The Abandoned Rail Trail near the Rogers Pass Summit is the shortest rail trail in Canada and one with a tragic history. Located in Glacier National Park in British Columbia, Canada, this 1.2 kilometer stretch was once part of the original CPR rail line that crossed the Selkirk mountain range. It is also the site of the worst avalanche disaster in Canadian history.
Numerous closures occurred along this section of the CPR due to heavy snow falls and frequent avalanches from the steep mountain peaks. On March 4, 1910, 58 men were buried alive by a secondary snow-slide as they cleared the rail tracks from a previous avalanche.
Rating - Easy
Distance - 1.2 kilometers one-way
Elevation Gain - negligible
Duration - 1 hour round trip
When to Go - Mid-July to Mid-September.
How to get there - Glacier National Park is 1 hour from Revelstoke, BC or 1 hour from Golden, BC
Excerpt from Barry Taylor's hike on the Abandoned Rail Trail in Glacier National Park, BC (used with permission):
"On this day, an event is being held at the summit of Rogers Pass, a kilometre west (actually south) on the Trans Canada, from Glacier Park Lodge. I decide I will attend to pass the time. To get there, I can mosey along the highway for a kilometre or I can stroll on the Abandoned Rails Trail for 1.2 kilometres one-way. It is flat and follows the path of the original 1885 railroad route. The asphalt is laid down over the original railroad ties so it is completely unsuitable for rollerblading. There are information placards along the path which tell of the tragedy which occurred here on March 4, 1910. I am walking on historic and sacred ground. It is a fascinating but very sad story.
The high-altitude route through the Selkirk Mountains and across Rogers Pass is in a tight valley surrounded on both sides by very tall and steep mountains. Trains were frequently delayed by avalanche activity over the long winters. It had snowed for eight straight days before an avalanche slid down the side of Cheops Mountain and blocked the tracks on March 4, 1910. A crew was dispatched to clear the line. Just prior to midnight another avalanche came down the same chute and buried the crew. A frantic effort was launched immediately to save the workers. On March 5, 1910 the entire population of Revelstoke was called on to assist in the recovery effort. After several days of unrelenting effort, the bodies of 58 people were recovered. Thirty-two of the dead were of Japanese descent, recruited by Canadian Pacific Railway to supplement the scarce workforce in the area in that time. They came willingly to Canada for the adventure perhaps but more so for the income to help support their families back in Japan.
I am walking on the ground where this tragedy occurred in 1910. As I learn more from the information boards, I become quite emotional, particularly as I walk by one of the now-decrepit snow sheds installed to protect people and machines from avalanche.
This tragic event caused a great deal of change within the next few years. The news went worldwide. Tourist traffic declined substantially as rail travel in the area was deemed too dangerous. Construction began in 1913 on the eight kilometre Connaught Tunnel bored through Mount MacDonald to eliminate the avalanche threat. It was completed and put into service in 1916. The new line bypassed Glacier House completely and the grand hotel closed its doors in 1925 for lack of business from the publicity surrounding avalanche danger."
For a more outdoor adventures, consider the Asulkan Valley hike, to the remote Asulkan Hut above the tree line.
Barry Taylor is an avid hiker who has explored some of the more gruelling and scenic hikes in North America. Based in Calgary, he's explored the heights of the Canadian Rockies and even the depths of the Grand Canyon. Follow Barry's adventures of hiking in Glacier National Park at Hiking with Barry.