We didn’t get too serious about noting errors in the guidebook, except when they were particularly obvious or irritating. In fact, for the first section of the trail, we were so busy trying to survive and stay on trail that we barely noticed the errors. But, on reflection, we realized that there were some "disconnects" in that first section that shouldn't have been there. We can't tell you about some of those because we didn't really start to take notes until Coleman.
Although we used the second edition, published in 2007, a lot of the errors from the first edition persist, along with some new ones just to confuse things. All in all, it’s a good guidebook, and a necessity for a thru-hiker, but there are some typographic errors and sometimes a general vagueness in the descriptions that can cause confusion. I hope the following will be helpful to future hikers.
Not surprisingly, the quoted prices in the guidebook are low. Campground fees, permits, hostels and motels are more expensive than listed. That's to be expected. On the other hand, some of the car campgrounds no longer charge a fee. At least, we didn’t see registration boards at those places.
More surprising is that distances in the guidebook are also off, sometimes really glaringly. Most of the time, the guidebook distances are longer than the actual trail mileage, which isn’t all bad. This was especially true on roadwalks and dirt roads. We assume that the guidebook mileages included a 15% ‘wiggle factor’ even when it wasn’t always necessary. The guidebook also consistently overestimates the mileage in Jasper NP, but figuring out the true distance there is difficult because the Gemtrek maps list one distance, the National Park signs usually had another (and sometimes two different distances at two different signs), while the guidebook gave yet another distance. We found the Gemtrek maps to be fairly close to our estimated distance, based on time traveled, but that was just a fourth guesstimate.
This was an issue for us because it frequently meant that we did much shorter days than we would have had we had more accurate mileage. (i.e. If the book said 26 km, that’s a reasonable day’s hike. When reality was only 19 km, that was really too short, but we were stuck with a reserved campsite and couldn’t go on to the next one. We had a number of days when we finished hiking at 3:00 pm.)
The guidebook follows the PCT guidebook format regarding elevation information rather than the more hiker friendly CDT format – that is, elevations are given at junctions or waypoints, but not necessarily at the high and low points. A lot of the elevation gain and loss is not reflected in the text. It’s not that important, as long as you understand that you can’t rely on the description to tell you in advance how far you will climb or descend between waypoints. (i.e. You might climb to a pass, drop into a valley, and then climb to the next pass. The guidebook will give the waypoints and elevations for the two passes, but not tell you about that 800’ descent between the two.)
The book has a number of typographic errors. It got funny at times, but it did make me wonder about the GPS coordinates in the back of the book. Double check them if you can before you go.
International Boundary to Coleman:
We would insert two campgrounds in the summary list, the Waterton Town Campground at 6.3 km and Jutland Creek. We were told that the Waterton campground fills up, but you can reserve it in advance if you intend to use it. (Do it directly, as it’s not a Park campground.)
There was no sign of a trail from the campsite at Scarpe Creek to the ridge. We spent quite a while circling around, looking for one. It is a steep climb straight up to La Coulotte Ridge. It is possible to contour around La Coulotte Peak, avoiding the 1000’ climb straight up and down the other side, but it isn’t easy. The distances on the ridge are off – maybe GPS distances that don’t take into account the elevation gain/loss required? It was very slow hiking.
We didn’t see a formal campground at Castle Mountain, but many people were random camping along the river about a mile before the resort.
Suicide Creek – there are two junctions at 200 m., not one. Go left at both. At the clearing on top, go right.
You can also random camp along Lynx Creek Road. The guidebook says that the route on Willoughby Ridge is impassible thanks to a 2003 fire, so it is easier to simply follow the gravel road to the ATV road junction in section 6. There is water in the creek, but also cows, so you may want to treat it first.
Section 6: The snowmobile staging area is only one km from Coleman, not four.
Coleman to Kananaskis:
The Post Office delivers some packages to a convenience store on the highway in Coleman since the PO itself doesn't have room to hold them. The store's address is in the guidebook, but it had new owners in 2007 and a new name (something like Happy Mart?). If you send your package to General Delivery, it’ll go to the Post Office in Blairmore. The Canadian Postal system REQUIRES that you use a PO Box number. Best solution is to stay at “A Safe Haven B&B" and ask if you can mail your package there. But call first.
Section 7: Alison Creek CG is gone, replaced by an outfitter corral.
We found the directions to Alexander Creek CG impossible to follow. We suspect the "culvert" is now a bridge. We went too far and had to backtrack and still didn’t find the guidebook route. We turned sharply right off the main road at a side road near a cabin that was visible through the trees, and wandered a bit until the road ended at a long gone bridge across a creek next to another cabin. The campground was right across the creek from that cabin, not 800 m. The road out of the campground was also closed to vehicles and much longer than 800 m. There is nothing at the Alexander Creek CG except the sign – no tables, no outhouse, etc. There’s just a flat spot by the creek.
Pg. 75: There are two bridges across Alexander Creek, not one. After that, the guidebook directions are confusing, “Just before a bridged crossing, leave the road at a signed junction . . . stay on the road, cross the bridge and follow it up. . . “ Say what? That one made me scratch my head. Don’t leave the good gravel road. We stayed on it to the gas well, dropped to another dirt road below the clearing and continued up the valley.
The Crown has no signs now except “Road Closed to Motorized Use” (which was obviously being ignored by the ATVs.) We didn’t see the snowmobile cabin nearby but there was a side road that was blocked that we passed. Do not continue straight over the pass on the road shown on the topo map as there is an active mine in the next valley. We found an old logging road that headed north from close to the Crown that took us all the way to South Line Creek. This wasn’t the guidebook route, but it worked.
Just before South Line Creek Road, the map is deceptive because it shows a logging road coming in from the right about 1 km from the road to North Fork Pass. That logging road is not obvious from the trail. (I think it may disappear in a clear cut). So when you reach the first road near South Line Creek Road, turn sharp right, keeping the “Mine Boundary - No Trespassing” signs to your left, cross a bridge, then turn right/east again at the next junction. The road passes a couple of clear cuts and side roads, but just keep heading east. The road vanishes for a while on the ascent to North Pass, but an ATV track soon appears to the left and goes to the pass.
Pg. 79 – we didn’t see a GDT sign at North Pass and there were no blazes there. We may have missed the hiking trail up Dutch Creek. We followed ATV tracks all the way to Tornado Pass.
Pg. 81 – The trail down from Tornado Saddle is not a gentle descent. There was trail for about 20 yards, then you just bushwhack straight down the hill, following cairns.
Pg. 89 – the seismic line in the last paragraph is an old logging road. We followed it about 500 m. (not 150) to a cairn where we picked up blazed foot trail again. On the GDT, the orange blazes are only on foot trail sections, not on sections that are used by ATVs. This can get confusing since you don’t know if you’re on the right road or not.
The distance in the section near the Beehive is longer than shown, and the trail goes closer to the ridge than shown on the guidebook map. (NB: The guidebook mileage changed in this section. I think the old (longer) distance was closer to reality.) It’s a beautiful section of trail. Watch out for the horse trails though. There were some junctions just before Cataract Creek that were confusing. We stayed low. Cataract Creek CG was invisible. We went about 400 m. on the side trail without seeing any sign of a campsite. So we camped in the abandoned road above the creek.
Pg. 93: Second paragraph: The trail does not go north across the meadows, it heads into the woods behind the Etherington Creek campground on good trail.
The clear-cut is a real mess. The trail follows the right edge, but has been buried in fallen trees. We picked it up again at the far northern edge on the right side, at least ½ mile from where we entered the clearing.
Fording River Pass: There is a foot trail that continues over the pass well past the point where the guidebook says to return to the old road. The road is eroded and very rocky, so the trail was a better option, though it gets very faint in the upper meadows. We descended the far side of the pass, bypassing the seismic lines, passed Fording River Campground, and finally dead-ended at a logging road. Turn left, cross a creek and you will soon meet the guidebook route at the place where it indicates a “three-way junction”. Turn right at that junction. If you are southbound, there is a cairn on the logging road to mark the turn onto foot trail.
Pg. 99: The mileage to the campgrounds is way off and they are shown in the wrong order. The book says there are campgrounds along the road every two km. Instead, the first, Riverside, was at 10 km, Tobermory was 6 km farther, and Upper Elk was ½ km farther, but way off the main road. The Elk Lakes Trailhead was about 6 ½ km from there. There were no fee stations at any of the car campgrounds, but we did have to pay at the Elk Lake Provincial Park campground.
Pg. 101: We never saw any power lines after West Elk Pass. Instead we followed Hiker signs downhill for a bit, and then at each junction we chose the trail closest to the creek. This took us directly to Boulton Creek Trading Post about 5 or 6 km from the Pass.
The Boulton Creek Campground cost us $20/night. Backcountry campsites at Peter Lougheed in 2007 cost $8 per person plus an $8 administrative fee - $24 total for two people for one night.
Kananaskis to Field:
You could probably camp at N. Kananaskis Pass if the weather is good, as long as you stay outside the Park boundary. The trail down to the Palliser River is very steep and very overgrown. It's slow going.
Pg. 115: there are good campsites near the ponds and at Palliser Pass.
The distance from Burstall to Birdwood CG is only 3.5 km, not 7.5. Get water at the warden’s station before Birdwood if you are camping there.
In the last paragraph, there is a first junction 3 km from Birdwood Creek.
Trail signs said it was 20 km from Palliser Pass to the Watridge Lake Trail junction. They noted the distance from Birdwood to the junction as 8.8 km. It is easy fast walking.
The chapter summary lists camping near Healy Pass. In fact, the campground junction is 4 km before the pass. We had a very short day because I didn’t read the details before we went, but trusted the distance in the summary.
Pg. 137: You can camp legally outside the Park at Wolverine Pass, which is only ½ km off trail between Tumbling Creek and Helmet Falls.
Field to North Saskatchewan River:
The road walk to Field was shorter than listed. There was no register at the Ottertail River Trailhead.
Pg. 151: The trails out of Field were also shorter than listed. It was only 1 km between Natural Bridge and the picnic area, not 2 ½ . The road is closed now, so the picnic area gets little use.
There is currently a bridge over Fire Creek. The forest isn’t badly burned until the last couple of miles. The trail does get overgrown after fording the Amiskwi. The bridge over the Amskwi is long gone.
Pg. 155: The trail down from Amiskwi Pass was easy to find and follow. Pass a side road to Collie Creek on the right and another down near the river. Stay on the main road. The road to Amiskwi Lodge is currently closed near the Blaeberry River Bridge.
Pg. 161: Cairns campground is no longer accessible to cars due to massive mudslides, though they started to bulldoze the road so it may open again. The bridge over Cairns Creek is gone, currently residing on a sandbar below the campground. It can be a tough crossing.
Banff no longer maintains the Howse River Trail except for the 4 km nearest the highway. The blowdowns are really bad for about 9 miles north of Howse Pass, then it gets better.
In 2007, rooms at the Crossing cost $140/night (not $80). David Thompson Resort, another motel about 50 km away, cost about $100. In Nordegg a double room went for $95. Nordegg has a small grocery, several restaurants, a post office and laundry. Nordegg is 90 km East of the Crossing, but an easy hitch.
Saskatchewan River to Jasper:
Pg. 179: The side trail to Cataract Pass (E11) was invisible. We ended up bushwhacking down to the creek and following it up to the moraine which we climbed until we found cairns. We never saw the gravel bars or the narrow trail along the creek noted in the text.
The trail from Cataract Pass to Nigel Trail Junction was actually pretty good, except right at the head of the valley where we walked across the gravel bars and at a boulder field about halfway down. It was a shorter hike than expected.
Pg. 183: Mileages are off. Four Point to Jonas Shoulder was listed on trail signs as 15 km. It was 4 km from there to the campground. The campground came before the trail junction, not afterwards. The distance to Waterfalls was 8 km, not 10.1 or 10.5 as listed in the text. Poboktan Creek was 4 km.
Pg. 189: Avalanche to Mary Vaux: the Park says 8 km. There is a bridge over the Maligne River ford. Mary Vaux to Mary Schaffer is 11.5 km vs 13. The Maligne bridge in the 5th paragraph is 3 ½ km, not 22. In the last paragraph it is 20 meters on the paved road to the Skyline Trail not 100.
Pg. 193: Maligne hostel currently (2007) costs $23/night for nonmembers. It has no showers.
Jasper to Mt Robson Provincial Park:3>
We didn’t hike this section in 2007. The guidebook said that the Miette River route was impassible due to a 1998 fire so hikers should take the North Boundary Trail (NBT) instead. But the guidebook gives no mileage or description for that route. On our campsite list, we include the mileage for the NBT to Mt. Robson, which we found in another guidebook. The NBT is supposed to be in better shape, but is longer and less scenic than the Miette route – basically a valley walk in the trees most of the way. In 2007 and 2008 the NBT was closed due to pipeline construction. It may be open in 2009.
In 2007 a warden in Jasper told us that the Miette River route was open, but gets little if any regular maintenance. Still, it is passable, though boggy and obscure and overgrown. The burn area is near Colonel Pass.
In 2008 we hiked the Jasper to Mt. Robson section but we didn't specifically tie our notes to guidebook pages. The following is our update on trail conditions for the section -
In 2008, work was still being done on a pipeline through Jasper. This meant that the Celestine Road trailhead for the North Boundary Trail was still closed. The Miette River trailhead was open, but hikers were required to have an official escort through the work zone (the first 4 km after leaving the roadwalk). Ask at the Backcountry office about the status for 2009.
The Miette River Trailhead at the end of the dirt road was buried under a pile of rubble, so when you reach the creek, look for an arrow up in a tree on the right side and climb over the rubble to the trail. The trail is a bit rough starting out, but for the most part it isn’t difficult to follow. The Jasper Backcountry office told us that they don’t maintain the trail much. Sometimes someone on horseback will clear blowdowns, but that is erratic. The trail up the Miette is overgrown, very wet and sometimes very rocky – but passable.
We didn't stop at the campsite at the old Warden’s Cabin. It was pretty much unuseable. The campground at Miette Lake was marginal, from what we saw. There was a fire-ring but no flat places to camp. There might be something better near the Wardens Cabin which we didn’t see. We camped on a flat spot at the Miette River crossing.
Trail near Miette/Centre Pass was a big grassy flower-filled meadow. It was beautiful in early August, but there was no pathway. We bushwhacked for several KM until we picked up the trail again. The guidebook wasn’t much help there. The trail around Salient Mountain was on dirt and rock so was easy to follow, then we lost it again in a meadow and didn’t pick it up again until Grant Pass. The trail was good from there to Colonel Pass. The campground at Colonel Pass was good.
The burn area started 3 km north of Colonel Pass. There were some signs of trail work since the fire, but there were many, many blowdowns from the pass to Moose River. Saplings are growing in the middle of the trail. Blazing was good closer to Moose River (axe blazes and faded pink ribbons) but vanished near the confluence. We bushwhacked easily up river. The burn continues off and on until past Upright Creek. There were occasional signs of trail (i.e. yellow ribbons) but that vanished in wet areas and at burns. We stayed on the east bank for several miles instead of crossing the river. We only crossed the Moose a total of four times because we were worried about high water. It turned out to only be about knee deep when we passed through. Upright Creek was an easy crossing for us. Navigation was easy (just head upstream) but the land was sometimes very boggy.
We picked up good trail a couple miles before Steppe Creek. Fords were well marked on both sides of the river there.
Trail over Moose Pass was in very good shape. It is an incredibly beautiful area.
Steppe Creek Campground looked good. Calumet Creek Campground was good. There are two campgrounds at Adolphus – one for horses, one for hikers. The horse site was better with more flat spots.
We lost the trail completely 1 km past Calumet CG. We followed faint trail into the forest, per the guidebook, but it vanished. We bushwhacked uphill through dense forest. We finally descended and found the trail along the edge of the flood plain. Stay on/near the flood plain.
There is a new bridge over Yates Torrent. (It wasn’t there when we passed through but was in place a couple of weeks later.)
The trail to and through Mt. Robson was in excellent shape. If you are going to resupply at the Mt Robson ranger station, be aware that it is a long way down. There is a snack bar and small store, but you should probably drop off a resupply box rather than attempt to buy enough food for the next stretch. It's not that good a store.
Getting to/from Mt Robson from Jasper - in 2008 there were buses to/from Jasper that would stop at Mt Robson IF the stop was scheduled through with the Jasper bus station. If you don't schedule the stop, they might not stop. It's a long walk to Jasper - or it can be a long, slow hitch.
Our journal for this section of the trail can be found here (See Aug 3-10, 2008).