Trail Conditions Update – September 19, 2019
Fall weather has arrived in the Rockies and that means autumn colours! Trail conditions are generally good but expect some wet and muddy sections during periods of rain. Be prepared for colder temperatures and shorter days when travelling on the trail this month.
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.
BEARS: 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. Be alert, make noise, carry bear spray and if you see a bear, back away slowly and leave the area.
- WATERTON: The Tamarack Trail reopened on July 31. Most trails in Waterton Lakes National Park have now re-opened following the 2017 Kenow wildfire with the exception of the Alderson Lake Trail and campground which remain closed. The Mount Rowe-Sage Pass Alternate Route in Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park is also closed. DETOUR: From Waterton Townsite, GDT hikers can follow the Akamina Parkway for 11 km to re-join the GDT at the Rowe Lakes trailhead (a9).
- Numa Creek Trail (Rockwall access trail) remains closed due to wash out of the bridge over the Vermilion River. The pedestrian bridge is being replaced and access to the Rockwall from this location will be restored next year.
- Trail 7 near Jasper is closed to hikers south of the junction with Trail 7e and north of the junction with Trail 7a due to grizzly and black bears frequenting the area. Detour by taking Trail 7e to Mildred Lake from where you can take several different trails to reach Old Fort Point trailhead. Equestrians can still use Trail 7 but are not to dismount.
- Parks Canada has resumed work to replace the Meadow Creek Bridge, approximately 12 kilometres west of the Jasper townsite on Highway 16. Elysium Pass, Virl, Dorothy and Christine Lakes trailhead will be closed until construction is complete, expected in November 2019.
- In 2017, approximately 35 km of the GDT was burned by the Kenow Wildfire between Bertha Bay campground and Font Creek (a19). Some trails that have been damaged by wildfire may require environmental analysis or heavier engineering, and closures could be in place for many months, for the health of the trail and the surrounding landscapes as well as the safety of hikers, park staff and volunteers. The GDTA will continue to monitor and assess the condition of these damaged trails and provide updates as they become available.
- The 5 km of trail north of Sage Pass that was burned by the 2017 Kenow wildfire has not been cleared since the fire and is considered potentially hazardous due to dead-standing burnt trees.
- From Scarpe Pass (a24), the trail disappears so hikers must route-find up to La Coulotte Ridge, where the hiking becomes significantly more difficult until you reach the ATV track (a27) heading down to the West Castle Road.
- Leroy Creek has washed out approximately 100m of the trail obscuring the location of the creek ford at 50.677892, -115.317131. Look for cairns on either side of the creek marking the crossing.
- The first half of the Amiskwi Trail was cleared in August 2018, but the rest of the trail is in poor shape much of the way to Amiskwi Pass. Expect brushy, overgrown conditions, and several fords of the Amiskwi River.
- The David Thompson Heritage Trail was cleared to Howse Pass in September 2019. A new log bridge is in place across Lambe Creek (d10). Cairnes Creek (d9) is a potentially dangerous ford, however currently there are two large trees down across the creek allowing hikers to cross. If these trees wash away, it is recommended to ford the creek early in the morning when glacial melt is lowest.
- Descending the north side of Howse Pass (d11), the main route of the GDT now follows Conway Creek and Howse River floodplains wherever possible, without crossing the main channel of the Howse River. The floodplain is wide and scenic. There are several shallow fords of smaller channels on the floodplain so hikers must be prepared to have wet feet while enjoying a significantly better hiking experience than the old overgrown trail strewn with hundreds of fallen trees. In June and early July, the Howse River may be in flood making some sections of the floodplain difficult or impassable in which case hikers should consider using the old trail (now marked as an alternate route). Conversely, in late August and September when the river is low, hikers may be able to ford the main river channel and completely avoid any bushwhacking along the river’s edge. See here for a more detailed route description.
- The Owen Creek Trail was cleared in July 2015 up to km 6 but there has been some new deadfall since then. 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 bridge between Poboktan and Waterfalls campground (e19) has been replaced.
- The Maligne Pass trail from Pobokton Creek (e20) to Trapper Creek (e24) 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 (less than knee deep in mid-summer). Most other bridges are still in place. The Six Passes Route is a cross-country alternative to the overgrown trail for hikers with route-finding experience – Read more here.
- 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. There are two options: (1) ford the Smoky River in the floodplain; or (2) ford Yates Torrent approximately 500m upstream (location was flagged in 2017). At both locations 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 (marked), and Carcajou about 100m below the trail.
- Hikers have reported that Wolverine campground and the surrounding trail are flooded. Detour around by following higher ground through the forest west of the trail and campground.
- The bridge across Buchanan Creek on the trail to Kakwa Lake, has been removed. The crossing here can be hazardous early in the year or after heavy rains.
- Akamina Parkway and Red Rock Parkway in Waterton Lakes National Park are closed to vehicles but open to pedestrians.
- For more information, check out Alberta 511 and Drive BC.
National and Provincial Park Trail Conditions:
Banff National Park
Jasper National Park
Kootenay National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park
Yoho National Park
Akamina‐Kishinena Provincial Park
Castle Wildland Provincial Park
Castle Provincial Park
Elk Lakes Provincial Park
Height of the Rockies Provincial Park
Kakwa Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Robson Provincial Park
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park