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Canadian Rockies Trail Guide

Virtual backpacking in the age of coronavirus


We’re still wondering whether there will be much backcountry travel in the Mountain Parks during this coronavirus summer. But you can still make dozens of virtual treks in the Canadian Rockies on the YouTube channel while you’re waiting.

These lengthy video productions provide a welcome relief from lockdown isolation. An excellent resource for backcountry enthusiasts planning future outings. All of the trips bring back memories of my own adventures in the backcountry and serve as an important resource for the next edition of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed “virtual” friendships with several of the Rockies’ most active backpackers, including some very talented and energetic video producers.

I’ve posted links to some of these productions in the past: Howse Pass: The disappearing trail and South Boundary Trail—The Movie with YouTube videos by Marty Belanger and Stuart Howe respectively.

Martin Belanger (Martyupnorth) is undoubtedly the most prolific backpacking videographer in the Canadian Rockies. Marty usually travels solo and he sometimes fails to reach his destination, but he’s always entertaining. There are few backpacking routes in the Mountain Parks and the Alberta Foothills he hasn’t filmed over the past decade.

Stuart Howe has only been filming trips in the Mountain Parks since 2017, but I always learn something new from his productions. Most of his trips are completed with twin daughters Evelyn and Olivia, who are literally leading ladies for his giddy presentations. Check out Howe’s the Hike on YouTube, including the Brazeau Loop (1:03:54) above.

Stuart, Joey, Bryan

L. to r.: Stuart Howe, Joey Coconato and Bryan DeLay set off on the North Boundary Trail, late summer 2019. Howe’s the Hike screenshot.

The video producers

Trails in the Canadian Rockies have caught the eye of American backcountry videographers Joey Coconato (MyOwnFrontier) and Bryan DeLay in recent years. In the late summer, 2019, the pair joined Canada’s Stuart Howe on Jasper’s North Boundary Trail. Each produced their own movie about the journey.

Or if you prefer a wilder, more difficult North Boundary Trail, check out Marty Belanger’s video from a solo trip in June, 2015.

Visit Jasper’s North Boundary Trail on the YouTube channel to experience four very different views of this long, remote journey.


Stuart Howe, Marty Belanger, and Joey Coconato planned a trip together on Jasper’s Southesk Lake loop this June. But it appears COVID-19 has put that adventure on hold.



  1. Martin Belanger

    Thanks for the shout-out Brian. I just got home from a “failed” attempt to reach Junction Lake in the Elbow-Sheep Wildland area of Kananaskis, and your blog was a pleasant surprise. The National Park closures have certainly been a source of frustration for many people in the hiking community. While some have enjoyed virtual hiking while waiting for the park to re-open, others have been pushing out to explore new areas, such as provincial wildlands and crown land. During this COVID19 event I have received an unusually high number of requests for information on trails that are off the beaten path. Exploration is one of my favorite parts of hiking and backpacking, but I’d just like to remind fellow backpackers that many of these remote trails are poorly maintained, un-marked and often completely washed out.

    The melt is in full swing, and that’s why we couldn’t reach our destination. The 3rd river ford was simply too dangerous to attempt. We were also encountering snow as low as 2,000 m. Failed attempts to reach a destination just give me something to look forward to in the future.

    Our Southesk trip will likely occur in August or September. I have family in Edson, so I will have many opportunities to do some reconnaissance of the area throughout the summer. I visited the Cardinal Divide a few weeks ago, and at that time the road was still impassable. The spring melt of 2020 is 2-3 weekes later than usual, and all the rivers are running very high.

    Cheers from Calgary.

    P.S. I still haven’t reached Castleguard meadows.

    • Gavin Fitch

      Keep trying Castleguard. It’s so worth it.

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