPIC views and a well-secluded nook for weary hikers. We stopped briefly to take a few pics and munch on some snacks. Upon reaching the end of our limit for fighting off mosquitoes, we hefted our packs upon our backs, followed the path to the right, crossed a small wooden plank, and continued to climb up, up, up! The next half mile of terrain was rugged, and steep, but offered some unique views of Tower Lake and the mountain valley we just trekked below us. I can only imagine what the view would be like on a sunny day!!! It was at this point that we were introduced to Larch trees – which we were told turn a vibrant yellow in the fall – and then, unlike other conifers, lose their needles, leaving the trees bare through winter!
At last, we staggered over the last stretch of rocky footholds, and were met with another meadow. This time, however, we were encased by huge rock cliffs and the lake gleamed at us from a distance! It was a short march forward, weaving our way in between boulders before we reached the flat rock shoreline. Our friends took off their shoes and socks and waded into the cold, crisp water…but the hubby and I were just cold enough in shorts and long-sleeves to not embrace the natural “spa.” It took us a total of 2 hours, 45 minutes (not including our lil’ break at Tower Lake) to reach Rockbound Lake! We sat upon the flat rocks and ate our lunches and enjoyed being photographed by a passerby. We asked her if she would mind taking a group photo, and 10 minutes later we had completed a full photo shoot with poses and angles and all sorts of giddiness. But it was fun…and it made us all laugh. When the cold winds got the better of us, we decided to pack-up and start our descent.
I found a short video clip of a 360* view of Rockbound Lake via HikingWithBarry that I think you will enjoy. You can clearly see why the location got its name, as the back half of the lake is bound by sheer rock cliffs and the meadow leading up to the lake shore is littered with huge boulders. We were told that one can continue an additional 2.5 km that leads to the high point above the lake – but the path is a rocky climb and you encounter a small cliff face with ledges, where experienced hikers can make the final scramble to the summit. For our group, there was no need to continue any further as we were quite content with our final destination!
The trail back was pretty, but uneventful. We took turns rotating out walking partners so that we never had a dull moment. We loved getting to know another couple who enjoy hiking, and of course, listening to the quite entertaining songs and questions of a 3-year old. The time flew by…and even though the last, flatter piece of the trail felt long…we actually made excellent time and kept moving the entire trek back! Overall, our 17.2 km (10.7 m) hike took us a total of 4 hours, 40 minutes (not including our lunch break). Not too shabby for climbing a mountain, eh?!
Have you ever hiked a mountain?