Shadow Lake Lodge – Banff Backcountry Bliss

An image of Shadow Lake and Mount Ball in Banff National Park- Shadow Lake Lodge

You can see the reflection of Mount Ball in the still waters of Shadow Lake. Photo by GREG OLSEN

Exploring Banff’s Backcountry in Comfort

Canada’s oldest national park contains vast tracts of pristine wilderness that only a few backcountry hikers ever see. The price they pay for their exclusive tour of nature’s most wondrous mountain scenery usually includes a sacrifice of creature comforts – hot showers, warm beds and home cooked meals. But there is another way to experience the backcountry. A stay at Shadow Lake Lodge makes it possible to experience Banff National Park’s amazing backcountry without having to sacrifice life’s little comforts.

An image of wildflowers in Banff National Park - Shadow Lake Lodge

Tiny wildflowers grow in between rocks in the high alpine meadows of Banff National Park. Photo by GREG OLSEN

Related: Discover the Best Kept Secrets in the Canadian Rockies.

Getting to Shadow Lake Lodge

There are no roads to Shadow Lake Lodge. The lodge is reached via a 12.9 km hike (or ski in winter) along the Redearth Creek Trail which is located about 20 km west of Banff on the TransCanada Highway. A moderately difficult trail with a 440-meter elevation gain leads to the lodge, but we saw seniors and children who managed it. The nicest part of hiking into Shadow Lake Lodge is the chance to experience afternoon tea once you arrive. There is a wide selection of appetizers and sweets to enjoy.

An image of a meadow and Mount Ball near Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff National Park

This meadow lies right outside the doors of Shadow Lake Lodge. Photo by Greg Olsen

Backcountry Hiking

There are several great day hikes that can be easily accessed from the lodge – Shadow Lake (and the unofficial trail behind Shadow Falls), Gibbon Pass, Ball Pass, Haduk Lake and Whistling Pass. Greg and I did the hike to Shadow Lake Falls and then went higher to hike above the falls. It was Greg’s idea to keep going past the falls. The reward was an amazing carpet of glacier lilies beside a snowdrift and an incredible view from the top of the moraine – without another soul in site.

An image of Shadow Lake Falls in Banff National Park - Shadow Lake Lodge

Shadow Lake Falls is just one of many backcountry hikes you can do from Shadow Lake Lodge. Photo by GREG OLSEN

Off the Grid Comfort

Shadow Lake Lodge has comfortable cabins, a bath house with flush toilets and hot showers and a dining/gathering area. The most amazing part is that the entire facility is almost completely off the grid in the middle of the wilderness. Shadow Lake Lodge uses a combination of solar and micro hydro power generation.

An image of someone dinging the dinner triangle to signal dinner is ready at Shadow Lake Lodge

You know when it’s dinner at Shadow Lake Lodge because they ding the triangle. Photo by GREG OLSEN

Dining at Shadow Lake Lodge

At dinner, we sat family style around tables with other travelers recounting our hiking adventures of the day.  Everyone at our table had done a different hike and it was great to compare notes. As our multi-course gourmet dinner was served, Alison Brewster popped out of the kitchen to welcome us and introduce the meal. “Tonight we will start with a squash soup followed by glory bowl spinach salad, steamed asparagus, rosemary potatoes and stuffed leg of lamb with balsamic fig sauce,” she said as we all oohed and awed. “Bon Appétit!”

An image of squash soup with the words Oh Canada written on it - Shadow Lake Lodge

The squash soup was delicious at Shadow Lake Lodge. Photo by GREG OLSEN

As we started into the delicious soup, Claire and Jesse, a young couple from Toronto recounted their adventures hiking Gibbon Pass earlier that day. “As we began hiking up the pass, we came across some backpackers who were coming over from the opposite side,” said Claire. “When they found out where we were staying, one of them asked me to tell him what we had for dinner last night. They had been living on dehydrated food for a few days, so it almost seemed cruel to describe the meals we have been having. I didn’t even bother to tell them about the spread for afternoon tea. You definitely don’t go hungry here.”

An image of a man standing on a rocky moraine in the backcountry of Banff National Park - Shadow Lake Lodge

Hiking in Banff’s backcountry is an easy task from the comfort of Shadow Lake Lodge. Photo by DEBBIE OLSEN

A Special Place

“It’s truly is a pleasure to share the backcountry with our visitors and work in such a beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies,” said Alison Brewster while standing in her kitchen the next morning. “The Brewster name is an incredible legacy to live up to and Shadow Lake Lodge will always have a special place in my heart.”

An image of Shadow Lake Falls in the backcountry of Banff National Park - Shadow Lake Lodge

Another view of Shadow Lake Falls. Photo by GREG OLSEN

As we popped on our packs and made our way back to the Redearth Creek trailhead, I was certain that Shadow Lake Lodge would always have a special place in my heart too. There is something about the Canadian Rockies that can heal a weary soul.

More Info: Visit Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

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