A historic connection to the Miette River trail

Old tote road west of Jasper

Update June 2017: I was finally able to find the missing section of tote road just west of the Dorothy-Christine trail. I have improved the description below. Enjoy!

In Jasper National Park, there is a missing section in the Great Divide Trail: hikers have to walk for 21 km along Highway 16 west from the town of Jasper to the start of the Miette trail at Decoigne near the BC border. In his book, Hiking Canada‘s Great Divide Trail, Dustin Lynx suggests an alternative route via Minnow Lake and a cross-country section to the Virl/Dorothy Lake trail. From there, hikers still have to walk 11.5 km along Highway 16.  However, dedicated through hikers with good route-finding skills can avoid Highway 16 altogether by hiking for about 4km along a historic wagon road between the Dorothy and Golden Lakes trails. Alternatively, one can get a ride to the trailhead for the Dorothy-Christine trail, west of Jasper, and start from there.  The tote road was built during the construction of the railroad in the early 1900s to move supplies among workers’ camps. It has not been maintained since then, but it is still in surprisingly good shape for most of the way. From the Golden Lake trailhead, you follow the old rail bed all the way to the start of the Miette Valley trail.

When coming from Virl/Dorothy Lake, descend the well-maintained trail (Trail 60 on hiking maps) towards Highway 16 until the last switchback, where the trail turns to the southeast. The old wagon road starts about 10m past the turn at 414929E, 5858969N, at a sharp right angle. If you come from the trailhead, look for a very faint trail to your left at the UTM location above. There is a faint blaze on a tree beside the trail. Look for rows of rock, which were used to delineate the downhill side of the tote road. The old trail is faint here, and there is quite a bit of blowdown, but it pretty easy to follow until 414783E, 5859021 N.

At this point, the road angles up the hill at a 45 degree angle on your right into a small draw. If you end up  in a small clearing with steep slopes on all sides, you have gone too far. Either backtrack, or bushwhack up the slope on your right to 414731E, 5859050N. You should now be on the trail again.  At the top of the draw, at 414618E 5859183N, the trail turns sharply left. It now follows the contours of the slope. If coming from the west, do not miss the turnoff downhill into the draw here. The trail is virtually impossible to see here, so you’ll be bushwhacking here through relatively open terrain.

From here, the trail contours along the mountainside at approximately 1200m. It is very faint to non-existing in places, so you may have to look around for it, or just head in a general westerly direction to 414287E, 5859301N. Keep an eye on the canopy – in most places there is a distinct opening where the trail is/was. And search for the rows of rocks. There’s also a game trail in places. At 414287E, 5859301N the trail becomes very good again, with clear signs of the old road. Hike west from here along the trail to a creek bed and fire guard. If you lose the trail before you get to the creek, on the west side the trail starts at 413488E, 5859726N. From here the trail is easy to follow until another open area where you may lose it. Going westwards, it reappears at 413142E, 5859586N. It should now be easy to follow until you join the old, but excellent trail to Golden Lakes at 411955E, 5859779N.

Continue westwards, and follow the trail down the hill to an old, grown-in parking lot at 5859586E, 5859472N. You emerge onto a wide, old road bed. About a km west this becomes the old railroad bed. Follow this beautiful rail bed west, past the Decoigne station, all the way to the Miette Trailhead at 401958E, 5861318N, just before the rail bed dead-ends at the Miette River.

Aside from a bit of bushwhacking and route finding, this is a very pleasant route, and a great, historic alternative to walking along the highway!

GPX file of the route.

Start of old wagon road

Start of old wagon road, left of centre

 

Old wagon raod

Old wagon road

Golden Lake trail

Golden Lake trail

Grown-in parking lot for Golden Lake trail

Grown-in Golden Lake parking lot

Old rail bed

Old rail bed