Resupply on the Great Divide Trail
As mentioned in my previous articles concerning permits, advanced planning is an important part of the character of the trail. It’s hard to “wing” it and that includes resupply on the Great Divide Trail (GDT). Over its 700 miles, the trail passes through just one major town (Jasper), 3 small hamlets (Waterton, Coalman and Field), 2 ski resorts (Castle and Sunshine), 2 general stores (Boulton and Saskatchewan Crossing) and 2 backcountry lodges (Assiniboine and Shovel Pass). That’s it! If you’re anticipating a trail that passes through towns every few days with plentiful options for resupply, you’ll be in for a shock.
Hiking the AT, you’re rarely more than 2-3 days from resupply. The 2018 AT hiker’s survey had the average resupply every 4 days (with a mix of mailed supply boxes and in town purchases).
On the PCT and CDT, resupply averages every 4-5 days (with the exception of the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the CDT)
Compare this with the GDT where you’ll regularly hike 80 to 150 miles with zero options for resupply. Some of these resupply points are simply places where you can mail a box, with limited options to purchase anything more than a sandwich or bag of chips. Be ready to routinely carry 7-10 days’ worth of food.
We’ll start from the south and head north, detailing the resupply options on the trail.
Note: For US based thru-hikers, if you are planning to mail re-supply packages, make sure to factor in time to clear customs. You also won’t be able to mail fuel, so you’ll need to include this in your resupply strategy.
Waterton Townsite (on trail)
Only a few miles north of the southern terminus. The Waterton townsite (km 6) is the first place for resupply. There is a small grocery store, several hotels and outdoor store. You’ll be able to purchase basic supplies, fuel and bear spray. The town also has a post office that accepts general delivery.
Waterton Post Office (closed on weekends)
102A Windflower Avenue
Waterton Lakes, AB
Telephone: (403) 859-2294
Castle Mountain Ski Resort (On trail)
The guest service office is only open on weekdays in the summer (km 93). They may accept supply boxes but you’ll want to call in advance. There is a small pub open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can grab a meal heree, but not much else. If you decide to take the Barnaby Ridge Altnerate, you’ll have backtrack about 3 miles (5 km) up highway 774.
Castle Mountain Ski Resort (guest services closed on weekends)
Pincher Creek, AB
Telephone: (403) 627-5101
Coalman (On trail)
A town of 1,500, there is only a small convenience store for resupply. The post office and “A Safe Haven B&B”, accept supply packages. If you need more selection, I’d recommend taking the Blairmore Alternate (junction at km 128), or hitch a ride 3 miles (5 km) east to the larger town of Blairmore.
Coalman Post Office (Closed on Sundays)
8335 – 20th Avenue
Telephone: (403) 563-3242
Along section B, there are virtually no resupply options until you reach Peter Lougheed Provincial Park at the end. While you could take the 7 miles (11km) Baril Creek exit (junction at km 282) to the Highwood House gas station (and back), this location only has a very small convenience store and does not accept resupply packages.
The Boulton Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has a small general store with basic camping supplies. It is more targeted towards car campers, but they do carry fuel and basic food stuffs. There is a great ice cream shop next door and the campground does have showers (but no laundry facilities). The trading post does not accept resupply packages.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Visitor Centre (Off Trail)
To pick up a supply box in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, you’ll either need to hike the 6 miles (8 km) or hitch a ride to the Park Visitor Centre. The staff only pick up mail once a week, so you’ll need to pre-plan accordingly. There is no store here to purchase additional supplies.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Visitor Centre (open daily)
Suite 201 – 800 Railway Avenue
Telephone: (403) 678-0760
Kananaskis Village (Off Trail)
A 20 minute drive north up highway 40, some folks will hitch to Kananaskis Village and back. The village hosts a full resort hotel, restarants, a bakery, and outdoor store which carries fuel and freeze dried meals. Golfing is available for those who’ve packed their clubs. 🙂 There is a post office here as well.
Lodge At Kananaskis Post Office (closed Sundays and Mondays)
Po Box 249
Canmore (Off Trail)
Canmore is the first large town that’s fairly close to the trail. Sitting on the border of Banff National Park, Canmore has a full range of hotels, restaurants, grocery, post office and outdoor stores. The Shark Mountain exit (junction at km 391) will take you to a major trailhead. From here you can hitch down the Smith Dorian Trail (busy on weekends, but not so much on weekdays), or take the daily 4:30PM Mt. Assiniboine Shuttle (https://www.whitemountainadventures.com/mt-assiniboine-shuttle). The shuttle stops in Canmore, Banff and Sunshine Village. Advanced booking is required.
Canmore Post Office (Closed Sunday)
1 – 801 8th St
Banff (Off Trail)
If this is your first time in the Canadian Rockies, you’ll definitely want to check out the world famous mountain town of Banff. It can be VERY busy in the summer. Like Canmore, Banff has a wide range of services from hostels to the Banff Springs Hotel and everything in between. There are several grocery and outdoor stores in town. If you like fondue, I can’t recommend the Grizzly House enough.
There are a few ways to access Banff. The first is the above mentioned Mt Assiniboine Shuttle. Alternatively you can take the Allenby Pass (junction at km 398) or Fatigue Pass Trail (junction at km 428). Some will also exit the trail at the Sunshine Ski Resort, take the gondola down to the parking lot and either hitch or take a shuttle into Banff.
Note: Allenby Pass is subject to a seasonal restriction between Aug 1 and Sept 30 where you are required to travel in groups of 4 or more. It passes through a prime denning area for grizzly bears (meaning lots of moms and cubs) and you can be fined if you are found hiking solo during this time.
Banff Post Office (closed Sunday)
204 Buffalo Street
Telephone: (403) 762-2586
Located in Mt. Assinaboine Provincial Park, the Assinaboine Lodge (km 411) provides a high end remote outdoor experience. Built in 1928 it was the first backcountry ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies and today hosts visitors from around the world. The lodge open its doors to hikers and campers for tea time daily between 4 and 5 (cash only). This is the only time hikers have access to the facilities at the lodge.
If you can figure out how to get your gear to them. Canmore Alpine Helicopters makes runs to the Lodge on Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays. They can be reached at (403) 678-4802
Sunshine Ski Resort (On Trail)
The Sunshine Ski Resort (km 436) is a major day hiking tourist destination in the summer. From the main parking lot, a gondola carries folks up to the ski hill and alpine meadows. There are a number of loops to that traverse the divide. In the summer there is a hotel (expensive), restaurant, bar and café.
The hill does charge a fee to hold hiker boxes, you’ll want to contact them ahead of time to make arrangements.
Banff Sunshine Village Shipping and Receiving
Attention Guest Services – HIKING CACHE
#1 Sunshine Access Road
Radium Hot Springs / Invermere (Off Trail)
After descending from Ball Pass, the trail crosses BC Highway 93 (km 469). It is possible to hitch from here to the village of Radium Hot Springs (60 min south) or the larger town of Invermere (20 min south of Radium Hot Springs). There are a number of hotels and motels in Radium Hot Springs and a small grocery store. Invermere has full services.
Radium Hot Springs Post Office (closed Saturdays)
4887 Radium Blvd
Radium Hot Springs
Field (On Trail)
Field is a small hamlet in Yoho National Park (km 546). While there are several bed and breakfasts and restaurants in town, there isn’t much in the way of stores for resupply. The post office does accept general delivery.
Field Post Office (Closed weekends)
312 Stephen Avenue
Golden (Off Trail)
For those seeking more options near Field, the closest, is the town of Golden B.C. (45 min southwest on the TransCanada highway). Full services are available in Golden including multiple hotels, restaurants, grocery and outdoor stores.
Saskatchewan Crossing (,Trail)
The resort at Saskatchewan Crossing (km 650) is located at a major highway junction. There is a fairly large general store here with basic groceries and fuel. Many will opt to stay a night at the crossing to shower and take advantage of laundry facilities. They do charge a fee for holding hiker packages so call ahead to make arrangements.
The Crossing Resort (open daily)
Mail bag 333
Lake Louise, AB
Before starting the Skyline trail in Jasper you’ll pass by a small Café at the head of Maligne Lake (km 785). Sandwiches, soups and snacks are available here (but not much else). There is a shuttle that runs from here to the other end of the Skyline trail and to Jasper itself.
Shovel Pass Lodge (on trail)
Another backcountry lodge, the Shovel Pass Lodge (km 802) offers high-end accommodations and meals on the Skyline trail. For those staying at the nearby Curator campground, breakfast (8:00am) and dinner (6:30pm) can be purchased for $22 and $40 respectively (cash only). Availability can be limited as hotel guests have priority.
Jasper (On Trail)
The largest town on trail, Jasper (km 840) has multiple hotels, restaurants, grocery and outdoor stores. Many will take an opportunity to rest in Jasper before making the final push to Kakwa. The post office accepts general delivery.
Jasper Post Office (closed weekends)
502 Patricia Street
Mt. Robson Provincial Park (off trail)
Combining section F and G makes for a long haul requiring a 12-16 days food carry. To split this up, some take the option to get off at the Berg Lake trail (junction at km 941). This 17 mile (28km) one way detour takes you along one of the most popular backpacking trails in the Canadian Rockies. Permits are hard to come by, so expect to hike out in one day. Once at the trailhead there is a campground, info centre, café and convenience store. The info centre does hold hiker boxes, but pickup from the nearby Valemount is sporadic. Make sure to give them a call in advance.
Mt Robson Visitor Centre
Valemount (off trail)
A 30 min hitch west from the Mt Robson Visitor Centre. Valemount has a range of hotels, restaurants, grocery and outdoor stores.
There you go, all the supply options along the GDT. Folks tend to rely more on mailing out resupply boxes than purchasing supplies as most places with stores are off trail and can add considerable time to completing the trail.
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