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Article Teaser: To sup on pan-seared buffalo tenderloin or continue staring out the window at Vermilion Pass, crisscrossed with Banff hiking trails: That is the question.

Keep reading below...

Summer Sweet Spots for Hikers

Copyright (c) 2007-2017 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
Written by:

To sup on pan-seared buffalo tenderloin or continue staring out the window at Vermilion Pass, crisscrossed with Banff hiking trails: That is the question.

Sitting in Storm Mountain Lodge's dining room should be a long love affair. The sweeping panoramas of peaks, from the Sawback Range to Storm Mountain and the massive burns left by a history of forest fires – all encourage lingering over conversations that involve Banff's hiking trails. And then there's the organic/free range menu...with rack of lamb dressed with a mint/cucumber salsa as well as free range chicken, fresh wild fish and so forth. But one of these delicacies are what put this historic bungalow camp, perched at 1,708 m (5,624 ft.) along Hwy. 93, on the map – back in 1922.

Built as one of the Canadian Pacific Railway's eight bungalow camps – to promote tourism in the Rockies – this historic spot is a lovely timepiece that harks back to the days when tourists would have hiked or taken horses from the closest rail station, into the wilds. Those "wilds" are now accessible by car but many of Banff's hiking trails that lead into the backcountry are just a short jaunt away. Boom Lake is a relatively flat 5.1-km (3.2 mi) amble to an exceptionally clear glacial lake – just a couple of kilometres from the Lodge. Other nearby hikes include Vista Lake and Twin Lakes and the more rigorous, and slightly-farther-away hike to Rockbound Lake. All of these hiking trails lead into the backcountry where wildlife is plentiful – so be on the lookout for moose and deer. Bears, too, have been spotted in these areas.

Historic Digs: The little log cabins that frame the main log lodge could be plucked from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Twelve of the 16 tiny cabins are the originals – but all cabins were renovated and winterized in 2003 and now brag of handmade log beds, antique-finished doors, well-insulated walls, custom-made wood furniture, antique clawfoot tubs and leather loveseats that cradle original stone fireplaces.

Other attractions: You can go beyond Banff's hiking trails to its fishing pools. Dip your line in the Bow River, five km away; go rafting on the Class IV Kicking Horse River (an hour away); have a soak in either the Upper Hot Springs in Banff (20 minutes away) or the Radium Hot Springs (an hour's drive).

Location: Storm Mountain Lodge is located in Banff National Park on Vermilion Pass along the Banff-Windermere Highway (#93 south). It is just 25 minutes outside of Banff and Lake Louise townsites.

Rates: Summer prices are $199 per cabin, which includes breakfast. Most cabins sleep two but several will work for families of four.


Baker Creek Chalets

One of the biggest of the CPR's bungalow camps (originally built in 1949 to house railway workers), Baker Creek Chalets is a cluster of 35 cabins that have been continually updated with the latest redevelopment project ending two years ago. Scattered along the shores of Baker Creek, on the scenic 1A Highway between Banff and Lake Louise, these log units vary from loft chalets to deluxe trapper's cabins with double hot tubs, and massive fireplaces. Some have kitchen units so many families stay for a week, or so. A huge component of the latest $2-million development scheme was the building of an on-site heritage centre where there's a library, stunning archival photos, an executive retreat centre – plus an interpretive program that's offered on weekends during the summer.

Nearby hikes: Located only 10 minutes from Lake Louise, means Baker Creek is an ideal hub, linking you to many Banff hiking trails. Both teahouse treks start at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise; then there's nearby Castle Lookout; Johnston Canyon (wheelchair accessible) where hardy hikers can venture beyond the actual rocky canyon up to the Paint Pots; for wildlife viewing, hop on a gondola at Lake Louise where you can sometimes spot a resident grizzly bear; keeners should hike from Moraine Lake to Paradise Valley...it's long (18.8 km/11.7 mi) and tough, but awards you with spectacular views from Sentinel Pass. This area brags of having one of Banff's most concentrated hiking trail systems.

Other attractions: You can leave Banff's hiking trails to haul in a cutthroat or rainbow trout, right from the pools and ripples of Baker Creek, which slices through the property.

Must-do: Have a meal in the charming Bistro – famous for its cozy atmosphere and great grub...you can't go wrong ordering Alberta Beef Ribeye steak, cedar planked salmon or their pork loin dish.

Location: About two hours west from Calgary's airport. After driving west on the Trans-Canada Highway past Banff, take the Route 93 South Interchange and then exit on to Hwy. 1A (Bow Valley Parkway). The lodge is 14 km from this junction, heading toward Lake Louise.

Rates: Summer prices begin at $205 per cabin, per night.


Engadine Lodge

While you might be just a smidgen off the Smith Dorrien Highway, it's tranquil enough to feel like you're in the backcountry. Slip into a hut tub after a day spent hoofing around the area's many trails and watch the light dance across Birdwood Peak or Tent Ridge. Yes, that's likely a moose you've just spotted as they're numerous. In fact, lodge manager Blake O'Brien, spied 12 moose in one day, at the boggy end of – you guessed it – Moose Meadow.

In the heart of Kananaskis Country, lies this intimate 17-room, European-style lodge, first built in 1987. Managed by O'Brien, who worked for more than a decade at one of Alberta's premier backcountry lodges, Skoki – you'll find many of the personal touches, for which the latter is so famous.

So don't bother to bring in your mobile phone or Blackberry – this may be "frontcountry", but apart from its accessibility, the rest is a wilderness experience. Like many of the other lodges, Mt. Engadine Lodge is a combination of cabins and lodge rooms as well as a large dining room – used by more than just lodge guests. In fact, on weekends many folks end their Alberta hiking day with a stop here, for afternoon tea or dinner at 7 p.m.

Nearby Rocky Mountain hikes include Chester Lake and Burstall Pass (both are a five-minute drive from here). Fanning out from the lodge is also a trail system to Rummel Lake, Commonwealth Meadows and Tryst Lake. A little further will take you to an extensive network of trails off the Mt. Shark Road, your start into Mt. Assiniboine. Mountain biking is also prolific at Watridge Lake and the west side of Spray Lake, along an old fire road. Good scrambling and bouldering routes can be found at The Fish and Tent Ridge.

Mt. Engadine Lodge also realizes that newbies could benefit from guided experiences which is why guests can join a staff member three times a week on a local hike. Hikes run Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, from July 1 through Aug. 31, and will vary as to group size and time of day depending on the group's interest.

In addition, they've launched a bear program on Thursdays whereby experts from the Karelian Bear Sheparding Institute offer talks on how they condition both grizzly and black bears within the Parks.

Other attractions: Besides the many hiking trails, it's not uncommon to see moose, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and mountain goats, along with a large variety of birds, right from the Lodge's deck. Fishing, kayaking, heli-hiking tours, rafting and canoeing are all accessible opportunities that the lodge can organize.

Location: From Calgary follow Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway West) to Highway # 40 Kananaskis Trail. Turn left (south), and keep on Highway 40 (you will go past the Nakiska Ski Hill, and Kananaskis Golf Course, and the Fortress Mountain Ski Hill), all the way to the Smith Dorrien - Spray Trail turnoff (# 742). Turn right (west) and soon after turn right again, and then follow the Smith Dorrien - Spray Trail for about 30 kms. (north) to Mt Shark Road. Turn left.


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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