Spend a weekend in a remote off-the-grid cabin with a glacier out your back door. Alternatively, check in to a deluxe cabin with hot springs located close enough that you can make a run for it in your bathrobe. These are just two of the “choose your own adventures” that await you in the Canadian Rockies this spring.
Option 1: Backcountry Wilderness Getaway in Banff National Park
I jokingly refer to the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel as a “shack”, but my girlfriend yells at me every time, insisting that it is a “magical palace.” While “palace” is a bit of a stretch for a wilderness cabin, Hilda Creek is certainly magical. You’d be hard pressed to find better views on a bluebird day.
The HI Hilda Creek Hostel is located off the remote Icefields Parkway, connecting Lake Louise and Jasper National Park. The hostel is operated by Hostelling International Canada. The HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel sleeps 6 people and access is via a short 5-minute hike down off the highway. (And you’ll definitely want the snowshoes for that walk.)
Visitors should be prepared for a winter camping type experience at this remote property. You will be without electricity, indoor plumbing, or Wi-Fi (you won’t even find a cell signal here.) Drinking water comes from melted snow, and bathrooms are located in an outhouse building. And don’t expect a hostel manager on site here. This is complete DIY accommodations, with access to the property via a keycode given before each stay.
The hostel has two cabins on the property, one for sleeping and one for eating/common room space. Fortunately both have propane heaters in them along with solar powered lights. A propane stove, dishes, and cooking supplies are available in the kitchen. Bring your sleeping bags, food, and personal belongings, and you’re good to go.
From the hostel we like to hike up the creek to go sledding off glacier moraines. We usually take a short drive up to the Columbia Icefields Centre, where you can walk to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. Tangle Creek Falls and Panther Falls are great objectives from the hut because each is a short 10-15-minute drive away.
Note you will be traveling in backcountry terrain and it is recommended you have avalanche skills training. We try to stay out of avalanche terrain as a family, but without the training you won’t know where that is (or isn’t.) The Icefields Parkway requires winter tires for all travel during the winter season.
For further information or to make a booking at the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel please visit the Hostelling International Canada website. The Lake Louise Visitor Centre recommends that you check in before starting your trip. There you can find out about any travel advisories, road closures for the Icefields Parkway, and to check the current avalanche forecast. (Some of the hikes we enjoy would not be recommended in times of high risk.)
For additional info on backcountry overnights, read: Easy Ways To Stay Overnight In The Backcountry Year Round As A Family
Option 2: Hot Springs Getaway in British Columbia’s East Kootenay Rockies
If “winter in the backcountry” doesn’t scream “comfort” to you, this next adventure sure will. Spend a couple of nights in the East Kootenay Rockies at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in one of their new deluxe cabins. The cabins are a short walk away from the hot pools along with hiking trails leading down to the source of the hot water in the creek below.
When we stayed here, we opened our front door to find a herd of deer grazing only a few feet away. We also loved the proximity to the main lodge, where we enjoyed afternoon appetizers and pizza in the Bear’s Paw Bar and Grill, and a decadent Sunday brunch in the Antlers Restaurant.
Each cabin sleeps 4 people in two bedrooms. One bedroom has bunk beds for the kids and the other bedroom has a queen bed for the parents. The cabin contains a well equipped kitchen with microwave, full sized refrigerator, and dishwasher. No camping here!
You’ll also find other amenities including a barbecue, Keurig coffee maker and a TV with Netflix. The kids can be entertained while you enjoy the views from your balcony with a glass of wine. Suffice it to say, you’ll feel very comfortable here and you might want to check in for a week.
During our time at Fairmont Hot Springs, we enjoyed multiple dips in the hot pools and spent a day at the family ski area located up the road from the resort. Other nearby activities include ice skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway, which is the longest skating path in the world. Or you can visit the quaint town of Invermere on the Lake to browse the art galleries and shops along the main street.
For more information on Fairmont Hot Springs Resort or to make a reservation, please visit their website.
Option 3: Glamping Getaway in Kananaskis Country, Alberta
I’ve always said that you could not pay me enough money to sleep in a tent when there’s snow on the ground. However, I make an exception when it comes to Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis. The lodge has recently built 5 canvas glamping tents for guests to enjoy. In addition, they have lodge rooms, pet-friendly suites, and cabins available for overnight stays.
While you will be sleeping in a tent, this is where the similarities with camping end, and you can leave your sleeping bags at home. Each elevated tent comes furnished with a large king-sized bed, which can be split into twins if you’re traveling with a friend. There’s also a gas fireplace and a pull-out, which is great if you’re bringing the kids. Yes, these tents have indoor plumbing too with an ensuite bathroom!
Best of all, each stay at Mount Engadine Lodge includes all of your meals. You’ll receive afternoon charcuterie, dessert, and tea/coffee when you arrive, as well as a gourmet evening three course meal, breakfast the following morning, and a packed lunch to go for your adventures that next day.
I recently spent a night here with a girlfriend and we enjoyed the luxury of being able to drive into the wilderness lodge after spending the day skiing nearby trails. We also loved that we could snowshoe right out the main door of the lodge and across the road to the Rummel Lake Trail. At this trail we enjoyed views over the entire Spray Valley on a hike to a scenic backcountry lake.
Bring your partner for a romantic weekend away, gather your friends for a fun girls’ getaway, or bring the kids for a family escape. There are no shortage of trails surrounding the lodge. You’ll find an adventure suitable for every member of your group.
For more information or to make a reservation, visit the Mount Engadine Lodge website and read: Mount Engadine Lodge: Alberta’s Front Country Lodge With Backcountry Charm
Option 4: Mountain Town Getaway and Tiny Home Stay in Fernie, BC
Fernie is one of our favourite mountain towns for a multi-sport getaway any time of the year. Overnight stays have just gotten a whole lot more interesting as well with 6 new tiny homes built near the river on the Snow Valley Lodging Property.
The tiny homes are simple trailers that have been converted into a living space with loft. While they don’t look like much on the outside, they are well decorated, modern, and bright on the inside. Never for a second did I feel like I was “camping” despite spending a weekend in a trailer.
Each tiny home comes furnished with a pull-out sofa, a small fold up table and two stools for daytime use when not requiring the sofa bed. There is also a queen-sized bed upstairs in the loft. Aside from these basic furnishings, each house has a full bathroom with shower. There is a small kitchen with oven and mini fridge, but no microwave or dishwasher I’m afraid. In addition, for all your baking needs, you’ll have basic cooking supplies/dishes, including a toaster and coffee maker.
As a family of 3, it was a little tight for us on our recent stay. We laughed each evening as we’d convert the tiny home into sleeping mode by folding up the table and pulling out the sofa bed, and then convert it back into daytime mode the next morning. It really was no different than what you’d get with many camping trailers (shared table/bed space). At least we had indoor plumbing and electricity! So for winter camping we certainly didn’t suffer.
The Snow Valley Lodging Property is located a short walk from the river and the town pathway system. Borrow a free fat bike from the lodge (included with all stays) and ride over to the river for an enjoyable tour of the town. Alternately, take a walk along the river or enjoy cross-country skiing on the multi-use trail system. Whatever your mood, you’ll find an activity right outside your door.
Other recommended activities in the area include taking a snow cat tour up to Island Lake Lodge for lunch, where you can rent snowshoes for a tour around the lake. Another options include hiking around the Montane Trail network a short distance outside town, or visiting Fernie Alpine Resort for a day of downhill skiing. There’s also a great Nordic Centre if you’d like to try cross-country skiing for an afternoon.
Please visit the Snow Valley Lodging Company’s website for more information on their tiny homes or to make a reservation.
There are no shortage of great places to stay across the Canadian Rockies. Each property featured in this story is open year-round if you don’t make it out this spring. So you can still access the large variety of trails nearby for hiking or biking.