September 2017 Trail and Road Conditions

Trail Conditions Update – September 26, 2017

Cool, wet autumn weather has arrived in the Rockies. Expect fresh snowfall above 1700 metres and wet and muddy trail conditions. Be prepared for colder temperatures and shorter days when travelling on the trail this fall.

WILDFIRES: With the recent wet and cool weather, fire danger ratings in the Canadian Rockies have improved considerably, but some trail closures and campfire bans are still in effect due to ongoing wildfire management. 

TRAIL CLOSURES:

  • Due to the Kenow wildfire, all trails and backcountry campgrounds in Waterton Lakes National Park and Akamina Kishinena Provincial Park remain closed. The GDT is closed from the International Boundary (a1) to La Coulotte Ridge (a27). No detour is available at this time.
  • Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park have partial closures due to the Verdant Creek Wildfire. The GDT is closed from Og Lake (c11) to Sunshine Meadows (c15). Detour around the closure by leaving the GDT at Watridge Lake trail junction (c7) and rejoin the GDT at Sunshine Village (c15). 
  • 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 next to the golf course. Detour by taking Trail 7e towards Trefoil Lakes and Trail 7b south to Old Fort Point trailhead. Equestrian uses can still use Trail 7 but are not to dismount.
  • Numa Creek Trail (Rockwall access trail) remains closed due to wash out of the bridge over the Vermilion River. 
  • Tumbling Creek Trail (Rockwall access trail) is closed from the Ochre Creek trail to the intersection of the Rockwall Trail before the Tumbling bridge due to a missing bridge at km 6.6.

CAMPFIRE BANS

  • A Fire Restriction and campfire ban is still in effect for Zones 1-3 of the Calgary Forest Area which includes all sections of the GDT in Alberta from Sage Pass (a17) to Beehive Natural Area (b24), inclusive. Where the GDT is still open, gas or propane stoves are still allowed in campgrounds.
  • For current information, check out Alberta Fire Bans or BC Wildfire Status websites.

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. Carry bear spray, watch for fresh bear signs, and if you see a bear, back away slowly and leave the area. Never run.

TRAIL NOTICES:

  • From Scarpe Pass (a24), the trail disappears up to La Coulotte Ridge and the hiking becomes significantly more difficult until you reach the ATV track (a27) heading down to the West Castle Road.
  • A large avalanche has destroyed about 200 m of trail north of Dutch Creek campground, near Tornado Pass (b16). Hikers should traverse the scar area around the down slope side so as to avoid climbing over unstable fallen trees.
  • There is a new bridge over the Upper Elk Lake outflow (b38) and a new bypass trail to Fox Lake and West Elk Pass just before the bridge.
  • To protect sensitive habitat and improve habitat security for grizzly bears, hiking or travel anywhere except on official trails or designated roads in the Sunshine Meadows, Citadel Pass, and Healy Pass areas of Banff National Park is prohibited. 
  • A windstorm blew through Yoho National Park in July resulting in many blown down trees – On the Ottertail Trail, there are several debris fields with fallen trees across the trail near Goodsir Pass (c36). On the Amiskwi Trail, about 1 km from the trailhead (d1), there are dozens of trees blow down across the trail.
  • Cairnes Creek (d9): The bridge is washed out making this a potentially dangerous ford. There are 2 large trees down across the creek allowing hikers to cross with dry feet. If these trees wash away, it is recommended to ford the creek early in the morning when glacial melt is lowest.
  • The damaged Lambe Creek bridge (d10) was removed in September 2015. It is recommended to ford the creek downstream.
  • The Howse Pass Trail from Conway Creek (d12) to the Glacier Lake trail junction (d14, 15 km) is in very poor condition. The trail is overgrown, with hundreds of wind-fallen trees across the trail. Hiking in the Howse River floodplain is a viable alternative if the Howse River is low enough to ford.
  • The Owen Creek Trail was cleared in July 2015 up to km 6. 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 in Jasper National Park has been decommissioned and is in poor shape. The trail from Pobokton Creek (e20) to Maligne Lake (e25, approx 42 km) 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. Read Nathan Dahl’s August 30, 2015 Maligne Pass trail update here. The Six Passes Route is a good alternative to the overgrown trail.
  • 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. Instead, ford the Smoky River farther down the valley. 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.
  • 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. 

ACCESS ROADS:

  • Access to the northern terminus of the GDT in Kakwa Provincial Park is via the Walker Creek Forest Service Road. The Walker Creek FSR is uneven, rutted, slippery and rough, so 4WD/AWD high clearance vehicle is recommended. The last 10km from Bastille Creek to Buchanan Creek is closed due to washouts and is not driveable by vehicle so be prepared to walk this distance on foot.

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