Since the ’60s, many Canadians have tried to knot together the threads of trail into a nationally recognized footpath. The Great Divide Trail traverses the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, wandering through the vast wilderness of the Canadian Rocky Mountains for more than 1100 kilometres. This is your hike. I hightailed it up an adjacent tundra bench, waited for 30 minutes, and doubled back about 200 yards farther down the way. Moose Pass is the last pass on the Great Divide Trail. However, choosing that option can mean sometimes carrying a heavier backpack or having to depend on store opening hours. Much of the CDT requires route finding, and many thru-hikers report that they had to check their maps and compass as frequently as every fifteen minutes. Typically, purchasing an annual pass for national parks is the most cost-effective option. Just 44 percent is on maintained trail; 33 percent is unmaintained, of which 10 percent is raw, cross-country navigation (the rest is road or ATV track). This year, I will attempt my third epic-length hike: The … You want to experience a two-month immersion in a North American wilderness the region’s first explorers would recognize? Detailed route descriptions, excellent maps, alternate routes, and tips garnered from first-person experience combine with thorough contact and resupply information to make this book mandatory for anyone planning excursions along … In the simplest terms, it’s a route that heads north from the Canadian border thru the Rocky Mountains. For all this talk of saving the trail, it’s worth noting that the GDT is really more of a route than a track. Sate your hiker hunger with these fan favorites. This trail is known for its beauty and its ruggedness. That means trail meals and snacks will make up most of the trekkers’ diet on the GDT. An initial look at my overall plans for thru-hiking Canada’s Great Divide Trail. It still offers nice views, however, and crosses several creeks. Most sites allow fires, but fire bans may apply later in the summer if the weather has been dry. “It’s doing a great job maintaining the trail,” she says, “building new trail, and raising awareness.”. A group of determined Alaskans hopes to create an 800-mile trail that will trace the state’s famous pipeline from Arctic Sea to Pacific tidewater. Continuing to Kakwa Lake adds about 200km of hiking to a remote area where catching a ride back south can be a problem if not previously arranged. On the other hand, I also learned that company looks mighty appealing when you’re outnumbered by grizzlies. In the four years since I first set foot on Springer Mountain, I've also thru-hiked the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, as well as the much shorter Long Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail, all together totaling 5,400 miles. Great Divide Trail Itinerary Cyclists typically start at the northern end of the trail and head south, beginning in late June or July. The distances covered each day depend on personal preference, but some days can have over 30km and 1,000m in elevation gain. There are various side-trips to choose from to lengthen the trek or get to different viewpoints. The view and a howling wind dazed me enough that it took a few seconds to catch a chocolate-brown shoulder flecked in silver out of the corner of my eye. Aiming for the late June to mid-September window is the safest option. Today for free and be the first to get notified on new updates. Some people do it in one summer while others choose to section-hike it. After the Trek The first part of my Great Divide Trail thru-hike from Robson to Jasper. It also requires a little bushwhacking and fording a few streams, but this should be a formality in dry years. Summer is also bear season as they come out to feast on berries and insects. It is published by Cycle Adventures in a series of 5 maps designed for mountain bikes (bicycles). And after five days on the GDT, I came to my own conclusion about whether the trail needs saving or secrecy. There are numerous lakes and creeks – some requiring fording – and some bushwhacking. Thru-hikers turn into obsessives. As I neared the trail again, I choked when I saw another silvered hump passing through a break in the trees, 10 feet away. All other nights will be spent in the tent, mostly in developed and undeveloped backcountry sites. It typically snows in the Canadian Rockies every month of the year, and there are regularly snowstorms in late-August and early September. Contact For logistical info, packing suggestions, and trail support, visit the Great Divide Trail's website. This is what the Canadian Rockies are all about! Finally, this route goes in wild terrain, and a bear encounter is possible. Memories and scenery like the ones that come with the GDT are truly unique. The south will be snow-free earlier in the summer. Packages can be sent to drop points to allow for re-supply. Taig is one such hiker, and he’s an evangelist for the trail. Starting from the south early in the summer is the best bet to avoid flies as much as possible. Unlike on well-known long trails, don’t expect a crowd of hikers to come to your aid if there’s a problem: Long stretches of the GDT are practically deserted. The route is really more of a corridor than a trail. It needs you, dear reader, in order to survive, but I’ll be back someday soon to finish it, and I hope to beat you to it. Considered the crown jewel of the long-distance trail “Triple Crown”, the CDT is an entirely different beast than the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails. Hikers are still few and far between, but with more people tackling the GDT each summer, the debate comes at a critical time. Jackpine Pass and Fetherstonhaugh Pass are highlights of this section and jewels of this trek. Assiniboine Provincial Park. Planning provisions is another logistic element to consider. Most sections will also be snow-free and the rivers should be quieter. Traversing the GDT is the kind of experience that divides your life into before and after. Through-hikers typically take around 8 weeks to complete the traverse. Trekkers should not count on that, however. Knowing how to store your food, travel in bear terrain, and what to do if you encounter a bear is critical. You can also download the GPS coordinates of the Great Divide Trail. As a father of two, I try to get out into the wilderness as often as I can, passing a spirit of outdoor adventure onto my … The GDT is coming to an end. It starts just over the border from Glacier National Park in Montana and continues up the Rocky Mountain Range through renowned areas such as Banff and Jasper. The CDT is by far the most rugged of the three, bei… Here, you will enter Jasper National Park and as would be expected, it is eye candy. No. The Great Divide trail traces the spine of the Canadian Rockies for 746 miles, but I only needed 18 to see how wild it can be. The unofficial motto of the Continental Divide Trail: Embrace the Brutality. There are only three towns that sell groceries and gear along the way. Way too close. The route goes through forests, meadows, passes, mountains, rivers, and a variety of other natural features. Assiniboine, a Matterhorn döppelganger, reflected in Lake Magog. The CDT, alongside the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail make up the triple crown of hiking. Yes, Hiking Canada’s Great Divide Trail (third edition 2017 – Revised and Updated) by Dustin Lynx. The route is 90% dirt, including unpaved roads, forest service roads, jeep trails, primitive two track roads, and a little single track.The remaining 10% is paved, connecting the dirt … Some years have had less snow, which means it might be possible to hike snow-free in early June or until the end of September. Viewing Assiniboine’s majestic reflection in the crystal clear waters of Lake Magog, rates as one of the highlights of the Great Divide Trail, a rugged backcountry route through the Canadian Rockies that ranks as one of North America’s most spectacular (and challenging) long-distance hikes. “The GDT truly embodies everything there is to love and protect in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, but if we continue to keep it off the map, it may become more legend than reality.”. The GDT’s southern terminus is Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, right where the US’ Continental Divide Trail ends. It goes through five National Parks, seven Provincial Parks and several wilderness areas and forest districts. Fewer people attempt it due to the logistics and planning required, so trekkers enjoy a true and quiet through-hiking experience, something that is lost with the famous American long-distance trails. It’s the highest, most remote, and, in many ways, most challenging of our National Scenic Trails. No one knows for sure, because that estimate is cobbled together from Facebook group reports and wildlife agency motion sensors catching the rare mud-caked hiker in between all the cougars and grizzlies. It is greatly recommended that food packages be sealed tightly as some resilient mice may attempt to chew through boxes to get to your food. No worries: Our scout pinpointed the finest two-week stretch. For those reasons, it sees much less traffic and requires good navigation skills. The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) spans over 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada and is one of the most significant trail systems in the world. I arrived at the trailhead before midnight and went straight to Banff, where I waded through a line of drunken 20-year-olds to eat two large pizzas at 2 a.m. Moose Pass. This short section is on a mix of trails and forest service roads. Like any through-hike, the Great Divide Trail requires careful planning and navigation skills. A hiker crests the GDT’s 8,500-foot high point (mile 411), which, fittingly, lacks an official name. So what exactly is the Great Divide Trail? Great Divide Trail Thru Hike Here's a video I just finished on my thru hike of Canada's Great Divide Trail. Four years ago today, I made a decision that completely reshaped the course of my life: to thru-hike the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail. It also allows taking advantage of the longest days of summer. On the other hand, just 30 or 40 people tried to tackle the GDT in one gulp last summer; section hikers numbered in the dozens. I bedded down alone with the white spike of Mt. Trekkers can start from the north, but it is recommended that they start a few weeks later in the summer to allow for the snow to melt. They want to disappear. It stretches roughly 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada, paralleling the Continental Divide the whole way. Beyond attracting visitors and conserving unprotected sections of wilderness, it could also conceivably remove the byzantine mess of permits and reservations thru-hikers need to hike and camp legally. The result is a labor of love set to become one of North America's most magnificent long trails. It takes you from Mount Robson Provincial Park to Kakwa Lake Provincial Park. Through-hikers typically take around 8 weeks to complete the traverse. Signage encountered along the way will only be for local trails. Ultimate Guide to the High Tatras Mountains, Slovakia. Some provincial park campgrounds require reservations. I hiked the GDT in August 2011. Bighorn sheep sun themselves above Michele Lakes (mile 410). Anyone attempting the GDT should have experience in bushwhacking and navigation, as well as be ready for snow, rain, and fording rivers. After miles of sublime, airy ridge walking on Jasper National Park’s Skyline Trail, I exited a tunnel of trees into a wide patch of tundra sweeping up to the fortress of 8,839-foot Mt. Back then, he completed the long-distance Triple Crown by hiking the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails — a total of almost 8,000 miles. It requires route-finding skills and has a few tricky fords. Frequently Asked Questions About the Great Divide Trail. The words and encouragement from Larry, Keith and Leslie led us directly to where we are now: flying to Calgary in eleven hours to go hike the Great Divide Trail for two months. The “trail” itself is incomplete; … When the path peters out, hikers find their own way along the headwaters of the Brazeau River around mile 435. Whereas walking the Continental Divide can take half of a year or more, the typical thru-biker can complete it in 10 weeks or less (and some extreme riders race it in two weeks or less) [source: Gorman and Earle Howells ]. The hiking in this section is on a mix of trails and ATV roads. The common denominators are the Rocky Mountains and the Great Divide, which separates the water that flows into the Pacific Ocean from the water that flows into Hudson Bay. Bringing a bug net for the head can be a good idea. Read More … Categories Thru Hikes Tags canada, gift of time, … With bear spray in hand and my heart hammering, I leapfrogged another 200 yards up the trail. It’s the GDT’s composite wildness that sets it apart from any hike in the Lower 48. The right way to end a through-hike like this one is to get a hot shower and celebrate! For those unfamiliar with the Great Divide Trail in Canada, it is around 700 miles in length. The Grand Italian Trail (3,831 miles) The Grand Italian Trail is a trail through Italy that spans the … The best way to enjoy the Canadian Rocky Mountains is deep and total immersion in this stunning wilderness that only a few places on Earth can rival. The distances covered each day depend on personal preference, but some days can have over 30km and 1,000m in elevation gain. In addition to hiking the PCT and being one of only two people to yo-yo the Great Divide Trail (the other being his wife as they did it together), Dan is visionary behind the new gear company, Durston Gear. NOTE: This is a very long motorcycle/road biking trail. There are many ways to plan the trek and campgrounds with a fee can be avoided if they are all booked or if there are budget constraints. Whole cross-country sections where old First Nation and fur-trader trails fade to almost nothing vex even experienced orienteers. As this trail is in Western Canada, English is spoken in all towns and villages along the way. For starers, three ecosystems—Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, Arctic—converge on the divide. Starting at the southern terminus will also leave more time for the snow to melt in the high and snowier passes of the northern sections. That means they only complete one section and then return another year to complete another section until they have hiked it from start to finish. It also requires more planning for food and implies a lot of backcountry camping, often with few or no people around. “This is a hard, hard trail that takes some of the best thru-hikers in the world and humiliates them,” says Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, who hiked it in 2016. You’ll want to linger while taking … Like any through-hike, there are two possible directions. We go way deep down the rabbit hole on why polyester tents are making a comeback and are possibly the ultimate fabric for shelters, how he's able to execute on his philosophy of creating … This 32km side-trip leads to a classic spot of the Rockies and this touristic area may be a good bet to catch a ride back home. This section goes through beautiful Banff National Park and its famous alpine scenery and meadows. Instead, this trail delivers so much more; part wilderness, part rugged equestrian and game trail, and yes, part hiking trail. The GDT is not officially signed and consists of many separate tracks, wilderness trails, and roads. Like many jurisdictions, reservations can only be made by Alberta residents. It also means it has little human activity. At the same time, the word is out.”, Ultimately, she decided protection outweighs privacy, and, like a lot of repeat customers, she joined the Great Divide Trail Association, the trail’s nascent advocacy organization. Its northern terminus is 1,100km away, in Kakwa Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia. Plan for a thru-hike to take about eight weeks. In 2015 alone, 4,453 hikers obtained long-distance permits for the PCT—and that’s not counting the millions who nibbled smaller sections. While this trail offers tremendous views, it should not be taken lightly. Bikepacking the … Northern terminus: Waterton Lake Highest Elevation:14,278 ft (Grays Peak CO) Lowest Elevation:4,200 ft The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is a long-distance trail that runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. One last interesting detour of note is to climb Nub Peak in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Section C runs from the Kananaskis Lakes Day Use Area in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alberta, to the town of Field, British Columbia in Yoho National Park. Southern terminus: Crazy Cook Monument 2. The GDT crosses few towns, however, so trekkers will have sparse access to services such as Wi-Fi, laundromats, showers, and shops. After miles of sublime, airy ridge walking on Jasper National Park’s Skyline Trail, I exited a tunnel of trees into a wide patch of tundra sweeping up to the fortress of 8,839-foot Mt. Otherwise, food supplies can be purchased in some towns along the way. Besides, several sections of the GDT are closed in winter and navigation would be a serious challenge with the snow. You will be rewarded with your first views of Mount Robson, the highest point of the Canadian Rockies. Permit The Parks Canada Discovery Pass (free in 2017) and an Annual Wilderness Pass ($68.70 CAD) are required. Way too close. There’s no cellphone service in the mountains, so you will need to get weather information in towns and park information locations to assist you in planning. Everyone’s a fan: After reading one of the 1.75 million copies of Wild sold and crying through the movie with Reese, your golfing uncle with the hip replacement is now planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. As the GDT comes of age as a life-list thru-hike, the trail’s few fanatics are split on the best way to protect the experience they all had. “It’s like the PCT 30 years ago,” says River Taig, 47, a software engineer from Colorado who has thru-hiked the GDT three times. Reservations at some campgrounds are required. Don't have time to hike all 1,200 miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail? The Packing It Out crew hauled thousands of pounds of trash off the AT and PCT over the last two years. Through binoculars, their coming winter coats looked like pulled cotton balls. It was a perfect ending to my trial-size section. GDT – Stage 1- Waterton to Banff. A paw the size of a pie followed, and then I saw the shovel nose, beady eyes, and small ears confirming this was a griz, 25 yards away. No, as only parts of sections A and B are well-marked. Length:2700 - 3150 miles (depending on route) Time to hike:5-6 months Start and end points: 1. Hiking it implies an experience of freedom and connection with nature. It became immediately clear that spending days alone above treeline is a rare privilege—one that’s hard to find on any trail anywhere—and I’m loath to think that might change. Depending on any given year's snow-pack and a hiker's individual schedule, alternative routes are available. One of the most common reasons is the short season—you could start the hike in late June at best and finish by mid-September. Christine Smith, 52, of Calgary, is another one, completing an end-to-end in 2012 and a section hike in 2015. Hiking First Aid Kit: Stay Safe in the Backcountry! The starting point of the section is in Yoho National Park, close to the impressive Natural Bridge, which is well worth a visit. Two months and a half seems very short for 1,125 kilometres. While the official way is to hike to Kakwa Lake in Kakwa Provincial Park, most trekkers choose to end their journey at Mount Robson. Copyright © 2020 10Adventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certainly not some plucky Canadians, who're extending the long-trail concept 600 more miles into their homeland. This is Section C, one of the middle sections of it. This unique trail concept certainly would have been fun to walk. But without national trail designation, there are no dedicated streams of money for maintenance, no official resources for hikers, and no real way to protect certain sections from mining or logging. The Great Divide Trail association is asking folks who are hiking the trail to be self sufficient and avoid re-supplying in small towns that may not have the capacity to manage an outbreak; Alberta Provincial Parks are open for day use and camping (at 50% capacity). The GDT begins where the Continental Divide Trail ends, then hits Canada’s five Rocky Mountain national parks, seven provincial parks, and crosses the continental divide 30 times before ending at Kakwa Lake. The route follows the Continental Divide and is 90% off-pavement using high-quality dirt roads, gravel roads, trails, and a few short sections of unmaintained tracks. The Basics of the Great Divide Trail As it goes through five national parks and nine provincial parks, day-use passes are required for the national parks and camping fees apply for some campgrounds along the way. Had the griz I saw before returned, or was this a second one? The Great Divide Trail in Canada traverses the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia as its unsigned route wanders the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies for more than 1100 km (680 mi). Some stretches as long as 200km are in the backcountry and offer no option for resupplying. Note that from the Kakwa Lake Trailhead, you are still a long way from civilization. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email. Finally, stores may not carry the preferred food items, so this could greatly impact the diet. Photos by Jon Christopher Meyers. For GDT hikers, this affects camping in Peter … Snow and glacier capped peaks, rushing silt laden creeks and rivers, cascading waterfalls, fir forests, turquoise lakes, wildflowers, and gorgeous expansive high meadows and passes … They’re closer to securing official sanction than they’ve ever been before: Alberta is considering giving provincial protection to its portions (about 65 percent of the trail), and for the first time, Banff National Park has opened up discussions with the GDTA for managing hikers. Hiking the Great Divide Trail is not for the faint of heart and can be a challenge for even the most experienced hikers. The Great Divide Trail – An Overview. Volunteer dedication, love, and pennies are basically all that prop the trail up for now. Yes, as you would have to stay in designated campgrounds in the National and Provincial Parks you will pass, so it is recommended that you arrange for all park entry permits and campsite reservations in advance. The reason is simple: snow. Most days feature excellent views of the surrounding mountains and visits to lakes. The Trans-Alaska Trail would be America’s wildest path—if a determined group of Alaskans can make it happen. On May 4, Williams started walking north along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), in Lordsburg, New Mexico, about 100 miles north of the Mexican border. Last weekend marked the four week mark until I embark on thru hike of the Great Divide Trail (GDT) ... Thirty years later (my god has it been that long), I still vividly recall the first time I climbed the head-wall into Three Isle Lake and boiling up hot dogs on the top of Heart Mountain. Hiking Canada's Great Divide Trail, by Dustin Lynx (Rocky Mountain Books; $21.95), is written by and for thru-hikers, but broken down into manageable sections. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is a dirt route from Canada to Mexico. Pikas pinballed between the rocks, and as everything went silver in fading light, I saw two dozen mountain goats freckling a brow of granite 500 feet above me. This section was closed in 2018 due to the forest fires. Some towns also require a short detour, usually around 2-3km round-trip. It goes through some of the most beautiful national parks of Canada: Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper. America’s next long trail should cross the Great Plains, says the path’s pioneer, Steve Myers. Anyone tackling this trek must enjoy backcountry camping. Hikers trade tattered copies of the 10-year-old guidebook (the only one in existence, currently out of print), offer tips on surviving the Great Divide’s capricious weather, and, of course, carpool the Great Divide way (“anybody want to share a floatplane from Kakwa Lake?”). GDT Route Information Frost coated the inside of my tent, and with the door open, it glittered in the moonlight. This trail takes you into the breath-taking wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Trail Profile: The Great Divide Trail, 680 Miles Through the Canadian Rockies The very name “Great Divide Trail” is a bit of a misnomer, implying a walk on a cleared two-foot-wide strip of dirt. The Great Divide Trail is not officially designated and not always even an actual trail, sometimes merely a wilderness route, … Trekkers must do their research before starting this beautiful adventure. As one of the most challenging and breathtaking long-distance trails in the world, the Great Divide Trail offers a wilderness experience through some of … I decided to hike a few sections of the GDT last year to see what’s at stake. This first section of the Great Divide Trail is said to be one of the most scenic, but all other long sections are very scenic as well. This allows most regular people to hike this incredible trail over three to six summers. 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