Permits on the Great Divide Trail – Part 2

This is part two of an article on how to obtain permits on the Great Divide Trail (GDT). Check out part one here, which covers Waterton Lakes National Park to Banff National Park

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park – BC Parks

Random camping is not permitted within Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Permits and reservations are required in the core areas of the park, specifically the campgrounds at Magog Lake and Og Lake. Reservations are $10 per person, per night (plus a $6 reservation fee) and can be made up to four months in advance at https://discovercamping.ca/. Magog Lake is popular so if you plan to stay there, book early.

Accommodations are also available at the Assiniboine Lodge (https://assiniboinelodge.com/) and the nearby Naiset Huts. These huts can be booked for $20 per person per night, starting January 13, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. MST by calling 403-678-2883.

First come, first served backcountry campgrounds are available at Mitchell Meadows and Porcupine; there is also a rustic cabin at Police Meadows, no reservation or permit are required for these locations.

Kootenay National Park – Parks Canada

The GDT route through Kootenay National Park follows the popular Rockwall Trail. The backcountry campground at Floe Lake is probably the single most sought after campground on the entire GDT. There also aren’t a lot of good alternatives in the area. You will want to reserve a site here as soon as reservations open. For the 2020 season, reservations open January 23 at 8 a.m. MST. (https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/). Permits are $9.80 per night per person, plus an $11.20 reservation fee. Campgrounds at Numa Creek, Tumbling Creek, and Helmut Falls are less popular but I would still recommend getting reservations early. In a pinch, one can head out of the park at Wolverine Pass and random camp there.

Yoho National Park – Parks Canada

The permits you’ll need for Yoho vary considerably depending on the route you take. The main route of the GDT follows the remote Otterrail River and Amiskwi Valley; however, the Kiwetinok Pass alternate follows the much more popular Iceline Trail.

Random camping is permitted on the Amiskwi Trail as long as you are more than 2.5 miles (4km) away from Emerald Lake Road. Backcountry permits are still required ($9.80 CND per night per person) and can be obtained by calling 1-877-737-3783.

You will need to book a site at MacArthur Creek and, if you intend to take the Kiwetinok Pass Alternate, Yoho Lake and/or Little Yoho. These sites are very popular and go quickly (particularly on weekends). For the 2020 season, reservations open January 23 at 8 a.m. MST. (https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/). Permits are $9.80 per night per person, plus an $11.20 reservation fee.

In addition to these backcountry campgrounds, Yoho offers several places to stay (in addition to the options within the town of Field https://www.field.ca/). At the luxurious end, there is the full service Emerald Lake Lodge (https://crmr.com/emerald/). For the more budget conscious, there is the Whiskey Jack Hostel at Takawaw Falls (https://www.hihostels.com/destinations/ca-yoho-national-park/hostels). Also at Takakaw Falls is a Parks Canada, first come first served, walk-in, tent only campground ($17.60 per night). Lastly the Alpine Club of Canada operates the Stanley Mitchel Hut near the Little Yoho backcountry campground (https://www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/web/ACCMember/Huts/Stanley_Mitchell_Hut.aspx).

White Goat Wilderness Area – Alberta Parks

Random camping is permitted throughout White Goat Wilderness Area. No permits or reservations are required.

Jasper National Park – Parks Canada

Jasper National Park is a tale of two extremes when it comes to permits. On one hand you have the remote and rarely traveled North Boundary and Maligne Valley trails, on the other, you have the extremely popular Tonquin Valley, Skyline Trail, and Brazeau Loop.

Starting in the south, random camping is not permitted in the Brazeau Loop or Maligne Valley area. Reservations and permits are required at Boulder Creek, Four Point, Waterfalls, Poboktan, and Jonas Cutoff. Past Brazeau Loop, permits are still needed for the rarely used campgrounds at Avalanche, Mary Vaux, Mary Schaefer, and Trapper Creek (use Maligne Pass North when booking the last three). For the 2020 season, reservations open January 22 at 8 a.m. MST. https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/). Permits are $9.80 per night per person, plus an 11.20 reservation fee.

If you choose to take the Six Pass Alternate you will need a random backcountry camping permit that can be obtained by calling the Jasper visitor center at 780-852-6236. Not all requests for these permits will be granted.

After Maligne Lake, you’ll hit the extremely popular Skyline Trail with spots on this trail going quickly. You’ll want to book sites along this trail (Evelyn Creek, Little Shovel, Snowbowl, Tekarra, and Signal) as soon as they become available. Many thru-hikers doing the GDT have either had to hike the 30-mile trail in one day, or hitchhiked around the trail into Jasper. For the 2020 season, reservations open January 22 at 8 a.m. MST. (https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/). Permits are $9.80 per night per person, plus an $11.20 reservation fee. Alternate campgrounds at Curator and Watchtower are somewhat off the main route as is the Shovel Pass Lodge https://www.skylinetrail.com.

Once you reach the Jasper townsite there are multiple accommodation options; while not as busy as Banff, I’d recommend booking something before you arrive (https://www.jasper.travel/).

After Jasper, there is a campground at Minnow Lake that requires a permit and reservations. However, past that you will enter Meitte Valley where random backcountry camping permits are required. These can be obtained by calling the Jasper visitor center at 780-852-6236.

After you pass the junction to Mount Robson, you’ll be on the North Boundary Trail. Permits are required for the rarely used campgrounds at Apolphus, Wolverine North, Timothy Slides, and Chown Creek. For the 2020 season, reservations open January 22 at 8 a.m. MST. (https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/). Permits are $9.80 per night per person, plus an $11.20 reservation fee. 

Mount Robson Provincial Park

Mount Robson is the original Northern Terminus of the GDT. Some folks still treat it as such and exit the trail here using the Berg Lake Alternate, others make use of it as a resupply point or skip it entirely.

Sections of the trail skirt the remote eastern part of the park where random camping is permitted (no reservation or permit required). However, if you are planning to take the Berg Lake Alternate a permit and reservation is required. Park staff are pretty diligent here with it being one of the few places I know where you need to clip a copy of your permit to your tent. For those planning to hike in 2020, reservations are now open and can be obtained for $10 per night, per person. Check https://discovercamping.ca/MountRobsonProvincialPark for current availability and cancellations.

Wilmore Wilderness Provincial Park – Alberta Parks

Random camping is permitted throughout Wilmore Wilderness Provincial Park. No permits or reservations are required. There is a public cabin at Sheep Creek (on the Grande Cache Alternate) that is available first come, first served. There is no cost to use this cabin.

Kakwa Provincial Park – BC Parks

Random camping is permitted throughout Kakwa Park. No permits or reservations are required. There is a designated backcountry campground and public cabin at Kakwa Lake. Both are available first come, first served. There is no cost to use the campground or cabin.

Now that wasn’t so bad was it?

As long as you plan ahead and mark your calendar with key dates, the permitting process can be managed. A few things I’d recommend ahead of time to maximize your chances to get the permits you want.

  1. Log into the permitting sites ahead of time and create an account.
  2. Become familiar with the permitting sites so you can quickly book the dates you’re looking for.
  3. Enlist the help of a friend to book permits on the busy January 22 and 23 dates for Jasper and Banff.

In my next article, we’ll start going through the process of planning resupply along the trail

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