Only an hour from Calgary, and three hours from San Francisco, the Canadian Rockies are a fabulous destination for adventurers and nature lovers.
The most popular things to do
Don’t miss Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway. If you go, you shouldn’t miss these, but to get a real taste of the rugged mountains, take time to get out in the back country. Canoe on a lake, hike the best trails, see elk, mountain goats and bear, or horseback ride through rushing streams. End your day with a luxurious log cabin experience at a backcountry lodge. These are my favorites.
Off the beaten path discover Moraine Lake Lodge:
Canoe on a Mountain Lake, and Stay in Luxury in Banff National Park
For romance, luxury and canoeing, it’s hard to beat Moraine Lake Lodge. It is perched among trees above the glacial deep blue of the lake rimmed with mountains. Colorful canoes line the dock tempting you to get out on the water.
The jaw-dropping beauty of Moraine Lake is comparable to that of world-famous Lake Louise. It is one of the few remote lodges you can drive to.
Room service, flat screen TVs and phones aren’t part of the experience at the Moraine Lake Lodge. Instead, cuddle up next to the blazing fire, canoe on the lake or hike to the stunning Larch Valley.
The lodge’s restaurant is known for being one of Banff National Park’s top locations for five star food. It boasts gourmet dishes inspired by the Canadian Rockies like fresh buffalo Carpaccio with roasted pine nuts, deer tenderloin with red currants and juniper berries, Alberta elk rack crusted with pecans and cherries with a port wine glaze, and or steelhead trout filet.
Amenities include: free guest access to canoeing on the lake outside the posted hours, a complimentary bottle of wine in the room upon arrival, free WiFi and computer in the lounge, and plenty of free wood and kindling left discretely outside your door to help you keep the fire crackling. www.morainelake.com
Hike or Ski to Historic Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park
Skoki Lodge is a hike-in only destination lodge located in Banff National Park.Life at Skoki is simple. Once you arrive, it’s just you and your companions and the snow-capped mountains. Hike, eat, drink, chat, laugh, sleep and repeat.
When you arrive thirsty and hungry, you’ll discover a massive spread of cheeses, fruit, homemade cookies, bread and chili set out beside the toasty wood-burning stove. In the big kitchen something delicious is always being prepared. The food is fabulous.
The lodge and three cabins have no electricity or running water. No flush toilets; just two outhouses behind the lodge. You wash the old fashioned way: filling the pitcher in your room with warm water, provided by the staff.
Candles and kerosene lamps light the rooms offering just enough soft light for a cozy ambiance. Big soft couches and chairs surround an open wood fire in the living room where guests congregate to play Scrabble, cards or read.
The Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies opened the lodge in 1931 for winter skiers and today it is equally popular with summer hikers.
In the summer of 2012 William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed in one of the riverside cabins.
You might get lucky, as I did, and see a grizzly bear not far off the trail. skoki.com
Horseback ride to Sundance Lodge in Banff National Park
The 10-room Sundance Lodge was built in 1991 and is totally “off the grid.” Stoves and heaters are powered by solar and propane. Everything is packed in and out by mules, including their sewage at the beginning and end of each season!
The lodge is surprisingly comfortable for being so self-sufficient; from running water, to indoor bathrooms with flush toilets to warm showers.
As darkness falls you’ll feast at the long pine table with the wranglers and swap tales about your day before snuggling into your warm duvets. www.horseback.com
Watch a moose at Mt. Engadine Lodge in the Spray Valley Provincial Park near Canmore and Calgary
If you want the feel of a luxurious backcountry lodge but would rather drive in, try Mt. Engadine Lodge. It’s located only 40 minutes from Canmore – and about two hours from Calgary – but the paved road ends shortly after you leave town. Driving on a gravel road through thick forests and by serene mountain lakes plunges you into the wilderness long before you arrive at the lodge. Kept your eyes open for moose, coyotes, beaver, deer and elk. Guests often see moose grazing in the meadows below the lodge.
After a day of hiking, you’ll return to the lodge to a fabulous afternoon tea including a platter of charcuterie with thin slices of smoked bison, prosciutto, and venison pate with three kids of cheeses. The gourmet dinner is just as extravagant. Large windows in the dinning and living rooms showcased spectacular views of meadows and mountains. The lodge accommodates up to 19 people and room rates include a home cooked breakfast, picnic lunch, tea, and dinner. www.mountengadine.com
Meet the Olympic Stars
at The Paintbox Lodge in Canmore
Before you hit the backcountry, consider a night in an intimate inn that feels like an Alpine chalet, and bask in the hospitality of famous Olympic skiers.
Make a stop in Canmore, a picturesque little mountain town just one hour west of Calgary.
The Paintbox Lodge is owned by Olympic medalist, skier Sara Renner and her husband, World Cup Champion alpine skier Thomas Grandi. The lodge is a reflection of the local champions – relaxed, welcoming, and professional.
Stay as private or as social as you want in one of the five unique, comfortable suites and rooms. Relax by a fireplace, soak in a deep tub, or walk next door for a fabulous meal of Spanish small dishes at the Tapas Restaurant.
Accommodations include a complimentary mountain breakfast of homemade breads, muffins, egg dishes, fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice and lattes.