Trail Conditions Update – September 22, 2016
Fall is here and that means shorter days and quickly changing weather conditions in the mountains. Temperatures are dropping below freezing, and fresh snow has fallen and started to accumulate at higher elevations. Most trails have wet and muddy sections in areas with recent rainfall or snowfall. Creek crossings may be higher than normal during periods of significant rainfall.
ELK RUTTING SEASON WARNING: It is elk rutting season until mid-October. Warning signs that read “ATTENTION – Elk Mating” have been posted at areas where elk herds often gather. Be aware that bull elk become extremely aggressive during rutting season so keep at least 30 metres away from all elk and never get between a male and female elk.
BEAR WARNINGS: It’s pre-hibernation feeding season for both black and grizzly bears which increases the chances of running into a bear on the trail. It is easy to surprise a bear that is focussed on feeding so make noise while hiking in bear territory. Carry bear spray, watch for fresh bear signs, and if you see a bear, back away slowly and leave the area. Never run.
- Banff National Park – To protect sensitive habitat and improve habitat security for grizzly bears, hiking is only permitted on designated trails and roads in the Sunshine Meadows, Citadel Pass, and Healy Pass areas of Banff National Park. Any off-trail use is prohibited without a restricted activity permit.
- Jasper National Park – Two grizzly bears are frequenting the area between Nigel Pass and Maligne Pass. The bears have broken into cabins along the South Boundary trail to access horse feed. While they are no longer appearing at the cabins and have not shown aggression to people, they may return to the area. Pay extra attention when hiking in the area, make noise, and carry bear spray.
- Waterton National Park – The Akamina Pass Trail is closed due to a black bear that has exhibited defensive behaviour towards people.
- Jasper National Park – Trail #7 is closed to hikers at the junction with Trail #4g to Old Fort Point trailhead due to grizzly bears frequenting the area, and displaying aggressive behaviour. Detour is available by taking Trail #4g to Annette Lake where you can connect with Trails #4 or the Athabasca River trail to reach the Old Fort Point bridge (e34).
- Banff National Park – To increase public safety and minimize displacement of grizzly bears from prime food sources at a critical time of the year, the Og Pass and Upper Assiniboine Pass trails are closed. Hikers are permitted to access Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park through Banff National Park via the lower Assiniboine Pass trail or the Wonder Pass trail.
WATERTON HIKER SHUTTLE SERVICE IS NOW CLOSED. Due to the construction at Cameron Lake Day-Use Area from April to November 2016, the Cameron Lake Day-Use Area and Akamina Parkway are closed to all traffic – including pedestrians and cyclists. The shuttle concluded service on September 18.
WILDFIRE UPDATE: There are no campfire bans on the GDT. If you must have a campfire in the backcountry, ensure you follow the rules.
- The trail from Sage Pass (a17) to Scarpe Pass (a24) was cleared and blazed in August 2014 and is in good shape. From Scarpe Pass, the trail disappears up to La Coulotte Ridge and the hiking becomes significantly more difficult until you reach the ATV track (a27) heading down to the West Castle Road.
- The Aldridge Creek Trail between Fording River Pass (b31) and the Kananaskis Power Line Road (b32) was cleared and restored in July 2015.
- Cairnes Creek (d9): The bridge is washed out making this a potentially dangerous ford. It is recommended to cross early in the morning when glacial melt is lowest.
- The damaged Lambe Creek bridge (d10) was removed in September 2015. It is recommended to ford the creek farther downstream and cross early in the morning when glacial melt is lowest.
- The Howse Pass Trail from Conway Creek (d12) to the Glacier Lake trail junction (d14, 15 km) is in very poor condition. The trail is overgrown, with hundreds of wind-fallen trees across the trail. Hiking in the Howse River floodplain is a viable alternative if the Howse River is low enough to ford.
- The Owen Creek Trail was cleared in July 2015 up to km 6. Beyond that point, the trail is in poor shape with several washed out sections. Expect challenging hiking for 3 km including skirting along steep creek-side cliffs and rock-hopping in the creek itself. At km 6, do not take the trail heading up away from the creek (it is a deadend). Look for orange blazes marking the correct route staying near the creek.
- The trail from Pinto Pass (e5) to Pinto Lake (e6) was cleared and blazed in August 2016. A new toilet and bear hang were installed at the Pinto Lake North (main) campground.
- The Maligne Pass trail in Jasper National Park has been decommissioned and is in poor shape. The trail from Pobokton Creek (e20) to Maligne Lake (e25, approx 42 km) is no longer being maintained by Parks Canada so expect deteriorating and overgrown trail conditions; long pants are recommended. The Maligne River bridge has been removed but the river can be easily forded in normal summer conditions (knee deep in mid-summer). Most other bridges are still in place. Read Nathan Dahl’s August 30, 2015 Maligne Pass trail update here.
- The trail from Colonel Pass (f9) to Upright Creek (f12) was cleared and blazed in August 2016. The trail has been moved back to the east side of the Moose River between Colonel Creek and Upright Creek and the ford of Upright Creek is marked. Colonel Creek campground (f11) has been restored.
- The Yates Torrent Bridge is out at the crossing of the Coleman Glacier outflow (near f16). Do not attempt to cross at the old bridge location. Instead, ford the Smoky River farther down the valley. Attempt to cross early in the morning when glacial melt is the lowest or be prepared for a fast and potentially dangerous creek ford.
- The bridges across Gendarme and Carcajou creeks are out on the Jasper North Boundary Trail. These two creeks are smaller than the Smoky River, but can still be treacherous. Cross Gendarme at the horse crossing just below the old bridge. Carcajou can be forded where the trail crosses the creek, unless the water level is high, then cross about 100m below the trail.
- The trail north of Jackpine Pass (f21) all the way to Kakwa Pass (f42), is not marked and frequently disappears in meadows and boggy river valleys. Follow the GPS track to stay on route.
- The bridge across Buchanan Creek, near the Kakwa Lake trailhead, has been removed. The crossing here can be hazardous early in the year or after heavy rains. In 2015, a gravel bar about 50 metres across the creek upstream provided the best crossing. The 10 km of road from Buchanan Creek to Bastille Creek is closed to vehicles as it is no longer driveable due to washouts so be prepared to walk this distance on foot.
- Kootenay National Park – Numa Creek Trail remains closed due to a washed out bridge.
- Due to the construction at Cameron Lake Day-Use Area from April to November 2016, the Cameron Lake Day-Use Area and Akamina Parkway are closed to all traffic – including pedestrians and cyclists. For more information and updates, check out Parks Canada’s website.
- Access to the northern terminus of the GDT in Kakwa Provincial Park is via the Walker Creek Forest Service Road. The Walker Creek FSR has been repaired from Highway 16 to km 33.5. While travelling the remaining 40 kilometres on the Walker Creek FSR, attention is required to navigate the surface as it is uneven, rutted and slippery. The road is not recommended for anything other than a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. The last 10 km from Bastille Creek to Buchanan Creek is closed due to washouts and is not driveable by vehicle so be prepared to walk this distance on foot.