Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada

Ä’äy Chù (Slim's River) West

Trailhead:
Tachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre
Distance:
approx. 32 km one way
Time:
3 - 5 Days return
Elevation Gain:
2017 M (6617') to summit of Observation Mountain
Maximum Elevation:
2114 M (7000')
1:50 000 Topographic Map:
Slim's River 115 B/15

Overview

This trail/route is recommended as a 3-5 day trip that starts from the Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) West parking lot and follows a maintained hiking trail for 22.5 kms along the west side of the Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) south to Canada Creek. The trail ends at the Canada Creek primitive campsite but most hikers continue along a route that climbs to the plateau or to the top of Observation Mountain. This popular route has wonderful views of the Kaskawulsh Glacier. Although the Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s) Valley trail is relatively easy to follow, the climb up Observation is long and can be demanding, requires route-finding skills, and thus is classed as difficult.

There is a primitive campsite at 22.5 km on the edge of the Canada Creek fan. At the campsite fires are permitted in the established fire pit only. Random, low impact camping is permitted along the trail past Bullion Creek, except in the Bullion Creek dunes.

Description

After registration at the Tachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre, drive or hike 2.6 km to the parking area at the start of the trail. Follow the old mining road to the first creek crossing at Sheep Creek. As there are no bridges along the trail, the creek can be crossed via a log or by wading. Further down the trail the branch to the Bullion Plateau trail is marked with a post, continue straight past this trailhead. The road narrows to a trail through a marshy area of Coin Creek and widens again at Bullion Creek. Crossing Bullion creek can be difficult in the afternoon or after it has rained or snowed. Hikers may have to cross further downstream, where the creek is braided. The mining road is visible on the other side of the creek. South of the creek is the 5.8 km post. (The toe of the Kaskawulsh is visible from the post at Bullion Creek and many sites along the valley). Walk south on the creek bed, below the embankment for about 2.5 km. The footpaths from Bullion creek converge around the base of the Bullion sand dunes at the 9.3 km post. All overnight camping prior to Bullion Creek is not permitted. This is to protect the experience of day users and minimize impacts on cultural resources in the area. Camping is not recommended at the dunes past Bullion Creek This is a special preservation area with fragile soil and vegetation.

At this point there are two options available for the next 6 km. If it is dry in the valley you can cross the river flats. There will be a few extremely muddy creek crossings but the travel is generally easy as it follows flat ground. This route choice is not recommended early in the season or after a lot of rain. If it is extremely wet follow stable ground closer to the foot of the mountain. This continues to km 15.4 where you will cross the first alluvial fan (rocky area sloping off the side of the mountain).

Cross the fan at approximately km 16.3 by following the posts and the trail. Two marker posts direct you into the trees and up hill through the forest. This bypass route takes you around a very marshy section. It will be less troublesome to follow these bypass trails even though the shoreline looks very inviting to follow. Follow the trail to the beginning of a large creek fan. Looking directly south, a set of three rock cairns are visible. These direct you high across the fan to km post 17.8. The trail drops down off the fan to another marsh area and small pond. Here a marker post directs you up and around this area and onto an obvious trail for 1 km.

Exiting this portion of trail, you reach another small creek fan. Posts and rock cairns will direct you along an obvious trail that ends at a boardwalk and then continues across an open area. At this point the trail climbs steadily up steep hills and following a narrow path above the cliffs. This is the most difficult section of the trail and can make for a long end of the day. Although some of these bypass trails create undesired elevation gain at this point of the hike they are intended to eliminate several hazardous areas. Below, the A’äy Chù (Slim’s River) cuts up against the cliffs and is impassable and there are many areas of quick sand mud.

Once up the cliffs you have a view of the river valley. It’s a good spot to look for bears on the river flats. After the cliffs the footpath leads up to km 21.2. The trail then descends to the primitive campground at the km 22.5 post. There is an outhouse and water from a nearby stream. This campground is heavily used so please minimize your impact in this area. Campfires are only permitted in the established fire pit. Campers are asked to tent in the cleared tenting areas either in the trees on the left side of the hill above the fire pit or the trees near the outhouse to the right of the fire pit. Please stay on established trails to prevent erosion and vegetation damage.

It is possible to hike to the campground in one day but some find it easier to camp 3/4 of the way up the valley, then camp further up Canada Creek the next day. Please note that between approximately km 17 and km 22.5 there are no areas that would allow for camping because of the steep hills and lack of fresh water.

Observation Mountain Route

From the primitive campsite at km 22.5 find the easiest place to cross Canada Creek. If you travel directly south from the campsite towards the toe of the Kaskawulsh glacier you will reach the section of Canada Creek that is braided into smaller channels as it spills into A’äy Chù (Slim’s River). This is often the best place to cross the creek. Watch for a 6x6 post in the middle of the delta due south of the campsite that leads you in this direction. After crossing Canada Creek head west towards the base of Observation Mountain. Continue heading west (upstream) up Canada Creek, until you get to Columbia Creek flowing out of the southwest into Canada Creek (about 4 kms) . The cliffs around Columbia Creek are very good places to see mountain goats. Follow along the left side of Columbia Creek for a short distance (about 500-800 m) until you notice a game trail heading up the slope to your left, just prior to a cliff face that drops down to the creek. The trail starts a few feet above the creek bed due to recent erosion so may be easy to miss. Follow this game trail up onto a steep narrow ridge into the alpine. This is one of the easier routes up onto Observation Mountain. It will be in your best interest to remain on the ridges for the ascent and especially on your descent off the mountain (remember which ridge you ascended for your hike back down). This route will take you to a large open alpine saddle or plateau. Continuing due south to the end of the plateau will bring you to a spectacular view of the South Arm and overlooking the Kaskawulsh Glacier. To the east is the peak of Observation Mountain. There are panoramic views of the A’äy (Slim’s) and Kaskawalsh rivers and valley glaciers from the summit. It is not necessary to climb right to the top Observation for a view of the Kaskawulsh as you can view the entire glacier from the edge of the plateau. The higher on the peak you climb the more you are able to see of the entire valley. It is best to return down the mountain via the same ridges recommended for the ascent.

The route described for Observation Mountain is only one possible approach. The north east ridge of Observation is very steep but has been climbed in the past. Some hikers have also gone between the mountain and the Kaskawulsh Glacier to climb the south west side of Observation.

Comments

This description outlines only one of many possibilities for hiking this route. Hazards such as changes in creek levels, the course of the A’äy Chù’(Slim's River),and bear sightings may require hikers to vary their route considerably. You will have to rely on your skills and discretion when choosing your route.

Unfortunately, cases of giardia have been reported in the A’äy Chù(Slim’s River), so boiling water, tablets or filters are recommended.

Good boots are useful when climbing Observation Mountain and gaiters are handy for the alpine snow and deep mud on some of the flats. A hiking pole is recommended for descending Observation Mountain and is useful for creek crossings.

Expect this route to be very busy with hikers throughout July and August.

Note that creeks in the valley will vary in size dramatically even over the course of a day (especially in spring) and as a general rule creeks are lowest and easiest to cross in the early morning.

All overnight camping prior to Bullion Creek is not permitted. This is to protect the experience of day users and minimize impacts on cultural resources in the area. Camping is not recommended at the dunes past Bullion Creek. This is a special preservation area with fragile soils and vegetation.

Bear sightings are common in this area. Use of bear resistant food canisters is mandatory. Review recommendations for travel within the You Are In Bear Country brochure. All bear sightings should be reported to the staff at one of the Visitor Centres.

Trails and Routes