Trail Conditions Update – June 21, 2019
It’s transition time on the GDT. Valley bottom trails at lower elevations vary from bare and dry to wet and muddy, while most trails at higher elevation are still snow covered with some fresh snow falling this week. With warmer weather, trail conditions can change quickly so plan for varying conditions – boots, cleats and/or poles are recommended.
SNOW: For up to date snow level data in BC, check out the Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletins or the Automated Snow Weather Station Map. In Alberta, check out the Alberta River Basins map and turn on the snow pillow layer.
CREEKS: Rapid snow melt during this time of year results in high water levels and potentially dangerous creek crossings, particularly later in the day. Attempt to ford larger creeks early in the day when water levels are lowest.
ELK CALVING SEASON: May 15 to June 30. Protective mother elk will aggressively protect their newborns by kicking and charging at people. Stay at least 30 metres away from all elk during this time of year. Pay attention to trail closures in known elk calving areas.
TICKS: It’s tick season. Long pants tucked into your socks are recommended. 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.
- Bear warning in Waterton Lakes National Park: A black bear is frequenting the Lakeshore Trail from the townsite to Boundary Bay.
- Bear alert in Jasper National Park: Bears are frequenting the road side in search of food.
FIRES: Fire advisories are in effect in Banff and Jasper National Parks. If you must have a campfire in the backcountry, ensure you follow the rules.
- Due to the 2017 Kenow wildfire some trails and backcountry campgrounds in Waterton Lakes National Park and Akamina Kishinena Provincial Park remain closed. 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 access to the GDT Southern Terminus at the International Boundary (a1). From Waterton Townsite, a detour can be followed to reconnect with the GDT via Font Creek Trail, 1.6 km north of Font Creek campground (a19).
- 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.
- 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 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.
- A bridge is out between Poboktan campground and Waterfalls campground (e19) and the creek is impassable during periods of high water. No detour is available.
- 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.
- 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