My family loves camping year-round, but I draw a line at pitching a tent in a snow drift. Fortunately, there are several ways to enjoy winter camping in total comfort and warmth, and you might not even need a sleeping bag!
Enjoy Rustic Hostel Camping in Kananaskis or Banff
HI Kananaskis – The Ribbon Creek wilderness hostel is located a short drive from the Nakiska Ski Area and my family likes to spend the weekend here for easy access to both Nakiska and Kananaskis Village. Enjoy resort skiing, skating on the village pond, and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the trail network right outside the hostel door.
The hostel has several small private family rooms as well as two shared dorm rooms (separated by gender). Kitchen facilities are shared along with a common room where you can play games or read by a cozy wood burning fire. You’ll experience indoor plumbing, lights, electricity, and every comfort of home. For a true camping experience bring some marshmallows for the outdoor firepit.
Note: The private rooms only sleep three people, so you may have to book two rooms for your family. Also, guests must be at least 13 years old to stay in shared dorm rooms.
HI Mosquito Creek – The Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel is located on the scenic Icefields Parkway, 20 minutes away from Lake Louise. There is a private cabin on site divided into two private rooms with a sitting area and kitchen in the middle. Each bedroom sleeps five and has two bunk beds, one of them a double on bottom. While it’s more rustic than staying at a mountain resort, your children will have plenty of great stories to tell when they return to school on Monday!
While staying at Mosquito Creek, you will be a short drive away from the many adventures that await you at Lake Louise from downhill skiing to cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skating, or sleigh rides. The possibilities are endless!
Note: If you want to have the cabin to yourself, you will have to find another family to join you on your trip and book both private rooms. Otherwise, you will be sharing the common area of the cabin.
Other Family Favorite Wilderness Hostels
HI Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park features a cabin with two private sleeping rooms. Six beds per room. Shared main cabin with kitchen, fireplace, and living room. Outside bathrooms. Convenient location near the Marmot Basin Ski Hill and the Town of Jasper.
HI Hilda Creek, Banff National Park is the best hostel for families that want to reserve a whole hostel, since it only sleeps six. Winter survival skills necessary for this rugged hostel that resembles a backcountry hut. The property houses two cabins – one for sleeping, and one with the kitchen and common area. Be prepared to snowshoe or ski 500m to the hostel off the highway if there’s been fresh snow overnight.
For more information on Wilderness Hostels in the Canadian Rockies, please visit the Hostelling International website at hihostels.ca.
Ski or Snowshoe into a Backcountry Hut with your Family
The Alpine Club of Canada operates and maintains over 25 backcountry huts across the Canadian Rockies. Most are too challenging for a family to access in winter, but a few are very accessible for families who enjoy winter hiking or cross-country skiing.
We have snowshoed or skied into the A.O. Wheeler Hut in Canada's Glacier National Park three times now, and it always amazes me how easy it is to get kids into the backcountry for a winter trip when you stay here. With a short approach and a very large cabin, you can invite your whole gang of friends to join you for a fun group winter getaway.
The Wheeler Hut can be reached by vehicle in summer, and by a very short 1.2km ski or hike in winter. Most children I know can hike or ski that far. And if not, it's easy to tow them in a sled.
You’ll need wilderness skills for this adventure; water is boiled from snow you’ll collect, and bathrooms are outside. You need to bring sleeping bags, but mattresses are provided in the common room upstairs where everybody bunks together. There is no minimum age to stay here, and you’ll share all amenities with other hut users including the kitchen and common rooms. The hut is kept warm by wood burning fireplaces and all dishes and cooking supplies are provided along with propane stoves and lanterns.
For more information on backcountry huts, visit alpineclubofcanada.ca.
Hike into a Backcountry Yurt near Radium Hot Springs, BC
Radius Retreat is a year-round mountain side retreat offering ten hike-in yurt rentals near the Village of Radium Hot Springs. The nearest yurt is a short 200m walk from the parking lot and very accessible with a sled or backpack for your overnight gear. Most yurts sleep three people, but a few of the bigger yurts will accommodate a family of four. There are also two yurts located side by side if you want to camp with a small group.
Each yurt has its own bathroom located just outside the door, and amenities include an indoor wood burning stove with firewood, a propane stove (bring your own propane), a bear-proof food locker, and a covered outdoor cooking area. All cooking must be done outside where there is also an outdoor firepit. Bring your own bedding or sleeping bags. Dogs are also allowed in all yurts at Radius.
Enjoy the retreat’s hiking paths, visit the hot springs, or explore the Columbia Valley from your private yurt. You could even drive to Panorama to go skiing for the day.
For more information, visit radiusretreat.com.
Enjoy Glamping and Total Decadence at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis
Stay in a canvas glamping tent at Mount Engadine Lodge and you’ll be toasty warm. Each tent comes equipped with indoor plumbing, a shower, and a gas fireplace. All bedding is provided, and you’ll be sleeping in a cozy king-sized bed with a pull-out sofa for the children.
All meals are included with your stay including afternoon tea and a charcuterie board, a three-course dinner, breakfast the next day, and a packed lunch to go. This is five-star glamping, and every decadence is yours while staying at this backcountry lodge in Kananaskis with convenient drive-up access off the Spray Lakes Road from Canmore.
From the lodge, drive to nearby Mount Shark to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, hike to Rummel Lake, or enjoy an afternoon lounging by the fireplace in the gorgeous lodge with a book. Dogs are allowed in several rooms at Mount Engadine and the lodge also has cabins, suites, or lodge rooms to accommodate families or groups.
For more information, visit the mountengadine.com.
See you in the wilderness this winter!
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to an energetic boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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