By Barb Lauer
For those without the time to do a thru-hike on the Great Divide Trail, you might want to consider a ~45k loop that travels on both sides of the GDT, crosses the divide over two passes, is not well known, is not well sign posted and is easily accessible from Calgary. Lynnie, Carol-Lynn and I did this loop last summer as preparation for our section hike in August. It offers all that the GDT has to offer but on a miniature scale – remote, route finding, stream crossing and beautiful scenery!
The trail starts and ends at North Interlakes Day Use Area in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on the Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit/Three Isle Lake Trail. We did the loop clockwise, heading past Three Isle Lake Campground over the South Kananaskis Pass into BC on the first day. We stayed at a fantastic, small campground that is just past the South Kananaskis Pass in B.C. – Beatty Lake Campground. The next day we looped around to the North Kananaskis Pass, back into Alberta, to Turbine Canyon for our second night. Our third day was an easy downhill walk back to North Interlakes Day Use area. A bit more information on the route is provided below.
The first day is very straightforward… there is a pretty clear trail all of the way. Picture of South Kananaskis Pass. We spend the night at Beatty Lake Campground in B.C., which is lovely! It’s on the lake, there are bear lockers and a few tent pads.
The second day was definitely more challenging. Our first challenge was to find the trail out of the campsite, down a rockslide and across a scree slope. You can just about make out Carol-Lynn and Lynnie in the picture here, as they work their way down the rock slope. It’s important to find the trail across from the scree slope, without it, I’m not sure how one would make it to LeRoy Creek. Once you’re on the unmaintained trail, it’s relatively easy to follow it; there was blue flagging last summer.
At one point there will be trail branching off from the main trail. Definitely take the time to explore this – it’s a beautiful rock water garden. We sat there for a little while until we heard a growl of sorts and then scurried off!
Many different techniques were used in crossing the Leroy Creek including the epic pioneer approach of Lynnie’s (pictured here) and the not so elegant, wet feet approach that I took (sorry no picture available!).
We got a bit messed up after crossing the creek, as my GPS route was washed out and no longer possible. Generally, if you cross the creek when you first come to it and then stay on that side until you go above the cliffs and then back down to the creek you will be fine; at this point keep looking for the trail on the other side of the river that goes up to the North Kananaskis Pass and onto Turbine Canyon campsite.
The third day is a very easy walk, almost entirely a gentle downhill from Turbine Canyon campsite. The three happy hikers are pictured here.
The short weekend trip was definitely a great introduction to the Great Divide Trail. If you enjoy feeling like you are the only ones out there, searching for the faintly marked trail while enjoying fantastic scenery, you will love this trip!
If you walk a section of the trail this summer, no matter how short or long, please consider writing about it and sharing it with other GDTA members. You can submit your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org