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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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.”
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.
More articles about exploring Banff National Park: Early autumn is a magical time in this region of the Canadian Rockies. Read our article Larch Valley Hike – Have a Magical Autumn.