Permits on the Great Divide Trail – Part 2

by | Jan 13, 2020 | Great Divide Trail, Lessons Learned, Planning

Home » Blog » Planning » Permits on the Great Divide Trail – Part 2

This article originally appeared on The Trek, which can be read here

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. All headings are links to the relevant park.

2024 Update – Please note that dates for backcountry reservations in the National Parks have changed in 2024. There are also a few other important updates to be aware of.

Quick Links

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, Og Lake and Starting in 2024 Porcupine. Reservations are $10 per person, per night (plus a $6 reservation fee) and can be made up to four months in advance. (Select the “Backountry” tab and the “Backcountry Reservation” option). Magog Lake is popular so if you plan to stay there, book early.

Accommodations are also available at the Assiniboine Lodge and the nearby Naiset Huts. The Naiset huts are booked solid for 2024, but keep an eye out for cancellations. Reservations opened in August of 2023 via the Assiniboine Lodge by calling 403-678-2883  so keep an eye out for 2025.

First come, first served backcountry campgrounds are available at Mitchell Meadows; 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 2024 season, reservations open January 29th at 8a.m. MST. Permits are $13.50 per night per person, plus an $11.50 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.

 Note: A National Parks Discovery Pass is still required to enter any of the national parks (Waterton, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay or Jasper). While daily passes are available, if you plan to spend more than a few days it makes more sense to purchase the annual pass. The Discovery Pass does not cover camping or other services within the park.

Parks Canada is updated their reservation system in 2023. Prior to booking you’ll want to log in, create a profile, and familiarize yourself with the site prior to reservations.

YOHO NATIONAL PARK – PARKS CANADA

The permits you’ll need for Yoho National Park 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 ($13.50 CDN 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 2024 season, reservations open January 29th at 8 a.m. MST.. Permits are $13.50 per night per person, plus an $11.50 reservation fee.

In addition to these backcountry campgrounds, Yoho offers several places to stay (in addition to the options within the town of Field. At the luxurious end, there is the full service Emerald Lake Lodge. For the more budget conscious, there is the Whiskey Jack Hostel at Takawaw Falls. Also at Takakaw Falls is a Parks Canada, first come first served, walk-in, tent only campground ($18.75 per night plus $(9.50 if you want a fire). Lastly the Alpine Club of Canada operates the Stanley Mitchel Hut near the Little Yoho backcountry campground.

Note: A National Parks Discovery Pass is still required to enter any of the national parks (Waterton, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay or Jasper). While daily passes are available, if you plan to spend more than a few days it makes more sense to purchase the annual pass. The Discovery Pass does not cover camping or other services within the park.

Parks Canada is updated their reservation system in 2023. Prior to booking you’ll want to log in, create a profile, and familiarize yourself with the site prior to reservations.

JOB / CLINE PLUZ

Random camping is permitted throughout Job / Cline PLUZ. No reservations are required. Food storage lockers are available at Michelle Lakes and Pinto Lake North (there is also a “green thrown” here). Details are available here

Note: A public lands camping pass is now required to random camp in the Job / Cline PLUZ. The cost is $20 (per person) for a 3-day pass and $30 (per person) for an annual pass. A single annual pass will cover you for all provincial crown land random camping along the trail.

WHITE GOAT WILDERNESS AREA – ALBERTA PARKS

Random camping is permitted throughout White Goat Wilderness Area. No permits or reservations are required. (The Public Lands Camping pass does not apply to Wilderness Areas)

 

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 (Trapper is closed this summer). For the 2024 season, reservations open February 1st at 8 a.m. MST.. Permits are $13.50 per night (per person), plus an 11.96 reservation fee. A special GDT hiker only campground has been made available in the Maligne Valley, you’ll need to call the Jasper Trails office to book at 780-852-6236. 

Like last year, random camping permits are not being issued for the Six Pass Alternate in 2023

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 2024 season, reservations open February 1st 8 a.m. MST. Permits are $13.50 per night (per person), plus an $11.50 reservation fee. Alternate campgrounds at Curator and Watchtower are somewhat off the main route as is the Shovel Pass Lodge.

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.

After Jasper, there is a campground at Minnow Lake that requires a permit and reservations (again $13.50 per night, per person). 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 2024 season, reservations open February 1st at 8 a.m. MST.. Permits are $13.50 per night (per person), plus an $11.50 reservation fee.

 Note: A National Parks Discovery Pass is still required to enter any of the national parks (Waterton, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay or Jasper). While daily passes are available, if you plan to spend more than a few days it makes more sense to purchase the annual pass. The Discovery Pass does not cover camping or other services within the park.

PParks Canada is updated their reservation system in 2023. Prior to booking you’ll want to log in, create a profile, and familiarize yourself with the site prior to reservations.

MOUNT ROBSON PROVINCIAL PARK – BC PARKS

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).

Note: The Berg Lake trail experienced serious flooding and damage in the summer of 2021 and most of it currently closed. The trail is not expected to fully re-open until 2025/6 at the earliest.

WILMORE WILDERNESS PROVINCIAL PARK – ALBERTA PARKS

Random camping is permitted throughout Wilmore Wilderness Provincial Park. No 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.

Note: A public lands camping pass is now required to random camp in Wilmore Wilderness. The cost is $20 (per person) for a 3-day pass and $30 (per person) for an annual pass. A single annual pass will cover you for all provincial crown land random camping along the trail.

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 March dates for Banff and Jasper.

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

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Brent F

    I called the number shown for Jasper trails to get info on the special GDT campsite on Maligne Valley and they said there is no such site. With Vaux Schaffer and Avalanche only having one reservation per night it would be useful. Evelyn creek to pobokton would make a very long 45km day. Do you have more info regarding this site?

    Reply
    • Kelly

      They’ve made some changes this summer, including breaking up the reservations at Mary Vaux, Mary Schaffer and Avalanche (they used to just issue 1 permit per night for all, now it’s 1 per campground). Trappers (which was the extra site) is closed this summer for refurbishment. I’ll update the article accordingly

      Reply

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