Apparently Parks Canada Doesn’t Want You Using Their Trails

The national parks of the Canadian Rockies are stunningly beautiful. They are also laced with trails that allow visitors of all levels of athleticism to get off the highway and step right into that gorgeous scenery.

That is, IF you can find one of those trails.

While there is a very well-developed trail network, actually locating a specific trail can be a challenge. It’s almost as if Parks Canada doesn’t want visitors to find them. I found the parks of the Canadian Rockies (particularly Banff and Jasper) to be extremely frustrating to navigate, with almost no roadside wayfinding signage except to mark campgrounds or other built facilities. It’s not user-friendly if you just want to find a hiking trail.

Looking for the Beauty Creek trail? Do you think it might be at the (signed) Beauty Creek wayside by the hostel? Nope. It’s down the highway another mile or so at an unmarked parking lot on the opposite side of the road. There is a small trail marker once you find the trail at the far end of the parking area. Even then, there isn’t a sign to tell you what trail it is. I guess visitors are just supposed to know these things.

Beauty Creek in Jasper National Park - ExplorationVacation

Not enough of a challenge? Why don’t you locate the trail to the Bow River outlet? Apparently the pull-off it is marked by fluorescent tape that local hikers wrapped around trees along the highway so they can find it. We weren’t able to spot it.

Even more frustrating is the fact that these short trails suitable for casual hikers. It would be nice if Parks Canada made it possible for us to find them.

Some guidebooks, like the Parkways of the Canadian Rockies and the How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies series, identify the location of trailheads by milepost. However, since mileage is not signed along the roadways, using this information requires setting your vehicle’s trip meter back to zero every time you begin a trip up or down a highway (which we never remembered to do) and, in the case of the photography series, it also requires having a vehicle that measures distance in kilometers (our car didn’t). On the other hand, the photography guides provide GPS coordinates, allowing those with a GPS (which we don’t have) to easily locate the trail of their choice.

It should be easier.

Our inability to locate specific trails was an ongoing frustration during our travels along the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper.

It really did feel as if the system was designed specifically to keep visitors like us out.

Planning a Canadian Rockies Vacation 

Share this!

4 thoughts on “Apparently Parks Canada Doesn’t Want You Using Their Trails”

  1. I’m not sure if you are still in the Rockies, but we found one really good guide book for hikes. Unfortunately it is at our cabin (and I am not!), but I will give you a quick description in case you are in a book store. Blue spine, mountain shot on cover (of course!), b&w pics inside. Inside each hike gives things to look for with the distance, for instance “400m – creek on right side, 1.2 km – start of switchbacks” etc. ….very detailed. Then at the end of each chapter (each chapter is dedicated to a different national park) it gives several “short hikes”. We have literally worn this book out. If you are in the parks for a bit, let me know, I can get the title and author when we head to the cabin Friday night. We have bought many hiking books but this one was by far the best and we never had a problem finding a trailhead.

    1. We are home now (I have a terrible time editing photos and writing when I have gorgeous scenery outside my window!), but if you share the name of the book that would be helpful for my next trip and hopefully for others too. Sounds like you get to the Rocky Mountain parks regularly – lucky you!

Your turn!