Helena Ridge is located to the east of the Castle Mountain Massif
above Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park
, one of four connecting national parks making up the central Canadian Rockies. Helena Ridge was officially named by a geologist after his wife in 1910. Helena Ridge is in clear view as you travel the TransCanada west bound. Castle Mountain is to the left, Stuart Knob
(named after the same geologist's
son) is to the rear and center and Helena Ridge is to the right.
The only published route up Helena Ridge is the easy scramble (summer). I ascended Helena Ridge in the winter and experienced extreme western winds and slab avalanche conditions. The trail ascent up to Rockbound Lake is a common one via the 9km Rockbound Lake Trail and makes for a viable ski trial in the winter. However, the winter ascent from Rockbound Lake to the summit of Helena Ridge will require the use of snowshoes and/or crampons.
I can't say much about the views due to the weather I ascended in, but they no doubt are worthwhile.
The Trans-Canada dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Drive to Castle Junction 31 kilometers west of Banff via either the Trans-Canada Highway or Bow Valley Parkway (more Elk to be spotted along the Parkway). From Trans-Canada, take the Castle Junction exit and proceed east under a bridge (huge nest on the bridge houses an Osprey who has raised young every year I have lived here)
and turn right at the stop sign and pull into the Rockbound Lake trailhead on your left. From Bow Valley Parkway, Rockbound Lake trail head will be on your right before the Castle Junction gas station.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the park. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Banff National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is
included above. Park headquarters are located in Banff and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the park. This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person during non-hibernation months. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
You basically start this trip at the Castle Mountain Campground. You can go on line at Banff National Park to pick your camp site and obtain your camping permit. Two other options are the Johnston Canyon Resort
and Campground several kilometers south on the Bow Valley Parkway and the Castle Mountain Hostel
located at Castle junction. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit, if you are going to use a backcountry site, which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously.
The Banff National Park website has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
is also extremely relevant. The gully above Rockbound Lake that leads to the Helena Ridge col is typically filled with snow and wind loaded.
Caution is advised.
Accident Reports for Canadian Rockies