Fire hazard forces closure of BC parks

Smoke envelopes Rock Isle Lake in this screen shot from the Standish Peak webcam on Wednesday, September 6. Due to the backcountry closure in the southeast region of B.C., Sunshine Village visitors can ride the chairlift to this viewpoint, but can't hike to the lake or other areas on the west side of the Great Divide.

Smoke envelopes Rock Isle Lake in this screen shot from the Standish Peak webcam on Wednesday, September 6. Due to the backcountry closure in the southeast region of B.C., Sunshine Village visitors can ride the chairlift to this viewpoint, but can’t hike to the lake or other areas on the west side of the Great Divide.

As British Columbia experiences its worst wildfire season ever, the BC Wildfire Service has closed access to the backcountry in the Rocky Mountain Forest District in the province’s southeast corner, which includes Mount Assiniboine, Elk Lakes and Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Parks.

This closure also restricts access to most of the trails in the Sunshine Meadows area of Banff National Park, including the popular hike to Rock Isle Lake, Larix and Grizzly Lakes. However, visitors can still ride the chairlift to the 2420-m summit of Standish Peak. The only hike currently open from Sunshine Village is the trail to the summit of Wawa Ridge and north along the Alberta side of the Great Divide to Simpson Pass and Healy Meadows.

The order to close the backcountry in the southeast region of the province came on September 2, and states that the closure “will remain in force until October 2 or until the Order is rescinded.” That means all visitation to the affected parks is likely finished for the month of September, unless a major deluge, snowfall or drastic cool-down occurs.

While the closure affects all backcountry areas and provincial parks in the Rocky Mountain Forest District, including parks and wilderness areas in the Purcell Range, it does not include Mount Robson Provincial Park, which lies north of the closure, or Kootenay and Yoho National Parks.

Check out the Order of the Regional Director PDF for a full list of BC Provincial Parks included in the regional closure.