Effective immediately, the GDTA is announcing one change to the main route of the GDT as well as an update on the detour around the trail closures in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Howse Floodplain Route (Section D) – Descending the north side of Howse Pass, 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.
Waterton Detour (Section A) – Portions of the GDT in Waterton Lakes National Park will remain closed in 2019 due to extensive wildfire damage in previous years. 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). Waterton Lakeshore Trail is open allowing hikers to begin at the GDT Southern Terminus on the International Boundary. From Waterton Townsite, a detour can be followed to reconnect with the GDT via Font Creek Trail, about 1.6 km north of Font Creek campground (a19), a total distance of 64 or 66 km depending on a couple route options.
While there are no established campgrounds on the Waterton Detour, you can request a random camping permit within Waterton Lakes National Park by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Outside of Waterton Lakes National Park, random camping on the detour route is allowed without a permit.
The detour begins at the Carthew-Alderson trailhead (a3) where hikers follow Evergreen Avenue through Waterton Townsite, about 3.5 km north to the Crandell Lake trailhead. The Crandell Lake Trail parallels the (closed) Red Rock Parkway reaching the Bellevue trailhead in 3.5 km. Follow the Bellevue Trail for another 3.5 km to a junction with the Horseshoe Basin Trail. Head left (west) on the Horseshoe Basin Trail for about 11 km to reach the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park. Follow an old trail east along the boundary for 500 metres until you reach a junction with a seismic line heading due north. Follow this line for 3 km until you reach an east-west seismic line. Head left/west 5 km to reach a junction with Range Road 303 (total distance of about 30 km) where a route decision must be made.
From this junction, there are two different approaches to reach the GDT.
- Bovin Lake (aka Blue Lake) Trail – 30 km on road and good trail. This is the easier and faster option but somewhat less scenic. From the junction with the seismic line, head north on Range Road 303 and then 302. Bovin Lake trailhead is reached via 16.6 km of road-walking. From Bovin Lake trailhead, begin hiking on good multi-use trail. In 6 km reach a junction with a trail heading south up the ridge above Bovin Lake, about 1 km before actually reaching the lake. Take this trail up and over the ridge and descend to South Castle Road. Head west to reach Font Creek Trail in about 2 km, 13.5 from the trailhead.
- Yarrow Creek-Avion Ridge Trail – 28 km mostly on good trail with some spectacular ridge-walking. While slightly shorter, this option will take longer than Bovin Lake as it involves more elevation and some scrambling on steep scree slopes. The trailhead is located at the end of a deadend spur off of Range Road 303 past a junction with a gated private road. Follow the trail around the ridge and cross Yarrow Creek to connect with the road (or just follow the road from the junction with the seismic line). Follow the road for about 2.5 km to the last Shell Compressor station where you will find the Yarrow Creek Trail on the far/west end of the clearing. Follow this trail for 6.4 km to reach a small lake at the head of Yarrow Creek. From the lake look for a trail leading west up through the trees and grass near the outflow of the lake. The first part of the trail has been washed away creating a large ditch. Keep hiking up and you will hit good trail which makes a couple switchbacks in shale before reaching the Spionkop-Newman col at the top of the ridge also known as Big Horn Pass. From here follow a game trail that traverses the scree slope below Newman Peak to reach Avion Ridge. Follow the Avion Ridge Trail to South Castle Pass where you will connect with a trail that descends to the South Castle Road about 9 km south of Font Creek Trail.
From the South Castle Road, Font Creek Trail immediately fords the South Castle River and ascends 400 metres over 6 km to connect with the GDT about 1.6 km north of Font Creek campground (a19).