We recommend that everyone backcountry hiking in the Canadian Rockies stop by a park visitor centre before embarking on any serious hiking in the mountain parks. These centres provide current weather forecasts, reports on trail conditions and closures, and warnings concerning bear activity. They also dispense free park visitor guides, day hiking and backcountry camping brochures, and a variety of pamphlets relating to bear safety, mountain biking, fishing, etc.
While you can obtain information from park visitor centres in person, you can also obtain specific information by visiting park websites, which cover all aspects of park visitation and are by far the most effective way to obtain information when you are planning a trip. Click through the links at www.pc.gc.ca for information on specific parks.
Visitor centres are located in all five national parks. Of the provincial parks included in the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, only Peter Lougheed in Alberta and Mount Robson in British Columbia have visitor centres.
Park rangers are stationed in the core of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and along Mount Robson’s Berg Lake trail during the summer. Information for Elk Lakes and Akamina-Kishinena Parks can be obtained through the East Kootenay Provincial Parks office in Cranbrook and on the B.C. government website.
Anyone concerned about their safety on their backcountry trip can voluntarily register at Parks Canada visitor centres or warden offices. If you do not return on the date and time indicated, a search will be initiated.
While this registration is designed for individuals or groups involved in off-trail risk activities, solo backpackers journeying into remote areas can also register. While there is no charge for this service, you must report back in at a park visitor centre or warden office immediately upon your return.
Regardless of whether you use this service or not, it is always best to leave a detailed copy of your itinerary with a responsible person.