Spring is in the air and this is transition time on the GDT. Valley bottom trails at lower elevations vary from bare and muddy to slushy and icy, while trails at higher elevation remain snowbound. With warmer weather, trail conditions can change quickly from icy in the morning to slushy and slippery in the afternoon. Plan for varying conditions – warm layers, boots, snowshoes, cleats and/or poles are recommended.
SNOW: Spring melt has started and snow levels in the Rockies are slightly below average for this time of year. Avalanche conditions continue to exist, especially at higher elevations so always check the latest avalanche bulletins before setting out. For up to date snow level data in BC, check out the Snow Survey Bulletins and Commentaries which include links to the Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin and map. In Alberta, check out the Alberta River Basins map (turn on the snow pillow layer).
CLOSURES: Some trails in Waterton remain closed due to the 2017 wildfires: The GDT is closed from the Carthew-Alderson trailhead (a3) to the Summit Lake-Boundary Creek trail junction (a7), and from Lineham Ridge summit (a11) to Sage Pass (a17). A detour is available – see details here.
TICKS: Tick season has started. Be extra careful when in areas with a lot of underbrush and check yourself and your clothing after your hike.
BEARS: With spring’s arrival, bears are leaving their dens in search of food. Be bear aware on the trails this spring, make noise and carry bear spray.
- 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.
- 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 few kilometres of the Amiskwi Trail were cleared in August 2018, but the rest of the Amiskwi Trail is in poor shape much of the way to Amiskwi Pass. Expect brushy, overgrown conditions, poor or non-existent trail requiring some route-finding, and several fords of the Amiskwi River.
- Cairnes Creek (d9): The bridge is washed out making this a potentially dangerous ford. 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.
- The David Thompson Heritage Trail was cleared from Cairnes Creek to Lambe Creek (d10) in September 2018. 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 the Conway Creek and Howse River floodplains wherever possible, without crossing the main channel of the Howse River. The floodplain is wide and exceptionally scenic, offering a route quite similar to that of the original travellers to Howse Pass centuries ago. 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 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 (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.
- 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