Update August 2019: I have added information on how to reach the tote road from Jasper with minimal road walking.
Update June 2017: I was finally able to find the missing section of tote road just west of the Dorothy-Christine trail. I have improved the description below. Enjoy!
In Jasper National Park, there is a missing section in the Great Divide Trail: hikers have to walk for 21 km along Highway 16 west from the town of Jasper to the start of the Miette trail at Decoigne near the BC border. In his book, Hiking Canada‘s Great Divide Trail, Dustin Lynx suggests an alternative route via Minnow Lake and a cross-country section to the Virl/Dorothy Lake trail. However, from there, hikers still have to walk 11.5 km along Highway 16. Moreover the Minnow to Dorothy Lake route leads over rough terrain, and some GDT hikers have been turned around by the many cliffs and mossy, steep boulder-strewn slopes in this area.
Dedicated through hikers with good route-finding skills can avoid most of Highway 16 by first hiking along a pipeline right of way to the Dorothy-Christine trailhead, and from there for about 4km along a historic wagon road between the Dorothy and Golden Lakes trails.
Jasper to Dorothy-Christine trailhead
In Jasper, start at the SW corner of Connaught Drive and Hazel Ave (the intersection with the traffic lights), by the square trailhead kiosk. Walk on the paved trail towards the underpass, but do not go under the tracks. In the second switchback, before the ramp to the underpass, turn right onto the gravel trail that leads back up the hill, along the back of the PetroCanada gas station. This is Trail 11, the Discovery Trail, marked with a grizzly bear’s face. Continue west, going underneath the tracks where the trail meets the western entrance into Jasper. Cross the road (Connaught Drive); on the west side of the road, there is a gated gravel road; Wynd Road. Walk along Wynd Road for about 800 m to 425261E 5857877N (UTM; all coordinates here are in Zone 11U). Here a single track trail leaves the road to the left (south), marked 3J on a yellow diamond. Descend the trail until it reaches Highway 16 at the Miette River. Cross the river and continue along the highway for 2 km to a small parking lot on the northside of the highway at 42282 E 5857034N. Here you have a choice to continue along the highway, or leave the highway and walk through the grass to the river bank. About 200 m past the parking lot you’ll reach the pipeline right of way.
NOTE: this is an experimental route: I have not walked along the pipeline, only skied it in winter. Walk along the southern edge of the right of way. It may be wet in spots, but the going should be pretty easy. At 417898.32 m E 5857702.79 m N the pipeline veers towards the river. Leave it here and walk back to the road via the large parking lot just west of here. From the parking lot walk along the highway for about 1.5 km to the Meadow Creek bridge. The Dorothy-Christine trailhead is just past the bridge.
Dorothy-Christine trailhead to Miette Valley trailhead
This route follows an old tote road. It was built during the construction of the railroad in the early 1900s to move supplies to workers’ camps. It has not been maintained since then, but it is still in surprisingly good shape for most of the way. From the Golden Lake trailhead, you follow the old rail bed all the way to the start of the Miette Valley trail.
From the Dorothy-Christine trailhead, walk down the gravel road to the railroad tracks; cross the tracks on the official pedestrian crossing. the trail crosses a new bridge across the Miette River and heads up the hill on the other side. Walk about 1 km up the hill to about 10 m before a sharp turn in the trail. The road starts at 414929E, 5858969N , at a slight left angle. It is very overgrown here, so it can be difficult to see. When coming from Virl/Dorothy Lake, descend the well-maintained trail (Trail 60 on hiking maps) towards Highway 16 until the last switchback, where the trail turns to the southeast. The old wagon road starts about 10m past the turn at 414929E, 5858969N , at a sharp right angle.
There is a faint blaze on a tree beside the trail. Look for rows of rock, which were used to delineate the downhill side of the tote road. The old trail is faint here, and there is quite a bit of blowdown, but it pretty easy to follow until 414783E, 5859021 N.
At this point, the road angles up the hill at a 45 degree angle on your right into a small draw. If you end up in a small clearing with steep slopes on all sides, you have gone too far. Either backtrack, or bushwhack up the slope on your right to 414731E, 5859050N. You should now be on the trail again. At the top of the draw, at 414618E 5859183N, the trail turns sharply left. It now follows the contours of the slope. If coming from the west, do not miss the turnoff downhill into the draw here. The trail is virtually impossible to see here, so you’ll be bushwhacking here through relatively open terrain.
From here, the trail contours along the mountainside at approximately 1200m. It is very faint to non-existing in places, so you may have to look around for it, or just head in a general westerly direction to 414287E, 5859301N. Keep an eye on the canopy – in most places there is a distinct opening where the trail is/was. And search for the rows of rocks. There’s also a game trail in places. At 414287E, 5859301N the trail becomes very good again, with clear signs of the old road. Hike west from here along the trail to a creek bed and fire guard. If you lose the trail before you get to the creek, on the west side the trail starts at 413488E, 5859726N. From here the trail is easy to follow until another open area where you may lose it. Going westwards, it reappears at 413142E, 5859586N. It should now be easy to follow until you join the old, but excellent trail to Golden Lakes at 411955E, 5859779N.
Continue westwards, and follow the trail down the hill to an old, grown-in parking lot at 5859586E, 5859472N. You emerge onto a wide, old road bed. About a km west this becomes the old railroad bed. Follow this beautiful rail bed west, past the Decoigne station, all the way to the Miette Trailhead at 401958E, 5861318N, just before the rail bed dead-ends at the Miette River.
Aside from a bit of bushwhacking and route finding, this is a very pleasant route, and a great, historic alternative to walking along the highway!
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