Amazing Floe Lake sunrise hike in Kootenay National Park

Floe Lake is a stunning alpine lake located in Kootenay National Park, Canada. The 21-kilometer round-trip hike takes you through diverse landscapes. From dense forests to open meadows and up a steep trail of switchbacks until you get to the stunning lake with an impressive rock wall. Although the first part of the Floe Lake trail isn’t the hardest, you’ll have the most elevation gain at the last part. But trust me, it’s totally worth the effort! If you love photography and want to capture the soft golden morning light, then I highly recommend hiking Floe Lake for sunrise. That’s exactly what we did in October, and we were not only treated with a beautiful, dramatic sunrise but also with golden larch trees! Find in our complete guide all you need to know before hiking to Floe Lake and don’t forget to check our other Canada guides.

Floe Lake hike statistics

Length: 21 km / 13 miles

Elevation gain: 976 meters.

Duration: 5 – 8 hours, depending on how much time you spend at the lake. It took us a good 2.5 hours to get to the lake and 2 hours to get back to the parking.

Difficulty: Moderately. Although this is not a technical hike, the Floe Lake hike is long. Depending on your fitness level it will feel moderately to difficult. 

Facilities: Toilets at the trailhead and at Floe Lake.

How to get to Floe Lake trailhead

Floe Lake is situated in Kootenay National Park and is easily accessible from Banff National Park. Coming from the Lake Louise area for example it is only a 40-minute drive. Obviously, you will need to purchase a National Park Pass before visiting Floe Lake and place it visibly in your car.

The Floe Lake parking is directly located along Highway 93 and is also the start for the Rockwall trail towards Numa Pass. Therefore the parking might fill up quickly in high season, so come early to secure your spot.


How long is the hike to Floe Lake? 

The out-and-back Floe Lake hike is 21 kilometres long. This means you will gain 976 meters of elevation over 10 kilometers on the way to the lake. Depending on your fitness level it will take 2.5 – 3.5 hours to get to Floe Lake and 2 – 3 hours to get back to the parking lot. It’s a tough day hike but totally doable. Just make sure you bring enough water, food and snacks. Of course, you can also choose to do Floe Lake as an overnight adventure. There are many tent pads at Floe Lake campground which you can reserve through the website of Parks Canada. 

Best time to hike the Floe Lake trail 

Generally, the best season to hike the Floe Lake trail is from late spring until the first snowfall in autumn, which is mostly from the months June to September, and October. In the summer months of late July and early August, you will be walking amongst beautiful wildflowers along the Floe Lake trail. In autumn the trees and shrubs change colors, providing a stunning array of yellow, orange, and red foliage. 


At Floe Lake, you can see the orange larch trees in autumn which adds a magical touch to the already spectacular landscape. These Larch trees are deciduous conifers that, unlike typical evergreen conifers, shed their needles in the fall, turning a vibrant golden-yellow color before dropping. So if you visit Floe Lake in autumn, particularly from mid-September to early October, you’re likely to witness the stunning transformation of the larch trees.


The best time of the day to hike Floe Lake trail is either before sunrise, so you can catch the first golden light at the lake. Or if you’re not into hiking in the dark, then start the hike as early as possible by daylight for the highest chance of clear skies. However, this depends a bit if you hike to Floe Lake for an overnight adventure or a day hike. We saw overnight campers starting the hike in the afternoon, which of course saves you from hiking in the dark forest and valley to get to the lake with sunrise, like we did. 

Floe Lake trail description 

Floe Lake trail starts gently with little elevation gain throughout the forest and valley which is a great warming up for what’s coming. Because the last part will get you sweaty! So make sure to have enough energy left for that last push where you climb up steep switchbacks until you get to the lake. 

The first part of the trail leads you through the shrubby forest until you get to the bright turquoise Vermillion River around 400 meters into the trail. Here you’ll cross the river over a bridge which is worth a quick stop. It’s fascinating to see how intensely blue the color of the water is and how the water flow of the river carved these beautiful underwater canyon. 


Continuing the trail you will veer back into the forest until you reach the open valley area with fire damaged trees. These are still the results from the 2003 wildfire and more recently 2018 wildfire which almost burned the Floe Lake trail again. 


Because the first 7 kilometers of the trail are so easy, it makes you wonder when the 900+ meter elevation pain (pun intent) will come.. Well, just keep walking because the closer you head towards the giant rock wall in front of you, the sooner you’ll be walking on your tiptoes to conquer the switchbacks.  

Floe Lake trail switchbacks

Once you can see the waterfall flowing down into the valley you’ll know that the source, Floe Lake, is close. Due to avalanche damage, the path here is a little less obvious, but you’ll still be able to see the worn path which guides you across the rocks and debris. Once you’ve tackled this part the real climb starts! 


This series of steep switchbacks through the forest is no joke. It was at this part that we were super happy with our hiking poles! It’s a strenuous last part of the trail and the only flat part comes a couple of hundred meters away from the lake.  


Once you reach the flat part you will first walk past the toilet and a few camp spots. If you’ve booked a camp spot, try to get the first tent pad on your left side because it’s the best site with a lake view. Here the larch trees are getting visible and it feels like a wonderland walking through them! 


Reaching Floe Lake, you’ll be greeted by its crystal-clear waters surrounded by majestic peaks. If you’re lucky and the wind is calm, the lake offers stunning reflections of the towering rockwall. We got lucky with the last bit of golden larch tree needles and a dramatic sunrise that pierced through the clouds.


Wildlife along Floe Lake trail

Remember that you’re in bear country, so always carry bear spray, know how to use it, and be bear-aware! Grizzly bears are sometimes seen, however, we didn’t spot any animals when hiking the trail in October. 

You will most likely meet the friendly and curious chipmunks. Other animals that live in the area include black bears, marmots, moose, elk, deer, and the occasional mountain goat.

Are dogs allowed at Floe Lake?

Yes, dogs are allowed on Floe Lake trail but they must be kept on a leash along the trail and at the lake. However, it’s not recommended to bring your dog to Floe Lake due to the presence of Grizzly bears in the area. 

How many campsites are at Floe Lake?

Floe Lake campground has a total of 18 tent pads and two outhouses managed by Parks Canada. A reservation is necessary if you want to go camping at Floe Lake. Make sure to secure your spot early in the season because Floe Lake is part of the multi-day Rockwall trail. This is one of the most popular backcountry hikes in the Canadian Rockies, so camp spots get booked up quickly. The great thing about camping at Floe Lake is that the tent sites are spread out along the lake and into the forest, which provides enough privacy for everyone. Camping at Floe Lake costs $21.52 for one night. And besides that, you have to purchase either a National Park Day pass or an Annual Pass if you’re planning to visit more National Parks.

Picnic benches are available throughout the common areas of the campground which is the perfect spot to enjoy your breakfast or lunch. Just down picnic benches near the lake, you’ll find bear caches to store your food.


Important things to know and prepare before hiking to Floe Lake

  • Download the offline map for this particular hike. We use AllTrails and it’s mostly very accurate. There is no cell service in the National Park.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Educate yourself on what to do and how to act in case of a bear encounter. The behaviour of black bears and grizzly bears can differ, so please educate yourself and know what to do! 
  • No campfires are permitted along the trail or at the lake. 
  • Pack in what you pack out. Practice the Leave No Trace principles. There are toilets at the trailhead and at the lake. 
  • Bring enough water, food, and snacks. It’s going to be a long day.  
  • Check the Floe Lake trail conditions on Parks Canada Website. You can also check recent reviews on the AllTrails app to see what other hikers say. This is in particular good to know if there were recent bear sightings. 

Do you need a National Park Pass to hike Floe Lake?

Because Floe Lake is located inside Kootenay National Park, you’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to enter. Depending on the number of days you plan to visit the Canadian National Parks, you can either buy single daily admission tickets or the Parks Canada Discovery Pass which is a multi-park entry pass for 365 days. You can purchase the different Parks Canada Passes online at the Parks Canada website, at the National Park Visitor Centres or at booths upon entering the many national parks. See all the options and prices below.  

Single daily admission pass

This entrance fee ticket is sold per person, per day, per National Park. It is only the best option if you are solo traveling and just visiting one or two national parks for a couple of days.

  • $10.50 CAD for an adult (from 18-64 years)
  • $9.00 CAD for Senior (65+)
  • FREE entrance for kids younger than 17 years

Group daily admission pass

For the ones traveling with 2 or more people in one car, you can buy a single-day group admission pass. This pass gives entrance for up to 7 people in one vehicle.

  • $21.00 CAD for one vehicle entry for one full day (maximum 7 people)

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is the best option for travelers who plan to visit multiple National Parks. Basically, if you’re spending more than 7 days in the Canadian National Parks, you’ll have a much better deal buying the Discovery Pass. This multi-park entry pass is valid for 365 days to access all participating national parks in Canada. These include Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and much more.

  • $72.25 CAD for one Adult (age 18-64)
  • $61.75 CAD for one Senior (64+)
  • $145.25 CAD for a couple or group/family up to 7 people in one vehicle

Other places to visit in Kootenay National Park

Hiking the Floe Lake trail is one of the highlights of Kootenay National Park. However, there is much more beauty to see in the park, so I highly recommend spending at least a day exploring. 

Here is a short list of the must-visit places in Kootenay National Park.

  • Marble Canyon. A short interpretive trail leads you across a bridge spanning the canyon. Here you can enjoy breathtaking views of the deep gorge, turquoise waters of Tokumm Creek and unique rock formations. 
  • Stanley Glacier trail. This 8.4-kilometer round-trip trail and offers diverse scenery, from dense forests to alpine landscapes. Once the landscape opens up, the impressive Stanley Glacier reveals itself showcasing its ancient ice and rugged beauty.
  • Vista Lake. A short and simple 2.8 km out and back trail leads to the stunning Vista Lake. It’s a perfect short trail to stretch the legs and gives a huge reward for little effort. 
Vista Lake in Kootenay National Park Canada

Where to stay near Floe Lake

While there is no accommodation in Kootenay National Park, you can find some great options nearby. The closest accommodation is Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins which is only a 20-minute drive to get to Floe Lake trailhead. The closest town is Radium Hot Springs which has some more options for accommodations. Below you’ll find our top picks.

Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins

The rustic and cozy cabins of Storm Mountain Lodge are the perfect base to explore Kootenay National Park. These authentic log cabins have a wood-burning fireplace, private bathroom with toiletries and the onsite restaurant serves amazing food. The best and nearest place to relax after exploring. 

Check here prices and availability for Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins

Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins

Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium Hot Springs

This stunning resort is the place to book if you want to indulge in luxury and comfort. Situated on the Springs Golf Course, Bighorn Meadows Resort features a seasonal outdoor heated pool with a hot tub and well-equipped, spacious rooms with WiFi. 

Check here prices and availability for Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium Hot Springs

Bighorn Meadows Resort

Radium Chalet in Radium Hot Springs

On a 50-minute drive from the trailhead is Radium Hot Springs located. Radium Chalet is one of the best-price quality accommodations with stunning mountain views. It is also a pet-friendly accommodation with plenty of different rooms to choose from. 

Check here prices and availability for Radium Chalet


More Canada travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Floe Lake hike in Kootenay National Park. For more travel inspiration about British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides. See below our Canada guides per National Park and area for more travel inspiration. 

Read here our incredibly extensive guide about RVing in Canada

Icefield Parkway RV camping

Banff National Park 

Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail – Complete Hiking Guide

Parker Ridge Trail – The Complete Hiking Guide

Horse riding experience in Banff National Park

Jasper National Park

Mount Edith Cavell hike – The Complete Guide


Smutwood Peak hike – Complete Guide

East End of the Rundle hike – Complete Guide

British Columbia

How to hike the epic Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Joffre Lakes hike – Complete Hiking Guide

Lynn Canyon hike Vancouver

St Marks Summit hike Vancouver

The best Whale Watching tours in Vancouver

Stunning Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park

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  1. Marjoleine says:

    Wow, stunning pictures of a fantastic hike 😍👍

    1. Thank you so much, it was an unforgettable hike!!

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