Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rampart Creek: Our New Favourite Wilderness Hostel

Last month we got the opportunity to visit a new wilderness hostel on the Icefields Parkway in Banff and I've got both good news and bad news for you.  The good news:  I found the most AMAZING family-friendly wilderness hostel that's definitely going on our annual "must stay at" list for winter getaways.  The bad news:  You have to add yet one more place to your list of places you "must visit" in the Canadian Rockies!

Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel

What's so great about the Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel?


Location, location, location

I could respond with "what's not great about Rampart Creek?" but I suspect you want more details than that.  First, what stands out for me is the scenery! We arrived Friday night in the dark so really had no idea of what was around us.  Saturday morning I woke up, stepped outside my cabin, and couldn't do anything but stand there in the cold staring at the mountains with my jaw to the ground.  The place is gorgeous!! In fact, I'd have to say that the Rampart Creek Hostel has the best views of any hostel I've stayed at yet in the Canadian Rockies.

There is no better scenery in Banff than off the Icefields Parkway

Rampart Creek is located on the remote Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper.  It's a bit of a drive BUT, it's perfect for a long weekend or extended vacation.  The hostel is a 3 hour drive from Calgary (272 km) and less than an hour and a half from Lake Louise.  Going the other direction, it's just under 2 hours (141 km) from Rampart Creek to Jasper in the north.

Nothing says "remote" like this photo of me actually lying down on Highway 93, The Icefields Parkway

You can rent the whole hostel for a family getaway

The second thing I really like about this hostel is how you could easily rent the whole hostel for a private getaway.  The hostel sleeps 24 people but each sleeping cabin is separated into two rooms that each sleeps 6 people.  Bring three families with you, put one family in each sleeping room, and voila - private hostel for four families.  Yes, you'll have to pay for all 6 beds per room (even if you are a family of four) but hostels are very affordable so that's something I'd be willing to do if it meant having a private cabin in paradise for the weekend! 

Sleeping cabin at Rampart Creek - 2 bedrooms for 2 families

Snowshoe out the door opportunities

There's a lovely snowshoe trail right across the highway from the hostel.  The trail follows a creek and goes down to the river after passing through a lovely meadow perfect for making snowmen and snow angels.  We spent half a day doing this hike.  Combine that with time playing outside the hostel and you can easily occupy a whole day without driving anywhere.  Now that's what I look for in a family-friendly hostel!!

Late afternoon snowshoeing in the meadows across the highway from the hostel

Playing in a snow quinzee we found on the hostel snowshoe trail
The kids loved this snow quinzee we found on our snowshoe hike
Hiking along the creek by the hostel
This snowshoe hike can be done without ever driving from the hostel
Snow Angels in the Meadow near the Rampart Creek Hostel
Making snowmen in the meadow across from the hostel
Scenery like this is hard to beat at a wilderness hostel


Canyons, Icicles, and SNOW

We've been having a very dry winter here with little snow.  Meanwhile at Rampart Creek there was no shortage of snow to play in.  The kids had a blast breaking icicles off the cabins too.  AND there was this super cool canyon behind the hostel.  We couldn't hike very far due to open water but I have a dream of returning later in the season and finding it frozen over.  Rampart Creek was a winter paradise for the whole family.

Breaking icicles off the main hostel cabin
Icicles on the sauna
Hiking behind the hostel in the canyon
Playing in the canyon behind the Rampart Creek Hostel
This is right behind the hostel!  Again, no driving required to go anywhere

Day Trips from Rampart Creek

If you really want to  drive somewhere for a day trip, there are options for that too.  We drove to nearby Mistaya Canyon (maybe a five minute drive back towards Lake Louise on the Parkway) and did a very short little hike with the kids.  It was only 1.5km return and took us a couple hours at most. 

Mistaya Canyon Winter Wonderland
Looking down into Mistaya Canyon
Hiking on the Mistaya Canyon Trail

For more information on the Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel and to book a room, visit the Hostelling International website.  Note that children under the age of 6 can't share a dorm room so if you have young kids, you'll have to book a full sleeping room which sleeps six people. 

Abraham Lake on the way home from Rampart Creek
For families coming from Central Alberta, the hostel can also be reached from the David Thompson Highway via Nordegg and Rocky Mountain House.  This is actually how we drove home to Calgary too because we wanted to stop off at Abraham Lake on the way home to look at the famous bubbles in the frozen lake.

Thanks to the great folks at Hostelling International for partnering with us on this story and offering us a discounted stay.  As always, all opinions are my own and I wasn't paid to write this story.


  1. Ah, all your posts make me miss the mountains (I grew up in Edmonton but have lived across the country for some years now). Looks like another fun trip. Have you ever stayed at the Shunda Creek hostel? We used to go there every Thanksgiving and do the Mount Coliseum Hike and other hiking in the area. My parents helped build it way back in the day! I remember it being very family friendly and fondly think of watching birds and squirrels in the giant birdfeeder outside the kitchen window and playing board games in the living area. I also remember really awesome bunk beds in the family rooms. I am sure it has changed in some ways but I hope it still has a lot of the same friendly atmosphere.

    Oh also it had a hot tub the last couple times we went there in the winter for cross country skiing, which was amazing after a day of skiing!

    1. Shunda Creek is on my list. Thanks for encouraging us to visit. I definitely want to go explore that area more.

  2. The Icefields Parkway is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing all the wilderness hostel info! I like the private cabin option as I am a super light sleeper.

    1. Thanks Karen. Glad we got to go to Mosquito with you this winter. I hope you get back out there next winter.