Trail Conditions Update – September 21, 2020
While Alberta and British Columbia continue to cautiously move into the next phases of living with COVID-19, the Great Divide Trail Association has considered what is best for the health and safety of the trail community that we serve. Staying active in the outdoors is an excellent way to keep your body and mind healthy but we need to continue to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
At this time, the GDTA supports single-day hikes or horseback rides on the GDT and longer (weekend or multi-day), self-sufficient trips that don’t require resupply, where trails and trailheads are open.
Please observe 2-metre physical distancing at all times on the GDT and avoid long-distance ‘thru’ hikes that involve resupplying and interaction with people in communities along the GDT. To limit the potential transmission of the virus between you and others, being completely self-supported on GDT outings is essential. Stay local, bring everything you need, avoid side trips from the trail to resupply, and always Leave No Trace.
- Parks Canada re-opened all national parks along the GDT on June 1, and all GDT backcountry campgrounds in the national parks re-opened on June 22. New online reservations for backcountry campgrounds opened on June 24. Existing reservations from international visitors, including visitors from the USA, will be cancelled and automatically refunded in full up to and including October 5, 2020.
- Alberta Parks re-opened all provincial parks on May 1. Campground reservations opened on May 14 and all Alberta backcountry campsites – both reserved and first-come, first-served – now allow 100% capacity.
- BC Parks re-opened all provincial parks along the GDT on May 14 and most provincial backcountry campgrounds along the GDT re-opened on June 1.
- Numa Creek Trail (Rockwall access trail) remains closed due to the bridge out over the Vermilion River. The pedestrian bridge is being replaced this summer and access to the Rockwall from this location will be restored later this 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 4g to Edith Lake from where there are a few options to reach Old Fort Point trailhead or Jasper townsite. Equestrians can still use Trail 7 but are not to dismount.
Fall colours are here! Trail conditions are generally good but expect some wet and muddy sections particularly during periods of rain. Be prepared for colder temperatures and shorter days when travelling on the trail this month.
- 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.
- Bear warning in Waterton Lakes National Park: A black bear is frequenting the Lakeshore Trail from the townsite to Boundary Bay and has approached people attempting to get food. Special caution is recommended while camping at Boundary Bay or Berth Bay campgrounds.
- ELK: 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.
- FIRES: There is a FIRE BAN in effect in southern Alberta, covering the GDT from Sage Pass to North Kananaskis Pass. Fire advisories are in effect along most of the GDT including in all national parks. If you must have a campfire in the backcountry, ensure you follow the rules.
- The Akamina Parkway is now open for hiking and biking, and will open to vehicles on October 1, 2020. This means the GDT has completely re-opened in Waterton Lakes National Park.
- The new High Rock Trail is open. Check it out here.
- The GDT is blocked by avalanche debris south of Tornado Pass (b16). Hikers can get around by traversing upslope.
- Cairnes Creek (d9): A new temporary bridge was built on July 18 to replace the two fallen trees that washed away. If the bridge washes away, Cairnes Creek is glacial fed and a potentially challenging ford. It is recommended to ford the creek early in the morning when glacial melt is lowest.
- The David Thompson Heritage Trail was cleared from Cairnes Creek to Howse Pass in 2019. A new log bridge is in place across Lambe Creek.
- 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 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, ford the Smoky River in the floodplain. Look for cairns marking the best crossing location and attempt to cross early in the morning when glacial melt is the lowest or be prepared for a fast and potentially dangerous 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.
- The ford of Buchanan Creek on the trail to Kakwa Lake can be hazardous after heavy rains. Look to cross upstream where the creek is wider and shallow.
- In Waterton Lakes National Park, the Akamina Parkway is now open for hiking and biking, and will open to vehicles on October 1, 2020.
- Sunshine Road reopened on June 21 but Sunshine Village will be closed for the entire 2020 season, including the shuttle and gondola.
- For more information, check out Alberta 511 and Drive BC.
National and Provincial Park Trail Conditions:
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