A Hike Through an Abandoned Campground: Hoodoo Creek Trail, Yoho National Park
Abandoned campsites. Dilapidated bathroom facilities. Wood stoves and propane tanks. 75 tent campsites left to ruin. What causes a large campground in a Canadian National Park close abruptly and leave large amounts of infrastructure to be taken back by the forest?
In 2013, Parks Canada elected to close Chancellor Peak Campground, which provided 59 campsites on the Western side of Yoho National Park. The decision was made after extreme flooding of the Kicking Horse River ripped through the Chancellor Peak Campground in Summer 2012. Parks officials stated that money was set aside to remove infrastructure such as fire rings, picnic tables, and buildings before more damage could occur.
Then why was Hoodoo Creek Campground abandoned in 2001 and left to rot? Seventy-five campsites lay empty near the town of Field, BC with remains of numbered signs still showing the rings of tent-sites barely visible through the grass and trees that have overgrown around them. Large bathroom facilities sit unlocked and still fully furnished with large amounts of plumbing supplies laying in their stalls. Huge, covered outdoor gathering areas with wood stoves and picnic tables lay un-touched if you disregard the numerous graffiti tags scattered through-out. Large dumpsters and outbuildings remain unused and still in relatively good shape considering the time that they have sat in the bitter Alberta winters.
Online research into the Hoodoo Creek Campground and it’s closure returned very little information. While digging through a Land Management Plan for Yoho NP from 2000, I found a section that mentions efforts to “Examine ways to improve wildlife movement at constricted areas, called pinch points… the Hoodoo Campground”. The Canadian Government has shown time and again that it is serious about protecting wildlife, but would it close a profitable campground in a unique location simply to allow animals to pass through the area easier? If so, wouldn’t Parks Canada Marketing take a story like that and run with it?
The location is still used heavily by visitors that seek to use the 30 campsites at the entrance to the campground, far from the A-F loops of the old campground. Thousands of visitors have probably stayed in the new sites without even knowing that the old sites were still there, that is how heavy the underbrush and trees have become. The other major draw to this area is a 3.3 KM hike to a rock formation called a Hoodoo, the namesake of the abandoned campground.
Once parked at the road block that keeps visitors from visiting the old campsites you must travel down a flat gravel road to reach the campground and Hoodoo Creek. You will begin to see campground signs for Camp A, B, C… Within each ring of sites, you will see short 4×4 posts with numbers on them marking where a tent pad used to be. Travel past the campsites to the creek and cross over to get to the trailhead. It appears that a few iterations of a bridge have been built over time and all have been wiped away by the spring snow melt.
Keep in mind that this is a very, very, steep trail. It gains over 300 m of elevation over less than a couple of kilometers. You begin hiking a set of gradual switchbacks through Douglas fir and the remnants of a prescribed burn in 2005. When we visited in October of 2017, the trail was clear and in good shape.
The switchbacks continue until you round the corner with a clear view of Mt. Chancellor and Wapta Falls in the distance. More on that in a later post. Continue around the bend and you will begin to see views of several Hoodoos jutting out of the side of the hill and Hoodoo Creek directly below. You will reach a sign for a couple of different view points. I advise taking the upper view point as the lower simply wasn’t very impressive.
Hoodoos are formed when softer rock is eroded away, yet the sedimentary rock that is covered by the harder stone above is protected from erosion and remains, forming a tower-like formation. The Lenchcoil Hoodoos are rare in that this type of rock formation is normally found in drier climates than Yoho NP.
The view from the edge of the Hoodoos is fantastic and it gives a very real sense of the size and scale of the formations. Continue up the trail for an interesting perspective of interesting objects, or spend some time soaking up the views of the crazy rocks from below.
This hike is an out and back and as you descend back to the creek you will be rewarded with excellent views of the surrounding valley. Wapta Falls is visible in a Tolkien-esque landscape over the horizon and should definitely be on your list of sites to see if you are fortunate enough to visit Yoho National Park. The hike down is much more enjoyable that the rather tough hike up to the Hoodoos.
A final note on the Hoodoos Campground: Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the Hoodoo Creek area, we couldn’t seem to get past the idea that something tragic happened here. When we crossed back across the creek, we found a water pump house next to a large water storage tank, a couple of thousand gallons of capacity if I had to guess. Inside this ridiculously well-maintained pump house was a brand new generator that had enough juice to power a small village. All of the water fittings on the storage tank were in excellent shape and had been used recently. We also found a large mass of water pipe that appeared to be used to pump water out of the creek at some point.
Is this a secret water heist?
Was there a mass-murder in the Hoodoo Creek Campground in 2001?
Or was this simply a move by Parks Canada to protect the travel of wildlife from one area of the park to another?
My research was inconclusive and hopefully someone who reads this can fill us in on what exactly happened at Hoodoo Creek. If you have information about this mysterious campground, we would love to hear from you. As always, follow us on Instagram to get the most up to date images and video from our trips and build progress on our bus. We would love it if you would check out the rest of the blog and the YouTube page as well. All social media is @okienomads. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day!