Hostels in the wilderness
Mountain escapes made more affordable
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
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.