Category: hiking

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



Trekking in Bhutan featured by Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet just released a list of Top 10 sustainable experiences in the world on its website. Fourth on the list is hiking in Bhutan. As main resource it lists our Mild and Mad Day hikes in Thimphu and my Trekking in Bhutan website.  Visitation to the site doubled instantly. Very cool.

New Jasper hiking guide comes with electronic trail data

Hiking Jasper trail guide

Hiking Jasper trail guide

Rob Bryce’s new Hiking Jasper and Robson is a hiking guide with a twist. It has descriptions of 70 trails in Jasper National Park and Mt. Robson Provincial Park, but, it also comes with a DVD that has GPS data for all 70 hikes on it, including elevation profiles, Google Earth map overviews, and tracks and waypoints that can easily be downloaded to a GPS. If you are a technophile, or like to carefully plan your hikes, this guide is for you.
The guide is available at  stores in Jasper, MEC in Alberta and BC, and soon some other stores in the region. Or it is available online at Canadian Rockies Books.

BC camping guide cover photo

2008 BC Camping GuideI sometimes wonder why I lug around my large camera when hiking, but a while back the work paid off when one of my photos won a photo contest for BC Parks. Today I picked up a copy of the 2008 camping guide for BC, and was happily surprised to see the photo on its cover.

I think it fits well – encouraging young people to go out and explore our provincial parks. The photo was taken in Golden Ears Provincial Park, just outside Vancouver.

UBC Varsity Outdoor Club Wiki

The UBC Varsity Outdoor Club has a good wiki on hiking and climbing trips around Vancouver. Yet another source for hiking ideas.

Trekking guide for Bhutan

My friend Bart Jordans has just published the second edition of his excellent guide to trekking in Bhutan: Bhutan, a Trekker’s Guide. This comprehensive book is the only guide dedicated to trekking in Bhutan. It covers all the major treks, including the famous snowman trek, often said to be one of the world’s most difficult treks.

For additional information on trekking in Bhutan, check out Bart’s Bhutan Treks website, or my site on hiking and trekking in Bhutan.

Vancouver trails website

I just stumbled across another hiking website, courtesy of my colleague William Bakker at Tourism BC. Vancouver Trails appears to have a reasonable number of hikes, and the maps are well done. Finally in-line maps that have a decent size (most of them are too small). But the banner images impressed me the most – they look gorgeous. I immediately increased the height of my blog banner…

The only disapointing aspect of yet another hiking website is that great content gets scattered among websites. None are truly complete, so one has to visit several sites to get a full picture of hiking trails in the Lower Mainland (Trailpeak is another website with trails in the area). If only one website integrated all the information…

Is the North Coast Trail or West Coast Trail better?

That is the question that the authors of a recent article on the new North Coast Trail (NCT; you saw the abbreviation here first!) asked. Their conclusion? It’s a close call, but they feel the scenery along the NCT is slightly better, and it’s more rugged. Think the WCT 20-30 years ago. This seems to be a truly hot trail. Combined with all the other attractions in the area (Cape Scott, Johnson Strait whalewatching, Sointula area) it will help put northern Vancouver Island on the map.

New outdoor magazine for Vancouver Island

A new magazine just hit the shelf: the Wild Coast Magazine, described as Vancouver Island’s only outdoor, adventure and recreation magazine catering to the island’s eco-tourism industry. Its first issue was Free, and the contents are published on their website. It has some great articles about trips to take there. There is just too much to see and do in this province!

North coast trail close to opening

It’s been five years in the making, but it’s finally nearing completion: Vancouver Island’s north coast trail. Stretching 43 km from near port Hardy to Cape Scott, it is said to give the West Coast Trail a run for its money when it comes to scenery. It doesn’t have as many cable cars and ladders as the WCT, but there is one 200-rung ladder to keep you in shape.

The new Wild Coast Magazine has a feature article on the trail, including a two-page North Coast Trail map. The trail is slated to open sometime this year. I will need to arrange some holidays to walk this trail as soon as it actually opens.