• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    8.1 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3231.6 Feet

Easy Parking
Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

The Watchtower basin trail is a 13km hike that connects to the more popular Skyline trail. It can be done as a day hike or an overnighter at the Watchtower campground, The hike provides breathtaking views that would otherwise require a multi-day hike to reach. This alone makes the trail perfect for both the more experienced backpackers and weekend warriors alike.

The beginning of the trailhead descends down to the Maligne river where hikers have to rock hop due to the bridge being washed away in 2012. Soon after the river the elevation steadily climbs through dense forest. After about 20 minutes the forest opens into the charred aftermath of the Excelsior wildfire (2015.) The trail is clear through the 3km of burned forests and provides views of the surrounding Maligne valley.

After re-entering the forest the trail follows Excelsior Creek through the lower slopes of the valley. Around 6 km the trail turns South and opens into the Watchtower Basin. This stretch of the hike provides a 360° view of the basin and the surrounding peaks.

As the trail continues up the valley it winds along the creek through chest high brush. This section of the trail is poorly marked and can be very muddy depending on the time of year, so expect wet boots. At about 9 km hikers will come across a stump hammered into a tree guiding you to the campsite. From here a creek must be forded to access the camp site. The campsite is equipped with 4 tent pads, 2 picnic tables , a bear pole and a wooden throne with a fairly nice view.

From the campsite the trail is difficult to distinguish and even disappears at a few spots. Just keep following the creek and hiking towards the headwall. Later season hikers may encounter snow at this point (It was knee deep at the beginning of September). The climb up up the headwall follows several markers before meeting up with the Skyline trail at Shovel Pass.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Stove
  • Boots
  • Appropriate Clothing
  • Food and Water
  • Bear Spray
  • Camera and Lenses
  • Backcountry Permit and Campsite Reservation( 780-852-6177)
  • Anything else you need to enjoy a night in the backcountry
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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