This is the second in a series covering various sections of the Great Divide Trail (GDT). Section B of the Great Divide Trail; for Section A, please see my post here.
Coleman to Kananaskis
Section B of the GDT runs North from the town of Coalman (on the number 3 Crowsnest Highway) to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis. This part of the trail runs mostly through Crown Land (roughly equivalent to national forest land in the US) and has little in the way of developed campgrounds and facilities. Large portions run on decommissioned logging roads and in some cases, active off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails. Expect to encounter OHV users and, in some cases, active forestry operations along the trail.
In some ways, Section B is the birthplace of the GDT. In the 1970s the first portions of dedicated trail were constructed here and work continues, with the new High Rock Trail scheduled to open in 2020.
Roads and Off-Highway Vehicle Trails
The first part of the trail is largely on gravel roads and OHV trails. During the summer (particularly on weekends) you may see folks camping in their RVs along the Allison Creek / Atlas roads. Parts of this trail can be confusing as there are many junctions and mazes of old forestry roads. If you do encounter active logging, keep an eye out and respect any signage.
At Deadman Pass, the trail crosses the divide into British Columbia and the Alexander Creek watershed. You can access Alexander Creek from the south following a forestry road from Highway 3. Before you pass back into Alberta, be careful to avoid the private land at the Line Creek Mine. It is an active mine site and there is a security patrol. Keep to the trails in this area and stay off the private mine roads. Once the High Rock Trail is opened, this section will be bypassed.
Birthplace of the Great Divide Trail
At North Fork Pass, you’ll join the original GDT and a junction with Dutch Creek Road. This is another access/exit point to Highway 940 on the Alberta side. Following the orange blazes; the trail closely parallels the divide with additional access points at Hidden Creek, Cache Creek, Soda Creek, Oldman River, Lost Creek, Cataract Creek, Etherington Creek, and Baril Creek. I’ve had a chance to camp in this area several times and the scenery is spectacular, particularly in and around the Beehive Natural Area.
Climbing up to Fording River Pass, the trail heads back into BC and the longest road walk on the GDT. There are a few car campgrounds along the Elk River Road that are available for $8 a night (cash or check only). If you’re a confident route-finder, you can avoid some of this road walk by taking the Coral Pass alternate. I’ve heard that the pass is incredible; however, descending the north side involves some exposure, slippery rocks, and can be EXTREMELY overgrown. The route, however, take you past Upper Elk Lake, which I can’t recommend enough. If you stick to the road, you’ll soon come to Elk Lakes Provincial Park. From here on in, you’ll be on protected lands, leaving OHVs behind for the rest of the trail.
Elk Lakes Provincial Park
At Elk Lakes, there is a cabin currently operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and a nearby campground for $5 a night (cash or check). From here there are a few options. First is the Hydroline Trail (popular with mountain bikers), which is a straight shot up to Elk Pass along a set of power lines. There is also Elkcan Creek, which takes you through mostly forest to West Elk Pass; it’s shorter, but obscures most of the views. Lastly, there is the official Upper Elk Lake Trail, which offers nice views of the Elk Valley. I highly recommend the Upper Elk Lake trail and the side trip to Frozen Lake if you have the time.
Once over the pass you’ll enter one of my favorite places in the world, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, and, as a Scout, the first place I ever went backpacking. Following Fox Creek, the trail soon comes to the Elk Pass trailhead and the end of Section B.
A full-service campground including showers, store, and ice cream! are available a few minutes away at Boulton Creek.
Next up, Section C