Great Divide Trail (GDT)
ElevationAscent: 103,320' 31,492 m
Descent: -104,449' -31,836 m
High: 8,400' 2,560 m
Low: 3,105' 946 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 46% (25°)
Current trail conditions
Popular hikes nearby
Carthew - Alderson Traverse
12.0 mi 19.3 km • Point to Point • 2,247 ft Ascent 685.03 m Ascent
Singletrack Pincher Creek, AB( 2 )
9.1 mi 14.6 km • Out and Back • 1,710 ft Ascent 521.35 m Ascent
Singletrack Pincher Creek, AB( 1 )
Ptarmigan Tunnel Route
10.9 mi 17.5 km • Out and Back • 2,283 ft Ascent 695.97 m Ascent
Singletrack Swiftcurrent, MT( 8 )
Cory & Edith Passes
8.1 mi 13.0 km • Loop • 3,312 ft Ascent 1009.57 m Ascent
Singletrack Banff, AB( 8 )
Healy Pass Out and Back
11.6 mi 18.6 km • Loop • 2,181 ft Ascent 664.7 m Ascent
Singletrack Banff, AB( 1 )
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“Canada's Rocky Mountains at their best, wild and beautiful, along the Continental Divide.”— Joan Pendleton
Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
The Main GDT Sections are lettered A - G, going from south to north. There are also several alternate routes to provide additional interest and adventure, high routes, routes around otherwise less desirable (to some) routes, etc. Whether one thru-hikes the whole GDT, one or more sections, a weekend backpack, a run or a day hike on the GDT, one will experience the vast and beautiful wilderness of these mountains.
- Great Divide Trail - Section A (Canada/USA Border to Coleman)
- Great Divide Trail - Section B (Coleman to Kananaskis Lakes)
- Great Divide Trail - Section C (Kananaskis Lakes to Field)
- Great Divide Trail - Section D (Field to Saskatchewan Crossing)
- Great Divide Trail - Section E (Saskatchewan Crossing to Jasper)
- Great Divide Trail - Section F (Jasper to North Boundary Trail)
- Great Divide Trail - Section G (North Boundary Trail to Kakwa Lake)
Summer weather can include snow.
Resources regularly updated with the latest conditions and other information are:
- GDTA website www.greatdividetrail.com
- Dustin Lynx book "Hiking Canada's Great Divide Trail"
- GDT App
- Ryan Silk's GDT Map Atlas
- Gem Trek maps
However, with that said, here are some tidbits:
The GDT is divided into 7 Sections (see Hike Sections above) that vary in length from about 100km (60mi) to 220km (140mi). Additionally, there are many alternate routes—some are high routes with breath taking vistas, some merely provide variety and new adventure and others take one around areas deemed less desirable to some people. These alternate routes are listed in the Trail description of the section that they pertain to.
The GDT goes through:
- 5 national parks
- 9 provincial parks
- 4 wilderness areas
- Crown Land
The GDT Experience
To a day hiker: They drive up to a trailhead along the GDT, get out of their car, say hello to a few others they see, find a noticeable trailhead sign, and set off on a nice well-maintained trail. The day is spent admiring the beauty, walking along a good, well-maintained trail, snacking, and greeting other hikers. They finish, get back in their cars, and drive off to dinner.
To a thru-hiker (or section hiker): The thru-hiker or section hiker does weeks of planning, arranging for resupplies and transportation, and preparing their gear (light but able to handle rain, snow, sun, creek crossings, animals, bugs, brushy and faint/disappearing trails, and plenty of food). They then travel to the trailhead (or access trail) and may see people and a noticeable trailhead sign OR may not, depending on the trailhead.
Their days are filled with beauty and challenges. There will be days when one floats along in magnificent scenery and sunshine, but also days when one slogs through wet underbrush, possibly in rain/snow. In places the trail is obvious and easy to hike at a fast pace but hikers will also encounter boot-sucking mud and climbs with no visible trail (much consultation of the GPS device and/or map will be necessary). There will be stretches where no other humans are seen for a few days and also days spent among the day hikers and overnighters on popular, well maintained trails. This is just a sampling of the thru-hiker/section hiker experience. The total experience is impossible to put in words.
Gaining momentum, in 1974 the federal OFY program funded 6 students to do a formal survey of the GDT route. First Nations trails, pack routes, etc were considered to propose this GDT route. The students continued to work to make the GDT a reality.
This led to the formation of the GDTA in 1975. Government funding and trail building ensued. By 1986, much of the GDT was in place. Then in the 1990s, priorities changed, funding dwindled, and the GDTA went quiet, as did trail work.
Starting around 2000, GDT interest and work slowly re-awakened. In 2013, the GDTA was revived, and since then it has very actively led GDT trail work and promotion.
Local Club: Great Divide Trail Association
Jun 1, 2019: June 2019 Trail and Road Conditions
May 10, 2019: Come Build Trails with Us: It’s More than Just Work