The rigorous Canol Heritage Trail is one of the most challenging in North America, suitable only for experienced, well-equipped hikers. Built during World War II as a pipeline route through the mountains from Norman Wells to the Yukon, the Canol route is still dotted with abandoned equipment. It's long, remote, unmarked and frequently washed out. Disorienting box canyons can be difficult to navigate. No services are provided, emergency or otherwise. You must make arrangements for provisioning, drop-off and pickup in advance. Once on the Trail, you're on your own.
Trail has significant elevation changes all along, reaching 5437ft (1754 m) at the Plains of Abraham. River crossings are the real challenge - 3 very difficult ones. Carcajou (mile 25), Little Keele(mile 50) and the deepest is the Twitya (mile 135). The western section of the Canol is in the better shape and may be biked to some extent, until the Twitya River.
Food drops can be put in by a small plane where there is an airstrip and buildings - at Mile 222, 170, 108 and 80.
Water should be purified before drinking. Beware of lakes and rivers that contain abandoned fuel dumps, trucks etc.
There are no organized camp sites, but you can camp anyplace near the road. Some buildings and cabins can help provide shelter at Miles 208, 108, 80, 75, 50 and 36. There is a private cabin at Caribou Pass near Mile 192.
At Mile 212 you can stop at Dechenla Lodge and an outfitters lodge at Godlin lakes at Mile 170 with emergency radios. Contact Stan Simpson about his cabins at Mile 170 (will offer bed & breakfast to hikers also) - see Ram Head Outfitters.
A satellite phone and a GPS would be very helpful for most groups. Call Stan Simpson to arrange air support, pick-up or transportation across rivers. His Iridium sat phone number is: 011-8816-3144-3781 (or just 00 not 011 if using a satellite phone). You will need an Iridium satellite phone with coverage of the far north. Contact Greg Smith at 604-250-4155 at Outbound Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org) or see their website.They will rent or sell hand-held equipment, and can help with service contracts or pre-paid airtime cards.
Check out the awesome photos of the trail taken by Bruce Kirkby. His website has a Canol Trail album. For a detailed trip report of Bruce's expedition in 2000, please read the unpublished chapter of his new book - see Chapter 8 (copyright Bruce Kirkby - all rights reserved). His book is "The Dolphin's Tooth" - available in bookshops or online.
East end: Must cross the Mackenzie River by boat, helicopter or charter plane out of Norman Wells. Contact Stan Simpson who helps out hikers with air charters using a helicopter (email him at: email@example.com as he has internet at the Godlin Lake camp). Mile 5 is the start of the walk (as marked after the river crossing). Elevation here is 200 ft (65 m) above sea level.
West end: Charter a flight to land at Macmillan airstrip or in summer one can drive from Ross River, YT along the North Canol road (250 km) to the NWT border. Macmillan pass is at 4750ft (1500m).
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Posted By: xtremepeaks
- Thu Nov 22 22:20:37 UTC 2007
UpsideAmazing scenery, solitude, remoteness, a great place to spend a week or more in the wilderness, even if you don't plan to hike the entire trail. DownsideWatch out for a large beaver dam near the Ekwi river. Cross the river just past the beavers, Mile 176. Mile 185-186 is a washout, just cross the Ekwi twice, do not climb the cliffs (guidebook page 27 is incorrect!!). Also watch out for bears near Mile 183 as there are many berries along the way and Ramhead Outfitters has a camp called Grizzly Camp at 183. CommentI was there last summer and rode my mountain bike from Mile 222 to the Ekwi river past Caribou Pass. Conditions were generally good except for some big downpours that raised river levels and caused some swampy areas to be flooded.