Hos­tels in the wilder­ness

Moun­tain escapes made more af­ford­able

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - TANYA KOOB

My hands burned in the crisp morn­ing air as I car­ried the last of our overnight gear down the path from our cabin at the Mos­quito Creek Hos­tel. I looked across the river to the camp­ground and paused to watch a fam­ily sit­ting by their camp­fire, blow­ing on their hands for warmth. A small tent was set up be­side them and I shud­dered at how cold it must have been for them overnight. This is life in the Rock­ies where it can go well be­low zero at night and then reach 20C by late af­ter­noon.

Camp­ing has al­ways been the most af­ford­able way to spend the night in the moun­tains but thanks to Hostelling In­ter­na­tional, there’s an­other cost­friendly op­tion in the form of ten wilder­ness hos­tels spread out across the moun­tain parks of Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia.

Some of them have pri­vate cab­ins and sleep­ing rooms, a few have in­door plumb­ing and elec­tric­ity, and our favourite even has a microwave!

Hostelling in Kananaskis

The Kananaskis Hos­tel is the clos­est wilder­ness hos­tel to Cal- gary and is also one of the most lux­u­ri­ous. Lo­cated a short drive away from Kananaskis Vil­lage, stay­ing at this hos­tel is an ideal way to ease yourself into a wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence with in­door bath­rooms, run­ning wa­ter, a fully stocked kitchen (with microwave and cof­fee maker), and elec­tric­ity. The kitchen and din­ing room re­sem­ble a large camp cook­house with space for your next fam­ily re­union, club trip, or youth re­treat. The hos­tel has three pri­vate bed­rooms that share a bath­room in their own hall­way of the main build­ing and the rooms are ideal for fam­i­lies with small chil­dren. Mean­while, out­side the hos­tel, you are just steps away from moun­tain bike trails the whole fam­ily can en­joy and short hikes to beau­ti­ful places like Troll Falls and Hay Meadows.

Hostelling in Banff

The wilder­ness hos­tels in Banff are much more rus­tic than the Kananaskis Hos­tel but most have a man­ager on site to help with any ques­tions or con­cerns.

If you want a true un­tamed and “wild” ex­pe­ri­ence, the Hilda Creek Hos­tel on the Ice­fields Park­way should do the trick. With no man­ager on site and no ameni­ties for a hun­dred kilo­me­tres, you will feel as if you are camp­ing in the back­coun­try. The hos­tel only sleeps six people so it’s a good op­tion for folks want­ing to rent an en­tire cabin for their group. While at the hos­tel, you’ll fetch drink­ing wa­ter from a nearby stream and get a good idea of how our an­ces­tors lived in the days be­fore mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. Lo­cated a short dis­tance from the Columbia Ice­fields Cen­tre, you’re ideally sit­u­ated to hike some of the best trails in the Rock­ies. Wild and re­mote — this is what you’ve come to Hilda Creek for with back­coun­try ex­pe­ri­ence highly rec­om­mended.

For fam­i­lies look­ing for a “softer” ex­pe­ri­ence, try Mos­quito Creek or Ram­part Creek also lo­cated on the Ice­fields Park­way. The Mos­quito Creek Hos­tel has a pri­vate cabin with two bed­rooms and your own kitchen, mak­ing it the best and ul­ti­mate fam­ily hos­tel in the Rock­ies. If you want to stay here, book early — it’s be­com­ing a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion year round. While you’ll still have to live with­out in­door plumb­ing, there is a manger on site at both prop­er­ties to help you get started. For a real treat, bring your swim suit for the wood burn­ing saunas at both sites.

Fi­nally, for cy­cling fam­i­lies, the Cas­tle Moun­tain Hos­tel is where you want to stay. Lo­cated on the quiet Hwy 1A at Cas­tle Junc­tion, you are only six kilo­me­tres away from the pop­u­lar John­ston Canyon hik­ing trail.

Hostelling in Jasper

Jasper has three wilder­ness hos­tels and they are conve- niently lo­cated near the best trails, tours, and scenery to be found in the park. Our favourite is Athabasca Falls for its two pri­vate rooms and prox­im­ity to Athabasca Falls, the Jasper Tramway, and bike trails into the town of Jasper. Lo­cated 30 min­utes south of the town of Jasper on the Ice­fields Park­way, the hos­tel is sit­u­ated close enough for a trip into town for din­ner or an af­ter­noon cup of cof­fee.

Also lo­cated on the Ice­fields Park­way closer to the Columbia Ice­fields Cen­tre, the Beauty Creek Hos­tel is the only hos­tel with a di­rect view of an ice­field. It’s per­fectly sit­u­ated for tak­ing a snow coach tour on the Athabasca Glacier or hik­ing the stun­ning Wil­cox Pass Trail. The hos­tel is one of the sim­plest in the HI collection, but the scenery more than makes up for lack­ing ameni­ties.

Fi­nally, the Maligne Canyon Hos­tel is your base camp of choice if you want to ex­plore Maligne Lake and take a boat cruise to the famed Spirit Is­land or hike the pop­u­lar canyon. The hos­tel is only 10 kilo­me­tres away from Jasper and is set on fab­u­lous bike trails that will take you all over the park from Maligne Canyon to the Jasper Park Lodge and through to the Ice­fields Park­way.

IN­FOR­MA­TION ON THESE HOS­TELS AND OTHER WILDER­NESS HOS­TELS SPREAD ACROSS AND VISIT

Pho­tos: Hostelling In­ter­na­tional

The Ram­part Creek Hos­tel on the Ice­fields Park­way near Banff of­fers a ‘soft’ ex­pe­ri­ence for fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing a wood-burn­ing sauna.

Hilda Creek Hos­tel of­fers an un­tamed back­coun­try ex­pe­ri­ence.

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