Magazine article Sunset

Lodges Worth a Walk

Magazine article Sunset

Lodges Worth a Walk

Article excerpt

Across the Canadian Rockies, splendid backcountry lodges await you--got your hiking boots?

The haunting gray Slate Range, with its stratified steps of rock, forms the backdrop to a wildflower-packed meadow--the setting of Skoki Lodge. Not a soul is in sight. No wonder: It's a 6.8-mile trek through Banff National Park to this wilderness retreat.

Skoki is one of a handful of historic backcountry lodges still operating along the trail system that crisscrosses the Canadian Rockies. Most of these hostelries were built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1920s and '30s, and inhabit remote and spectacular settings.

Guests are still required to do some footwork--sometimes a lot--to get to these destinations, as none is accessible by car. (A handful of exceptions can be reached by horse or by limited helicopter or shuttle bus service.) The hikes to the lodges vary in difficulty and distance; most are between 5 and 10 miles of maintained roads and trails. But almost all are spectacular enough to make the journey memorable.

Lodge operators send you detailed directions as well as instructions on how to dress and what to pack in. Most trailheads start high (generally 5,000 feet) and climb even higher, so pace yourself and consider spending a day acclimatizing before you hike.

The lodges listed here are the Canadian Rockies' most authentic historic backcountry properties, treasures that might remind you of miniature national park lodges. Few have indoor plumbing, but it's hard to beat an outhouse with a drop-dead view.

Meals are top-notch, with fresh ingredients packed in by helicopter, horse, or human. Rates include breakfast buffets, bag lunches, and dinners, plus afternoon tea and pastries.

Unless otherwise noted, prices cover one person per night; a two-night minimum stay is normally required. Special rates are usually available for children. All prices are in Canadian dollars.

* Mount Assiniboine Lodge. French-Canadian elk-hide furniture fills the lounge of the Scandinavian-style log lodge, built in 1928 in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Guests stay in one of six rooms tucked under eaves or in one of six log cabins with views of Mt. Assiniboine, the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies. Though outhouses are still the norm, a new sauna and shower house add luxury. GETTING THERE: The 17-mile hike to the lodge over Assiniboine or Wonder Pass takes six to eight hours. Helicopter service operates three days a week; hikers can have their gear flown in. …

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