Category: Canada

A historic connection between Jasper and the Miette River trail

Old tote road west of Jasper

Update August 2019: I have added information on how to reach the tote road from Jasper with minimal road walking.

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,. However, from there, hikers still have to walk 11.5 km along Highway 16. Moreover the Minnow to Dorothy Lake route leads over rough terrain, and some GDT hikers have been turned around by the many cliffs and mossy, steep boulder-strewn slopes in this area.

Dedicated through hikers with good route-finding skills can avoid most of Highway 16 by first hiking along a pipeline right of way to the Dorothy-Christine trailhead, and from there for about 4km along a historic wagon road between the Dorothy and Golden Lakes trails.

Jasper to Dorothy-Christine trailhead

In Jasper, start at the SW corner of Connaught Drive and Hazel Ave (the intersection with the traffic lights), by the square trailhead kiosk. Walk on the paved trail towards the underpass, but do not go under the tracks. In the second switchback, before the ramp to the underpass, turn right onto the gravel trail that leads back up the hill, along the back of the PetroCanada gas station. This is Trail 11, the Discovery Trail, marked with a grizzly bear’s face. Continue west, going underneath the tracks where the trail meets the western entrance into Jasper. Cross the road (Connaught Drive); on the west side of the road, there is a gated gravel road; Wynd Road. Walk along Wynd Road for about 800 m to 425261E 5857877N (UTM; all coordinates here are in Zone 11U). Here a single track trail leaves the road to the left (south), marked 3J on a yellow diamond. Descend the trail until it reaches Highway 16 at the Miette River. Cross the river and continue along the highway for 2 km to a small parking lot on the northside of the highway at 42282 E 5857034N. Here you have a choice to continue along the highway, or leave the highway and walk through the grass to the river bank. About 200 m past the parking lot you’ll reach the pipeline right of way.

NOTE: this is an experimental route: I have not walked along the pipeline, only skied it in winter. Walk along the southern edge of the right of way. It may be wet in spots, but the going should be pretty easy. At 417898.32 m E 5857702.79 m N the pipeline veers towards the river. Leave it here and walk back to the road via the large parking lot just west of here. From the parking lot walk along the highway for about 1.5 km to the Meadow Creek bridge. The Dorothy-Christine trailhead is just past the bridge.


Dorothy-Christine trailhead to Miette Valley trailhead

This route follows an old tote road. It was built during the construction of the railroad in the early 1900s to move supplies to 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.

From the Dorothy-Christine trailhead, walk down the gravel road to the railroad tracks; cross the tracks on the official pedestrian crossing. the trail crosses a new bridge across the Miette River and heads up the hill on the other side. Walk about 1 km up the hill to about 10 m before a sharp turn in the trail. The road starts at 414929E, 5858969N , at a slight left angle. It is very overgrown here, so it can be difficult to see. 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.

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 tote road 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



Canada doesn’t make the top 20 in Lonely Planet’s traveller’s choice destinations

Lonely Planet just released its traveller’s choice destinations, based on a survey of 3,000 of their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Thorntree fans. The results were revealing:

  • Canada didn’t even crack the overall top 20 destinations. Half of the destinations were Asian, and both Australia and New Zealand made the top five.
  • The big winners? Bhutan, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Thailand, and India.
  • Canada made it into only two categories – it came in ninth in the Nature category. The winners here? Costa Rica, Iceland, New Zealand, Bhutan, and Australia. So even though we feel we “own” nature, and certainly have lots of it, travellers don’t see us as the top destination to go for nature.
  • Canada also came in fourth for safety.
  • We didn’t make it to the top 10 in the adventure category.
  • Bhutan won the prize as best overall destination, and made it into the top 10 in 8 out of 16 criteria. Interesting, as it is not cheap to travel there.

While this survey only sampled a certain type of traveller, it does show that despite our great national tourism brand, we have some work to do when it comes to marketing our country.

Countries that entered the to 10 of most categories in Lonely Planet’s 2013 Traveller’s Choice awards.

Amazing Rockies aurora timelapse

The Mountains in Motions team recently captured some amazing aurora timelapse footage at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park. Stay tuned for the release of the full movie in fall 2012.

Teachings From Long Ago Person Found

Teachings From Long Ago Person Found: Highlights from the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi Project. In 1999, a most amazing discovery was made in the northwest corner of BC. The remains and belongings of a man buried in ice for hundreds of years were discovered melting out of a remote glacier and became the focus of study in a collaborative project by the community and scientists, including several museum staff, over the next decade. Read an excellent and fascinating summary of the project to find out who he was. The story is close to my heart as I lived for two years on Chilkat Pass, only a few km from where he was found.


This is a dilemma for many a photographer: shoot JPG, which don’t need any processing, or RAW, which provides you more opportunity to enhance the image in the computer? Darwin Wiggett and Sam Chrysanthou wrote an excellent intro on RAW vs JPG on their blog.

Mountains in Motion timelapse project

This trailer for a new documentary on the Rocky Mountains has some amazing footage. I can’t wait to see the full movie! Make sure to watch it in HD.

Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies | Official Trailer from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Longer timelapse video of earth from the International Space Station

This video of earth from the International Space Station is even better than the short timelapse video of earth I found last week. The scene at 0:31 shows the Rockies and Jasper National Park just to the left of the middle of the frame. An island of darkness in a sea of light.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

View of earth from International Space Station

Last month I posted a photo of the International Space Station flying over Jasper National Park. Here is the view from the other side: North and South America from the ISS. The flyover starts over the Pacific NW of Vancouver Island, continues over the western US, down to Mexico, and on to South America. It ends with sunrise over the Antarctic.

The large areas of city lights show how important Dark Sky Preserves like Jasper National Park are.


Space Station flying over Jasper

This one-hour exposure captures the International Space Station as a bright dotted line among the curved star trails over of Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park. Composite of 490 images, at 10mm, 6sec, f3.5, captured at 4sec intervals. A car’s headlights light up the forest across the lake.
More star photos of Jasper National Park.

Toronto and Hawaii timelapses

A couple of cool timelapses that were released recently. The first one shows off Toronto:

Toronto Tempo from Ryan Emond on Vimeo.

Not quite the same as the timelapse of Vancouver, but still some great footage. The second one has some amazing footage of Hawaii. Do check out the stills of the Milky Way as well.


Mauna Lapse: From Sea to Summit from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.