Heading back-country...where should you stay?
Looking to go further, or just escape into the wilderness for a few days? We are spoiled with a multitude of back-country shelters, huts and lodges within 3-4 hours of Calgary.
Back-country accommodations offer a bit of something for everyone, if you select the right destination for you and your group’s objectives and skills. Whether you are a looking to introduce your kids to the wilderness, or enjoy a few more creature comforts than camping in a tent, the facilities make it possible to carry less and provide a warm, dry base-camp to return to each night. A base camp also provides a mid-point on some longer more challenging trips. In addition, many of the accommodations have communal meal areas, providing an opportunity to meet other outdoor enthusiasts and share experiences and stories.
Now that you’re dreaming about your nights warm and dry under the stars, here is some guidance on selecting the right accommodation to get you out for your next adventure.
Shelters: Minimal amenities - $
Shelters are the most basic of fixed back-country accommodations. Offering shelter, a wood burning stove and designated spaces for sleeping and living, users are more protected from the elements than they would be if they were tent camping, but it requires them to bring everything they might take camping except that tent. These accommodations require users to be communally minded so that everyone can function in the limited space.
Banff National Parks has two shelters that are popular both in the winter and summer:
Huts: Moderate amenities - $$
Compared to shelters, huts allow users to leave key items of their baggage (including sleeping mats and cooking/eating gear) at home, so they can travel further. Huts are more accessible for those new to back-country travel. Huts can be a base-camp for further exploits or a destination in their own right.
- ACC Huts: These accommodations vary dramatically in their purpose (some are winter specific ski destinations with others being summer specific mountaineering base camps). Equally, they vary from single room accommodations limited to 6, to multi-building accommodations with sleeping quarters separated from the kitchen/living space that can accommodate up to 24 people. Those closest to Calgary, including Elk Lakes Cabin, Bow Hut, Wheeler Hut and Elizabeth Parker Hut, are popular in both winter and summer. Some of the accommodations are so desired destinations that a lottery is undertaken each year to allocate the bookings.
- Cypress Hills Huts: Great for families, these huts are busy in summer but under-utilized in winter. With no avalanche terrain, and relatively basic navigation, these huts are great for those new to back-country winter travel. Additionally, they are booked by the hut rather than by person, making them great for small groups or those not ready for communal back country living.
- Naiset and Hind Huts: Located adjacent to the Assiniboine Lodge, these huts benefit from access to some of the lodge facilities (including the sauna for a small fee). The sleeping cabins are limited to 5-8 people with a separate, large communal kitchen/living space. In addition to the option of skiing/hiking in, there is a helicopter service available for those that want to see the stunning scenery from above.
Lodges: Luxurious amenities and services - $$$
The type and number of amenities and services available vary greatly from Lodge to Lodge. Many provide private rooms or cabins, gourmet meals throughout the day as well as the option to take advantage of the local professional guides. But the amenities don’t stop there, some offer additional features such as saunas and seasonal specific equipment for guests to use during their stay. Hosts are on hand to share their local knowledge so you can make the most of your time.
Lodges are generally run privately by family groups. There are too many to mention, so here are just a few:
Not sure about your next trip? Visit us in the store to talk about where you want to go, how you want to get there and what you need to make it happen.