Trail Updates

Canadian Rockies Hiking Trail Updates

Every new edition of our Canadian Rockies hiking books is thoroughly researched, but oftentimes changes occur between editions (or maybe you are using an older edition). In this regard, this page is dedicated to trail changes you should know about before heading out into the backcountry.

Two types of updates are addressed on this page. The first are short term, such as bridge washouts and their replacement. Other updates are policy changes that will alter the way that people can use a trail forever, including decommissioning of trails.

All changes addressed below are accompanied by a trail number, which is taken from the most recent 9th edition of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, which was published in 2011 and revised and reprinted in 2015. NOTE: If you are using the 8th or earlier edition, the numbers will not correspond with updates posted below.

This page does not address day-to-day conditions, such as muddy trails or wildlife closures. We leave that to Parks Canada, which posts regular Trail Condition Reports for each national park. Click through the links at www.pc.gc.ca or check out a sample at Banff National Park Trail Conditions Report.

 

ALL NATIONAL PARK TRAILS IN CANADA WERE CLOSED STARTING MARCH 19, 2020, DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. MOST OF THESE TRAILS REOPENED FOR DAY HIKING ON JUNE 1. CHECK OUT OUR BLOG “COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS IN THE MOUNTAIN PARKS” FOR THE LATEST POLICIES IN BOTH THE NATIONAL AND PROVINCIAL PARKS AS THE 2020 HIKING SEASON PROGRESSES.

 

Introduction

National Parks-Backcountry Camping—The annual Wilderness Pass for overnight travel in the Mountain National Parks was discontinued in 2018. Backcountry camping now requires a fee of $9.80 per night per person and a mandatory, non-refundable registration fee of $11.70.

Banff National Park

Sunshine Meadows—Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sunshine Gondola and Lodge are closed until the winter 2020-21 ski season. The meadows trails are only reached by hiking the 6km access road leading to the lodge.

28—Healy Pass-Egypt Lake. The unofficial Monarch Ramparts-Eohippus Lake trail running south along the crest of the Ramparts has been officially closed by Banff National Park (at pain of $25,000 fine).

Lake Louise-Moraine Lake—Parks Canada instituted a mandatory reservation service for shuttle buses to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake during the 2020 season. Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic delayed the launch of this service. For the latest information on shuttle buses to these two popular destinations, access the Reservation Service page on the Banff National Park website.

47—Boulder Pass-Skoki Valley. Mountain bikes are not permitted on the access road between Fish Creek Parking Area and Temple Lodge.

After the Spreading Creek Fire. Photo taken September 2014.

After the Spreading Creek Fire near Warden Lake. Photo taken September 2014.

62—Warden Lake. This short trail at Saskatchewan River Crossing was badly affected by the Spreading Creek forest fire in July 2014.  The trail passes through burned forest, so travel with care, particularly during windy weather.

65—Nigel Pass. A bridge no longer spans Nigel Creek 150 m beyond the trailhead parking area. Instead, you continue on the old Banff-Jasper Highway roadbed for approximately 2.0 km to a junction at an old patrol cabin. Bear downhill (right) to open meadows and two bridged stream crossings, beyond which the ascent toward the pass begins. This approach adds around 0.3 km to the overall distance to the pass.

67—Castleguard Meadows. The “Hiker’s Blog” contains descriptions of recent trips to the meadows on this 35-km trail, which should be useful for anyone planning a trip there. See Castleguard Meadows revisited and Finding the trail to Castleguard Meadows.

70—Brewster Creek-Allenby Pass. The Healy Creek bridge at the Sunshine Road trailhead was severely damaged in June 2013 and has been replaced by a new bridge further downstream. A new 0.8 km trail leads from the revamped parking area to the bridge. Distances to all junctions and points of interest in the trail outline should be increased by 0.7 km.

71—Fatigue Creek. The trail was always rough, but when it was badly damaged during flooding in June 2013, the commercial outfitter working out of Brewster Creek (Sundance Lodge) discontinued trips up the valley. With trail washouts and lack of use, many sections of trail have disappeared. The track is virtually invisible over Fatigue Pass and visible but overgrown on the upper reaches of Fatigue Creek. Further down sections are covered by avalanche debris and washed out by flooding. Anyone hiking between Fatigue Pass and Brewster Creek should consider this a route rather than a trail.

77—Cascade Fire Road. The Cascade River bridge at km-6.4 was badly damaged during the June 2013 floods and has been replaced.

The Stony Creek bridge at km-14.8 was washed out and will not be replaced. But if you detour downstream from the old bridge site, you will find a squared timber hiker’s bridge that crosses the creek to Stony Creek Campground (Cr15).

79—Dormer Pass. Several sections of the trail leading up Stoney Creek were washed out by flooding in June, 2013. Major damage to the trail is reported near km-6.8 and further upstream. While park trail crews have completed some repairs and flagged fords, route-finding skills are required along this upper section of Stoney Creek and at a couple points on the final ascent to Dormer Pass.

83—Divide Creek-Peters Creek. Revisions to the Peters Creek section of this trail. A rocky, well-defined trail descends north from Divide Pass, staying on the east side of upper Peters Creek. Near the base of Mount Peters, where the valley narrows, the 2013 flood washed out sections of creekside trail for 2 or 3 km. After numerous fords, the trail eventually reappears, makes a final climb over the northeast shoulder of Mount Peters, and descends to an old outfitter’s camp in a meadow some distance from the Clearwater River.


Jasper National Park

Beginning in 2012, a number of remote trails in Jasper were decommissioned; for detailed information visit our blog post Jasper National Park’s Decommissioned Trails.

88—Saturday Night Lake Circuit. The High Lakes Campground (km 12.4) has been removed.

92—Elysium Pass. The trail, bridges and campsite are no longer maintained, though the trail can still be hiked as an unofficial wilderness route.

97—Path of the Glacier. The Cavell Creek section of the trail circuit was wiped out by flooding when a section of the Ghost Glacier collapsed into Cavell Pond in 2012. The first 0.7 km of the trail climbs as described to a viewpoint overlooking the pond, but the remainder of the loop is closed for restoration.

102—Athabasca Pass. An ice jam destroyed the Simon Creek bridge (15.0 km) in December 2016. This is a serious crossing for most of the summer. With no immediate plans to replace the bridge, you should not attempt a ford until late season, if even then.

105—Fortress Lake. The suspension bridge over the Athabasca River at km 15 washed out October 2014 curtailing travel to the lake and Hamber Provincial Park via this route. (There is no safe way of crossing the river without a pack boat.) There are no plans to replace the bridge in the foreseeable future. See Hamber park cut off by JNP bridge collapse in the Jasper Fitzhugh.

109—Jonas Pass-Brazeau Lake Loop. Backpackers no longer cross to the east side of the Brazeau River at km 53.5 and km 61.1. A hiker’s trail stays on the west (true left) side of the Brazeau River between these two crossings (if in doubt, look for large, square blazes on trees). Wolverine South Campground and the trail on the east side of the river can still be used by horse travellers.

110—Maligne Pass. Parks Canada has decommissioned the 48-km Maligne Pass trail running from Poboktan Creek junction to Maligne Lake. The Maligne River bridge 20 km north of the Maligne Pass is gone and will not be replaced, and all campgrounds between the pass and Maligne Lake are scheduled for removal.

The southern approach to Maligne Pass via Poligne Creek is still in good shape and should remain passable for strong day hikers, though no maintenance or bridge replacement are planned. Parks Canada will maintain Avalanche Campground but with a quota of one party per night, which provides a pretty special experience for the lucky souls who manage to reserve it.  (Check with the Trail Desk at the Jasper Visitor Centre).

112—Glacier Trail. The Maligne Pass trail (Trail #110) between the pass and Maligne Lake has been decommissioned. This section of the Glacier Trail should be considered a wilderness route (no maintained bridges or campsites).

115—Watchtower Basin. First 4 km of the trail passes through the 2015 Excelsior Creek burn. Watch for falling trees.

122—South Boundary Trail. The section of the South Boundary from Jacques Lake to Grizzly Campground was badly damaged by forest fire in 2003.  Travel is not recommended through this area. Alternate access to the north end of the South Boundary is via Rocky Pass (Trail #123). See blog post South Boundary Trail update.

Fording the Cairn River, 2019. Stuart Howe photo.

South of Cairn Pass, starting at the first crossing of the Cairn River (bridge gone), many sections of the trail were washed out during the 2013 floods. Finding the trail through this section can be troublesome. There are a number of back-and-forth crossings of the river, so be patient and watch for yellow diamond markers on trees. See blog post Jasper’s South Boundary Trail revisited, November 4, 2015, and South Boundary Trail—The Movie, August 22, 2019.

As of summer, 2019, the Southesk River suspension bridge was still in place, but it was difficult to find a route to it through the Southesk River burn. Likewise, trail disappears for westbound backpackers after crossing the bridge. This makes it difficult to find the route to the Southesk Campground. See South Boundary Trail—The Movie, August 22, 2019.

Backpackers no longer cross to the east side of the Brazeau River between Brazeau Campground and Four Point Junction. Stay on the west side of the Brazeau and ignore horse crossings to the east side and the Wolverine South horse camp.

A crucial junction at km 1.6 on the Rocky Pass trail, where foot-trail branches left from the seismic line. Parks Canada/Rogier Gruys photo.

A crucial junction at 1.6 km on the Rocky Pass trail, where the hiker-horse trail branches left from the seismic line. Parks Canada/Rogier Gruys photo.

123—Rocky Pass. Rocky Pass is the recommended point of access to the South Boundary Trail (#122). From the junction with the South Boundary near Medicine Tent Campground, most backpackers turn south for Cairn Pass. A short section of the South Boundary is maintained north of this junction to Rocky Forks Campground. See blog post A new approach to Jasper’s South Boundary, August 13, 2014. Since the trail to Rocky Pass from Alberta Lands & Forests territory can be messy and confusing, take the time to read more recent descriptions provided by contributors at the end of the post.

128—North Boundary Trail. The wash-out of the Blue Creek bridge at km 63 now requires that backpackers ford the creek at this point. Since this is a major tributary of the nearby Snake Indian River, crossing it is no small feat until late in the season (late August-early September).

130—Glacier Pass-McLaren Pass. The last 10 km of this trail between Spruce Tree Campground and Glacier Pass has been decommissioned. No deadfall, bridge or campground maintenance will be performed. This section will exist strictly as a wilderness route for experienced backpackers. The trail from Little Heaven to Blue Creek via McLaren Pass is also considered a wilderness route and will receive no maintenance.

131—Blue Creek. The trail has been decommissioned between Natural Arch Campground and the park boundary at Hardscrabble Pass. No deadfall, bridge or campground maintenance will be performed. This section will exist strictly as a wilderness route for experienced backpackers.

132—Moose Pass. The trail has been decommissioned. No deadfall, bridge or campground maintenance will be performed. It will exist strictly as a wilderness route for experienced backpackers.

133—Miette River. The trail has been decommissioned. No deadfall, bridge or campground maintenance will be performed, and according to a reader there are around 300 trees across the trail. This same reader reports that the Moose River ford is very difficult. It will exist strictly as a wilderness route for experienced backpackers.

Yoho National Park

154—Amiskwi River. According to reports, renewed logging activity in the Blaeberry Valley has restored the Blaeberry Forest Service Road and access roads on Ensign Creek. So the original description of access to Amiskwi Pass from the north that appears in the 9th edition of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide may be valid. Anyone planning to use this approach should contact the Golden Forest District first and be wary of industrial (logging) traffic. Meanwhile, access to Amiskwi Lodge is primarily via helicopter (see Amiskwi Lodge).

 

Kootenay National Park

169—Numa Creek. The loss of the trailhead bridge over Vermilion River at Numa Falls Picnic Area in 2015 forced the closure of the Numa Creek trail. Day hikers from Floe Lake and backpackers along the Rockwall Trail should not consider this trail as an optional exit since the Vermilion River is virtually unfordable. Parks Canada has announced plans to replace the bridge in spring 2020.

172—Simpson River-Ferro Pass. Sections of the Simpson River valley were burned during the 2017 Verdant Creek Wildfire. Hikers on the Kootenay Park section of the trail are advised to watch for deadfall. The suspension bridge that spanned the Simpson River to Surprise Creek (11 km) in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park was damaged during the spring 2015 runoff and removed. In September, 2019, it was replaced and the Surprise Creek cabin just beyond the bridge crossing was refurbished. However, the cabin will remain locked during the 2020 season in accordance with coronavirus pandemic concerns.

Waterton Lakes National Park

All park trails west of the Waterton Valley suffered damage from the Kenow wildfire that swept down the Cameron and Blakiston Valleys in September 2017. Parks Canada is working on a variety of roads, trails and campgrounds to get things back to normal. As of 2020, most of the trails in the western half of the park are open. However, the Akamina Parkway is closed to all visitors, including cyclists and hikers, until road restoration is completed, probably in late summer. To keep abreast of current conditions and further trail openings, check out Waterton Lakes National Park’s website  “What’s open in Waterton”.

The Waterton Park Visitor Centre was destroyed by the Kenow fire. It has been relocated to the Lions Hall on Fountain Avenue for 2019-20 while a new Visitor Centre is constructed in the townsite..

183—Bertha Lake. This popular trail reopened in late June, 2018. You will be passing through sections of burned forest on the climb to Bertha Falls and the lake, but both of those features are still surrounded by lush, green forest. The campground at Bertha Lake has also reopened.

184—Waterton Lakeshore. Sections of forest along this trail from the townsite to the U.S. border were burned by the fire, but the trail is in good shape and the Bertha Bay Campground has reopened. If you plan on hiking into the U.S., you must clear customs (check at the Waterton Park Visitor Centre).

189—Carthew-Alderson Trail.The trail is closed until Akamina Parkway restoration is completed, probably in late summer 2020.

190—Rowe Lakes-Lineham Ridge. The trail is closed until Akamina Parkway restoration is completed, probably in late summer 2020.

191—Tamarack Trail. The trail is closed between the Rowe Lakes trailhead and the South Kootenay Pass junction until Akamina Parkway restoration is completed, probably in late summer 2020.

192—Crandell Lake. The Akamina Parkway is closed to all visitation, including cyclists and hikers, for highway maintenance, probably until late summer 2020.

Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park

Most of the park was consumed by the Kenow wildfire in September, 2017, including Akamina Pass and approach trails to Forum and Wall Lakes. While trails in the park are open and facilities destroyed by the fire are being restored in 2020, the closure of the Akamina Parkway in Waterton for highway maintenance will render the most popular hikes (196-Wall Lake and 197-Forum Lake) inaccessible from their Alberta trailheads.

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

207 – Chester Lake. The trail is closed annually through May and June to allow “the area to dry and to prevent damage to the trail and surrounding area.” The trail is frequently closed for short periods when grizzly bears are feeding near the lake.

Elk Lakes Provincial Park

210 – Elk Lakes via Elk Valley. Repairs to flood damaged trails (2013) was completed in 2016. The primary trail from the park entrance to Lower and Upper Elk Lake was rebuilt (wheelchair access) and rerouted over a height of land south of the upper lake’s outlet.  See Elk Lakes’ refurbished trail system blog.

211 – Elk Lakes via West Elk Pass. While the most direct trail from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Elk Lakes is in good condition, the bridge at the Upper Elk Lake outlet has been abandoned and the trail rerouted to intersect the primary trail midway between Lower and Upper Elk Lakes. (You can still hike the short section of the old trail to a washout viewpoint for Upper Elk Lake.) The West Elk Pass-Elkan Creek and the Elk Pass hydro line trails are in good shape as alternate routes to Elk Lakes from Peter Lougheed Park. See Elk Lakes’ refurbished trail system blog.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

A new reservation system for core campgrounds (Lake Magog and Og Lake) came into effect for the summer 2018, replacing the old first-come, first-served system for these sites. See Reserving campsites in Mt Assiniboine for details.