Distance : 606 miles (975 km) approx.
Avg. Time : 35 days
Start / Finish :
- Waterton Lake National Park, Alberta – US/Canadian border (southern terminus)
- Jasper, British Columbia (northern terminus). An alternative to finishing at Jasper is Kakwa Lake, situated in the Provincial Park of the same name. This will add on approximately 140 miles (225 km) to the journey.
- Waterton Lake is serviced by shuttle buses from Glacier National Park in the United States. From Calgary, there is no regular public transport services to Waterton, although it is possible to charter shuttles.
- Jasper is reached via either regular bus or train services.
- Kakwa Provincial Park is the transportation wildcard. There are no public options available. Unless you have organized something privately, you will need to try your luck hitching south on Highway 16 to either McBride or all the way to Jasper.
- Mid-July to mid-September.
Maps / Info :
- Dustin Lynx, Hiking Canada’s Great Divide Trail (2007): Contains trekking notes, sketch maps, town and resupply information.
- 1:50,000 & 1:250,000 Canadian Government Topo Maps: Free downloadable maps for the entire route. The quality of the images isn’t great. A better option would be to contact uber long distance hiker, Shawn “Pepper” Forry, who put together a map set following his 2010 southbound hike of the GDT.
- Two websites containing valuable planning information for prospective GDT hikers are: http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/GDT.html and http://cwillett.imathas.com/GDT/index.html.
- National Park Permits -The two big ticket items you will need are the Annual Canadian National Parks Discovery Pass and the Annual Wilderness Pass (Camping permit). Legally speaking, you should also make reservations prior to each night you will spend camping within National Park boundaries. If you reserve less than 24 hrs prior, booking fees (as of 2013, C$11.70 per night) are waived.
- Click here for an overview map of the GDT.
Route / Conditions :
- Geographically speaking, the Great Divide Trail picks up where the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) leaves off at the US/Canadian border. It winds its way northwest along the Canadian Rockies, passing through two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia), 5 National Parks (Waterton, Yoho, Kootenay, Banff and Jasper), 7 Provincial Parks and 4 designated wilderness areas.
- The route is a combination of pre-existing trails, cross country travel and the occasional dirt road; although the latter can often be avoided by taking alternate routes.
- One of the questions I am most commonly asked in regards to the GDT is, “how does it compare to it’s more famous southern sister, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT)?”. In brief, it is shorter, tougher, more scenic, has more wildlife viewing opportunities, less resupply opportunities and, with the exception of the National Park sections, is far less travelled.
- With breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities throughout, the GDT rates alongside the Sierra High Route as my favourite long distance hike in North America.
- Trivia: The southern terminus of Waterton Lake, represents the starting or finishing point for three of North America’s great long distance hikes; the GDT, Pacific Northwest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.