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Avalanche debris obstructs Canadian Rockies hiking trails

Banff's Marvel Lake to Wonder Pass

Backpackers crossing a major snow slide on the climb from Banff’s Marvel Lake to Wonder Pass on June 30th. Jim Shipley photo.

Many hikers are calling this the summer of wildfire smoke, but it’s also the summer of avalanche debris. These hiking obstacles are the result of heavy spring snowfall followed by avalanches that deposited trees and other debris across mountain park trails.

It wasn’t just a matter of snow piles covering stretches of trail. In some areas, large trees were deposited in tumbled tangles 5m high, indicating that these were once-in-200-year slides.

Popular trails around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake were particularly hard hit. A large slide just west of Lake Louise deposited trees, rock and other debris on the popular Plain of Six Glaciers trail.

A similar slide descended from the Tower of Babel and buried the Consolation Lakes trail just beyond the Rockpile. And hikers had to navigate a large slide path on the Eiffel Lake trail.

Trail crews worked to get all of these popular routes open in time for the busy summer hiking season, but the trail in the Sheol Valley beyond Saddleback is a big mess and may not be restored this season.

On Kootenay National Park’s popular Rockwall Trail, the Ochre-Helmet Creek approach to Helmet Falls, sections between Helmet Falls and Numa Pass, and the Floe Lake approach trail were hit as well.

Backpackers have been navigating frequent slides on other multi-day trips in the Canadian Rockies as well. And since these avalanches were on remote sections of trail, hikers will most likely find themselves scrambling over deadfall and detouring debris fields for the foreseeable future.

Yoho Road slide

Joel Hagen selfie at the big slide on the Yoho Valley Road in early June. For more early season photos of extraordinary avalanches, check out Great Divide Nature Interpretation’s Nature Notes Blog.


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