Rockies ::  Banff-Louise :: Castle Mountain

 

View of Castle Mountain cliffs from Rockbound Lake Trail. Eisenhower Tower center left

Castle Mountain is stunning eye-catcher halfway between Banff and Lake Louise. West cliffs appear impenetrable when seen from tourist pull-out on Trans-Canada highway, but tucked in the backs is beautiful amphitheater hosting aptly named Rockbound Lake. Area has been open wide by Alan Kane "Scrambles" guide and several peaks around the Amphitheater made an entry.  It is also popular by rock-climbers that use Hut on Goat Plateau below Eisenhower Tower  (named in 1979 in honor of World War II general Dwight Eisenhower).  More adventurous hiking objectives include one way traverse over Television Peak to Protection Mtn as well as exploratory backpacks to Mitella Lake and Baker Creek. For all trips official parking lot is just south of Castle Mountain Chalets on east side of Bow Valley Parkway

 
Section Horizontal Profile Vertical Profile

Rockbound Lake

Castle Cliffs TBA TBA
Helena Ridge TBA TBA
Stuart Knob TBA TBA
Television Peak TBA TBA

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Rockbound Lake

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Abstract

Overall Difficulty D3 Fairly easy but longish approach to Tower Lake .  Steep Headwall below Rockbound Lake
Snow Factor S2 Straightforward snowshoe or (more difficult) ski to Tower Lake.  One brief crossing of avi slope below Eisenhower Tower, but otherwise low risk.  More difficult from Tower to Rockbound Lake (S3) Fast and physically demanding ski out. Note that in winter Rockbound Lake loses sun early in the afternoon.
Scenery Pristine Tower Lake with backdrop of Eisehnower Tower.  Spectacular Rockbound Amphitheater with interesting colored cliffs dotted with golden larches in September.  Much of the approach is below treeline and view-less.
Trail/Marking Excellent Official Parks trail with marked junctions
Suggested Time 4-6 hrs Rockbound Lake only.  Return time depends on season and transport mode in winter
Elevation

Start: 1440m         Max: 2220m  Total: ~820m

Round Trip: 20km  
Gear Light hikers sufficient in summer conditions.  Snowshoes or skis in winter.  Poles very helpful for Headwall above Tower Lake
Water Creek crossing below Eisenhower Tower ~ 1.5 hrs from trailhead.  Tower or Rockbound Lake (filtering).  Carry ~1L
Dog Friendly Yes Standard back-country travel precautions. Trail is popular in summer so leash is recommended.
 

Gallery

  Avalanche slope off Eisenhower Tower on approach to Tower Lake Avi slope crossing is very brief and lasts just 1-2 minutes Meadows before Tower Lake. Helena ridge upper center right Tower Lake environs in winter setting
   Eisenhower Tower from Tower Lake Awkward steep ascent of Headwall in winter conditions Entering Rockbound Amphitheater above the Headwall View back to Eisenhower Tower and Kane summit of Castle Mtn.
Panoramic view of Rockbound Amphitheater Closer look at Helena Ridge from east end of Rockbound Lake Eisenhower Tower from west end of Rockbound Lake Eastern skies from Tower Lake in late afternoon
Chinook sunset skies past Tower Lake on return Chinook sunset skies past Tower Lake on return Chinook sunset skies past Tower Lake on return Chinook sunset skies past Tower Lake on return

Summary

Rockbound Lake Trail is reminiscent to celebrated Garibaldi Lake hike in BC Coast Mountains between Squamish and Whistler.  Many see it just as approach to several Kane scrambles above the Amphitheater, but it is also worthy destination on its own. In winter it is an excellent choice in high-risk avalanche conditions, as most of the approach is below treeline. Although return distance is fairly long, travel is generally easy and can be done fast - specially on return. Scenery gradually unfolds as trail approaches Tower Lake below formidable Eisenhower Tower.  The only difficulty is steep, but brief, headwall above Tower Lake;  hard to believe some are able to ski this part in winter!  Many larches on south side of Rockbound Amphitheater also make this an excellent Fall destination.

 

From the parking lot follow wide trail passing Silverton Falls junction near the start.  Trail angles left and starts approach towards south end of Castle Mountain massif.  About 2.5km, ~40 mins is wide switchback and trail steepens. Elevation gain is steady, but moderate. There are occasional glimpses of Bow Valley and Pilot Mountain along the way.   Around 5km mark trail switches again and starts approach towards Rockbound Amphitheater;  grade soon levels out.  Meadows and creek crossing on wooden planks are near; water bottles can be refilled here.  Soon after is the clearing and only risky point in winter conditions;  sizeable avalanche slope coming off Eisenhower Tower.   This section is short and you are through in 1-2 minutes.  Just under 2 hours is emerald colored Tower Lake -- popular with fishermen and very beautiful, specially early in the morning as sun hits east cliffs of Castle Massif.  At north end of Tower Lake trail swings left  just past old sign that reads "1/2 mile to Rockbound Lake".   Ensuing Headwall is steep but short.  Trail switchbacks back and forth couple of times; steepest portion is near the top, and often fairly awkward in the winter.   Above the Headwall trail descends through stands of larch trees to south end of Rockbound Lake and vanishes out.

 

Best spot for break are slabs halfway around the south shore. From here ascent route to mid-plateau circling the lake can be studied. Pyramid shaped peak directly above is Helena Ridge and is the least demanding of all objectives above the lake. Neither are particularly safe though in winter conditions.  Return the same way will be considerably faster from the way up;  it can also be hiked without problems with headlamp in case of long day trips above the lake.