|Spring in the Canadian Rockies|
A week ago, you hopefully read about our trip into the Elk Lakes Cabin in British Columbia in my first story on Raising Tough Kids. Elk Lakes was the ultimate in difficult winter (spring?) family journeys with a grueling 11km ski/snowshoe required to reach the cabin. Last weekend we did our second wilderness trip of the spring season and it was just a tad easier. We only had to snowshoe about 500 metres to reach our two cabins. And yeah, maybe we should have done this trip first as prep for the harder one.
|Hilda Creek - Snowshoes Access Required|
Last weekend, we travelled the famed Icefields Parkway that connects Banff and Jasper National Parks to reach the Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, located a short distance away from the Columbia Icefields Centre. In summer, the Icefields Centre is the place to be if you want to board a giant snow bus for a tour on the Athabasca Glacier and the whole area is crawling with tourists! You wouldn't need to worry about running out of gas, having engine trouble or experiencing an emergency of any kind. (Somebody would be around to find you.) Winter and early spring however is a completely different story. There is nobody hanging out around the Icefields Centre at this time of year. The large building is boarded up and drivers on the highway move along between Jasper and Banff without stopping. Other than the occasional backcountry skiers visiting the area, you are completely on your own!
|The sign that tells you there's a cabin somewhere off in the woods (far out of sight)|
The first time we wanted to stay at the Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, we received quite the "warning" on the phone when I made the booking. We were told that we absolutely HAD to pack out all garbage, that there would be no hostel manager on site, that we might have to melt snow for drinking water if the creek was frozen solid, that there were no services or amenities for at least 100 kilometres, and that we would need solid backcountry experience! We immediately responded with, "sign us up!"
|Shoveling out the front door of the main cabin for "light"|
|Avalanche off the sleeping cabin during our stay|
|The climb up to the highway from the hostel|
We LOVE the Hilda Creek Hostel and make it a priority to travel here at least once (or twice, maybe three times) a year for a few reasons:
Our Own Private Paradise!
The hostel only sleeps 6 so that means we can take one other family with us and reserve the whole hostel for ourselves! I like sharing as much as the next person, but if you don't have to share, why would you? Hilda is the only hostel that can so easily be reserved for a private booking; No other hostel I know of sleeps but 6 people!
|Hanging out in the main cabin|
The Hilda Creek Hostel may be situated in the middle of nowhere, but the scenery is unparalleled! Last year we took the kids on a hike to see the Athabasca Glacier and this year we took them up the moraines below the Hilda Glacier. Getting to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier is easy - follow the summer road and hiking trail from the Icefields Centre. Reaching the toe of the Hilda Glacier however requires significant backcountry experience in winter . Fortunately, we had no aspirations of touching the Hilda Glacier; We just wanted to do a snowshoe tour out the door of our cabin. Mission accomplished.
|Hiking out the door of the Hilda Creek Hostel|
|Hiking up the moraines below the Hilda Glacier|
|Raising Tough Kids - AND Training Tough Parents|
|Climbing Moraines with the kids (aka, winter mountaineering)|
|Again, Training Tough Parents|
|The Fastest Way Down - Slide of course!|
|You could just hike along Hilda Creek for an "easier" trip|
FUN in the SNOW!
The main reason we go to Hilda Creek in the winter - to have FUN in the snow. April is still full on winter on the Icefields Parkway but the weather is a bit warmer and so it's our choice time of year to visit.
|He does not care that it's April and it's still snowing.|
|Playing in the snow - kid paradise!|
|Sledding down the hill below the hostel - FUN every year!|
|Even the adults had fun with the snow!|
|Perhaps the adults had a little TOO much fun with the snow|
|Flips off the deck - what else do you do after dinner?|
|Even the kids had fun jumping off the deck into the waist deep snow!|
Honestly, for folks comfortable in the backcountry, Hilda Creek is absolute paradise! We haul our gear to the cabins in sleds and it's close enough to the highway that we can bring everything from coolers of food to six packs of beer, jugs of water (if we were smart,) toys, skis for adults wanting to do turns off Hilda Ridge behind the hostel, and comfort items (you name it - your fav. pillow, the kids' fav. stuffies...) Yes, there is no running water and it's pretty rustic, but it's also an incredible experience to spend the weekend living off the grid completely self sufficient.
|Our Rustic Home at Hilda Creek|
|Packing everything out of the hostel|
We are teaching our kids to appreciate things like clean drinking water that flows from a tap, indoor plumbing, lights that turn on with the flick of a switch and all the modern technology we have so handy at our fingertips from television to refrigerators and microwaves. We had none of that at Hilda Creek and we survived just fine. I'd say we did more than just survive. We had fun.
|Playing in the snow outside the hostel|
|Athabasca Glacier Hike in Winter|
Want to book your own trip to Hilda Creek? Visit the Hostelling International Website for all the information you need. The hostel is a great place to visit in summer as well and you can hike fabulous trails such as Parker Ridge and the Hilda Glacier Trail without ever getting in your car. Within a 5 minute drive, you can reach the Columbia Icefields Centre to see the Athabasca Glacier or you can reach the Wilcox Pass trailhead. These are all STELLAR hikes and absolutely unparalleled in the Rockies. Photos below.
|Hiking Parker Ridge in Summer right above the hostel|
|Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier with the Snow Coach Tour|
|Hiking Parker Ridge in Autumn|
|Wilcox Pass Hike with Mount Athabasca in the Background|
Are you planning your trip yet?
Thanks as always to Hostelling International for assisting with our stay. All opinions and thoughts are my own.