- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Perhaps the most underrated hike in the entire Canadian Rockies is the Ball Pass hike in Kootenay National Park. This hike goes up along Hawk Creek and is perfect for a challenging day hike. Head up to Ball Pass through a rugged and exposed regrowth forest with a lovely mountain meadow as a destination. Pack a lunch and enjoy the views and then head back or make it an overnight and continue to Shadow Lodge or Ball Pass Campground.
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Route Description for Ball Pass
Before you start this hike, make sure you’re prepared to scamper over and under a lot of downed trees, as fallen trees litter the route to Ball Pass. These trees make the initial part of the hike to Ball Pass annoying, and much slower than a normal trail.
To get to Ball Pass, park at the Floe Lake parking lot, then cross the 93S highway and catch a trail on the other side of the road and go left. Soon you come to a path going off to the right.
This trail starts off with a walk through a re-growing forest from a past forest fire. There are lots of downed trees (our imperfect count had 126 trees that should be removed) along the trail. It is a frustrating part of the hike to continuously climb over/under the trees, and we have seen other hikers turn around at this point.
The Ball Pass trail goes left and starts to climb in the trees, before contouring on a steep hill. The trail is clear here, and you start to get your first views of where the hike is going, as well back into the valley that leads to Floe Lake.
After roughly 4.4 km you come to a large stream that has small waterfalls. This is a beautiful place for a break, and you’ll love dipping your feet in the water on your walk back, especially if it is a hot day.
From this waterfall, the route is going to get prettier and prettier all the way to Ball Pass. The trail trends to the right and goes below Isabelle Peak. The trail soon comes out of the trees for some spectacular views. You pass some streams that were mostly dry in the summer of 2018.
The route will continue below a mighty rock wall on your left, providing great views up the valley. You will eventually come back into light forest roughly 6.5 km from where you parked your car. This is also the start of a new ecosystem, as the route turns to forest and there is lots of moss, and the weather feels cooler and damper.
Follow the trail through the forest for 300 m and when you reach a creek the trail goes sharply left and uphill. This is a pretty area, and you’ll enjoy the shade.
Once up this steep bit of trail, and roughly 8.0 km from your car you’ll come to a stunning meadow. This is totally unexpected and so very pretty. This meadow is spectacular, with a small stream and wildflowers in July. While you may want to take a break here, trust us and continue onwards and push to Ball Pass.
Once at Ball Pass continue for a couple of hundred meters for a much better view and prepare to be amazed for one of the best panoramas in the Rockies. The views of Mount Ball, the Ball Glacier, Isabelle Peak and down to Shadow Lake are spectacular. You can just make out the cabins visible to the right of Shadow Lake. On your right is the massive Haiduk Peak
What we like about Ball Pass is the Ball Glacier, a substantial glacier which is not seen that often this close to Banff townsite, with most glaciers farther north by Lake Louise and on the Icefields Parkway.
While we normally do the Ball Pass hike as a day hike, you can make this a backpacking trip. To backpack, continue down to Shadow Lake, which you reach in about 6 kms. There is a backcountry campground there just past the end of the lake. You can also stay at Shadow Lake Lodge.
If you’re not going for a backpack, retrace your steps from Ball Pass back to car.
Find other great hikes in Kootenay National Park:
Insider Hints for Ball Pass
- This is a fairly undiscovered hike, as such, it’s best to go in a group as you may not see any other hikers on this route.
- One of the best backpack routes in the Canadian Rockies takes part of this trail, going from Sunshine to Healy pass to Egypt Lake to Shadow Lake, then up over Ball Pass and down to the Rockwall from Floe Lake to Paint Pots. It requires a car shuttle.
- Beware there is a lot of deadfall on the trail, so be prepared for it.
Getting to the Ball Pass Trailhead
The Ball Pass trailhead is the same trailhead as the Floe Lake hike. From Banff head west on the Trans Canada towards Lake Louise. At castle Junction take the AB - 93S towards Radium Hot Springs and continue onto BC-93S as you enter British Columbia. The trailhead will be well signed to your right, after about 22.0 km from the AB/BC border.
Ball Pass Elevation Graph
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