Accommodation styles have evolved a lot in the past century, but in Banff National Park, three lodges have stayed true to the way early explorers found rest in the backcountry. Albeit, a bit more luxurious than back in the day, but nonetheless, still cozy and quaint.
Banff National Park is home to three backcountry lodges that are open in the summer and winter, each one offering a different twist than the other, and even a different mode of winter transportation to get in if you choose. Each welcome you with a crackling fire, hot drinks, and fresh baking - they have different characteristics that define them, including the chefs and lodge-hands, but they all share common ground in tranquillity.
Working our way west from the Town of Banff, Sundance Lodge is first – nestled in the Brewster Creek valley on the other side of the Sulphur Mountain Range, this lodge is the only one accessible by fat bike in winter, but can also be accessed by cross-country skis and snowshoes and by horseback in summer. Starting from either the Cave & Basin on the Sundance Canyon Trail, or at Healy Creek on the Sunshine Village Access Road, the trail leading up to this lodge follows a former fire access road and is a steady incline on the way in, and a beautiful decline on the way out. Fat biking in will cut your travel time dramatically, but all offer beautiful views and a real feeling of being in the backcountry. Once you arrive at the lodge, kick off your boots, enjoy the warm fire, and relax in this modern lodge with hot showers and flushing toilets. You'll be charmed and entertained by the chef and locals who run the lodge, and like all the backcountry lodges in Banff National Park, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the culinary offerings they have in the middle of nowhere.
Shadow Lake Lodge
Next is Shadow Lake Lodge – starting at the Red Earth Creek trailhead about 20km west of Banff, Brewster's Shadow Lake Lodge is also accessed by a former fire road for much of the journey, until about three-quarters the way in when it turns into more of a narrow trail, also on an incline. Shadow Lake Lodge has a unique history of expanding on a former Canadian Pacific Railway cabin that was purchased by the Brewster Family from the CPR in the Great Depression. This lodge also features hot showers, modern facilities, is the only lodge to offer all private cabins for accommodation, and also the only lodge in Banff National Park with a wood-burning dry sauna - best enjoyed with a cold beer after a winter adventure around Shadow Lake. The Brewster's have a long entrepreneurial history in the Bow Valley, and Alison Brewster is an owner and operator of Shadow Lake Lodge. Alison and her family's history has remained true to the area and she is the chef behind the master culinary creations you'll enjoy upon arrival and during your stay. Cross-country ski, snowshoe, or ski tour into this backcountry getaway and stay at least two nights to best enjoy the array of trails and activities surrounding the Lodge.
Lastly, in the Lake Louise backcountry, the historic Skoki Lodge sits nestled in the Skoki Valley. The Lodge was founded by the Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies and is said to be the first lodge to cater to skiers in Canada, and possibly North America. The journey in starts at Lake Louise Ski Resort and winds through dramatic landscapes and dominating mountains. The original lodge features historic photos and ski equipment throughout the log facility. A famous summer visit by Prince William and Kate in 2011 garnered a lot of attention for Skoki, but like the other lodges, winter is just as a beautiful time to visit. Skoki differs from the other lodges in that is primarily a ski lodge in winter, catering to some of the best alpine touring in the area. Skoki is also known for its backcountry culinary, but more so with their very own Skoki Cookbook. Cozy up by the fire after an active day in the mountains and enjoy hot drinks, a warm fire, and the library of history in the common area.
If you're looking for a cozy lodge in the backcountry to kick off your boots and put on some slippers, look no further than the three backcountry lodges in Banff National Park. A welcoming fire and great food, company in the form of family, friends, or a romantic getaway with your partner, and an off the grid experience at one of these backcountry lodges might just be the digital detox you've been looking for.