Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Summer Vacation Camping at Fairmont Hot Springs, BC

Whether you're looking for a fully serviced RV site or a peaceful riverside tenting site, there is something for all styles of camping at Fairmont Hot Springs in the sunny Columbia Valley. Two campgrounds provide services for both RV camping + tent camping, with convenient access to the hot spring pools at the main resort.

Summer is glorious at Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia

Introduction to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

The Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is located in the Columbia Valley between the communities of Radium Hot Springs and Invermere to the north, and the City of Kimberley to the south. From Calgary, the drive is just over 3 hours depending on where you live. It's easy enough to reach Fairmont on a Friday after work, and the drive is doable for a short weekend, returning to the city Sunday afternoon.

Options for accommodations at the resort include:

  • Lodge rooms in the main resort (some with lofts and kitchenettes) - they sleep 4-6 people

  • Cabins and cottages - they sleep 4 -6 people and some are dog friendly 
  • Family Villas - they sleep 4-6 people 

  • RV sites at the adjoining campground next door to the main resort

  • RV or tent campsites at the Spruce Grove campground  a short drive down the highway (open from the May long weekend through the September long weekend)

    All stays at the hotel resort include access to the hot pools.

    Guests staying at the RV resort get a discounted admission to the pools which gets you a day pass and unlimited access to the pools for the day.

    Guests staying at the Spruce Grove Campground do not get discounted admission, but the campground is less expensive to stay at, so it evens out in the end.

    There's lots of room to splash around in the warm swimming pool at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

    Camping at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort

    The Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort is located next door to the regular hotel resort and we've camped here many times. The resort has 190 full service sites and guests get to enjoy all of the amenities of the main resort next door.

    There are endless options for activities without leaving camp when you stay at the RV Resort.

    We love camping here because there are many hiking paths that start right from the campground. We can go out for a walk, warm up in the hot pools, hang out at camp for a while, play a round of mini golf, and then go back to the pools. And to splurge, we can just walk over to the main resort for a decadent restaurant meal, Sunday brunch, or even afternoon appies and drinks at the family friendly pub.

    You'll pay a $10 "resort experience" fee when you stay at the Fairmont Resort (including the RV Resort) but it includes many activities and amenities including:
    • Discounted access to the hot springs for RV users (complimentary access for hotel guests)

    • Complimentary mini golf on site (with both an 18 hole and 9 hole course)

    • Daily family activities such as movie nights, scavenger hunts, crafts, and indoor / outdoor games

    • Access to the gym inside the resort's main building

    • Sports including tennis, bocce, and basketball (with equipment available to borrow)

    • One bucket of balls per day (per person) for the driving range at the Riverside Golf Course across the highway - with clubs available to borrow

    • Unlimited Wi-Fi at the resort and in the campground 

    Read more about the RV Resort amenities here on the Fairmont Hot Springs website.

    Camping at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort (deluxe river view site)

    View the Fairmont website to see the different kind of campsites available to book at the RV Resort. 

    We usually book a standard site but the bar has been set higher now that we've tried a deluxe river view site (where it felt like we were camping on top of a mountain as we watched the sun set over the Columbia River each night.)

    Many of the middle sites don't have "great" privacy when the campground is full, but if you have a smaller trailer/van, try to book one of the standard sites in the eastern part of the campground (sites 71-83,) or if you're camping early season we really like sites 108-115 in the upper part of the campground where it's very quiet.

    See the resort map here. 

    Superior mountain view sites at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort

    Note: You must have a certified RV or motorhome to reserve a site in the RV Resort. Trucks with truck caps, roof top tents or converted vans / buses that are not certified will not be allowed. 

    If you don't meet the requirements to camp at the RV resort, the Spruce Grove Campground is located just down the road. This campground opens for the May long weekend each year and is a lovely campground for tenters with many non serviced sites. It also has several RV sites with full or partial hookups and its own swimming pool. (And you can still drive to access the hot springs.)

    We usually camp at Spruce Grove later in the season (June through the September long weekend) because we like camping beside the Columbia River.

    Also note There are no campfires permitted at the RV Resort. If you want a campfire at night you can either use a propane fire bowl, or you can camp at the Spruce Grove Campground which has fire pits at each site.

    The hot spring pools are just a short walk from the RV Resort

    Make a Reservation! 

    Reservations can also be made online a year in advance and are super easy to make! Just select the type of campsite you want, and an availability map will show up with available sites.

    And don't worry if you aren't a "book sites a year in advance" kind of person! There are always available campsites at Fairmont (and usually plenty of last minute sites throughout the summer.)

    Free mini golf awaits you when you camp at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

    Camping at the Spruce Grove Campground

    Riverside camping doesn't get much better than at the Spruce Grove Campground, affiliated with the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. When the river is low, there's also a beautiful sandy beach to play at.

    From the website: "With 137 camping and tenting sites (some of which are fully serviced) and a free heated swimming pool, this scenic BC camping spot is particularly popular with group gatherings and families.

    Situated on the banks of the sparkling Columbia River that wraps around the campground, Spruce Grove is just a short drive from the main Fairmont Hot Springs resort area. " 

    Riverside Camping at the Spruce Grove Campground

    Riverside camping 

    If you're looking for riverside camping, check out the campground map here. There are four riverside sites with power + water (248-251,) and the rest (252-275) are non-serviced. Site 248 is directly beside the beach. Each site upwards gets further away from the sand (though you're still beside the river or the inner lagoon.)

    You must have an RV or trailer to camp in one of the "pink" sites with services. You can't claim a prime serviced site and put up a tent on it. 

    If you want a site with full hookups (water + electric + sewer) you can't camp beside the river, but there are a few nice sites across from it (240-243.)

    And while not exactly "beside" the river, these unserviced sites, (277-280,) are worth mentioning for their quiet private location.  Camp here in the spring and you might be all alone in the back.

    We love camping beside the river at the Spruce Grove Campground

    Beach camping 

    I've had people express shock when they see my photos of the campground with an actual beach, because it disappears when the water is high. When the campground opens May long weekend, there is definitely a big sandy area beside the river.  After that, it varies year to year. 

    In late June through mid July you likely won't see much sand, but then it slowly comes back by August.

    Beach access: Note, accessing the beach is a bit tricky unless you've secured one of the sites that backs on to the beach There is no pathway to the beach, and easy access is blocked by the riverside campsites (as seen in the photo above.)

    Please do not walk through occupied campsites to access the beach or the river. (We've camped in front of the beach and had people walk through the middle of our campsite without asking permission, while dragging kids, chairs, dogs, wagons etc.)

    If you really want to make sure you get a site in front of the beach, you can book a riverside site up to a year in advance and then you'll get a beautiful campsite with your own private beach. Otherwise, be prepared to crawl through the fence beside the beach or ask very politely to pass through somebody's site.

    Also note: the beach is not an off leash dog park. Dogs are supposed to be on leash in the campground at all times.

    Beach side sites can be booked a year in advance!

    Other perks of camping at the Spruce Grove Campground:

    • You can camp in a mixed group with tents and RVs (great for family get togethers)

    • You still get access to the Fairmont Hot Springs pools as a public day user (there are no restrictions at the moment preventing the public to access the pools.)

    • There is a free swimming pool at Spruce Grove

    • You can fish in the river right from the campground (don't forget to buy a BC fishing license)

    • Riverside access for those who like kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddleboarding. (more information below)

    • No resort experience fees (Campers at Spruce Grove do not pay the nightly $10 resort fee that you pay when staying at the RV Resort)

    • A natural camping experience. (Expect grass, gravel roads, and lots of trees.)

    This campground is only open between the May long and September long weekends. For early or late season camping, make a reservation at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort. - no tents.

    Fishing in the Columbia River early season (note no beach)

    There are many pretty sites around the lagoon in the Spruce Grove Campground

    Spruce Grove is a hot-weather Camping Paradise!

    When it's hot outside, you'll see everybody at camp hanging out by the river, swimming, paddling around the lagoon, floating down the river in tubes, and cooling off.

    The river "swimming pool" is chilly but refreshing on a hot day!

    Hanging out at the beach is a great way to spend a relaxed day at camp and kids love playing in the sand!

    Kids love the beach at Spruce Grove!

    Paddling and Tubing from the Spruce Grove Campground

    If you like kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddleboarding, this is a great campground. It's a short paddle from the boat launch on Columbia River Road back to camp, and a quick one-hour trip. (Google maps is a bit weird with this one, but I promise if you follow this road, you'll come to a good put in spot beside the river that's fairly obvious.)

    Alternately, start at camp, paddle down stream through the Riverside golf course, and take out at the boat launch below the golf course on River Drive (near Wilder Memorial Park.) This takes a couple of hours at most.

    And if tubing is more your speed, bring inflatable tubes with you and float either the section above camp or spend an afternoon floating down river through the golf course.

    Evening paddling on the Columbia River

    My husband often drives me up to the put in above camp so that I can SUP my way back to camp in the evening. As a family we like to do the longer paddle down river, but we have to figure out the shuttle part which gets tricky (unless camping with friends.)

    Note the river is only high enough to use paddleboards early season. By mid July it gets to shallow and you're guaranteed to hit rocks.

    Paddling down the Columbia River from the Spruce Grove campground 

    Make a Reservation! 

    Read more about the Spruce Grove Campground on the Fairmont website where you'll see a description for each site category and find a map of the resort. 

    Reservations can also be made online a year in advance and are super easy to make! Just select the type of campsite you want, and an availability map will show up with available sites.

    And even if you decide to make a spontaneous last minute decision to go camping, there are usually sites available.

    Summer tubing on the Columbia River near the Spruce Grove campground

    Other Activities to Enjoy While Camping at Fairmont 

    Soaking in Natural Hot Spring Pools

    I love soaking in the Indigenous pools up by the old bath house at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. It's a short walk up the hill above the zipline parking lot and you're almost guaranteed to have the pools to yourself. There's even an old stone bathtub carved into the rock that you can soak in!

    Soaking in the Indigenous Bath Pools at Fairmont Hot Springs

    I've been known to spend hours soaking in the larger pool up on this hill overlooking the Columbia Valley, and it's especially beautiful as the sun is setting over the river. 

    Note the pools dry up in spring but are usually full of water by mid summer. There is no fee to use the pools, but make sure you show up prepared for a natural experience without amenities. There are no change facilities or bathrooms and you must pack out all garbage with you.

    Using these pools is a great activity while camping at the RV Resort because you can walk over in your swim suit. Bring a large towel or bath robe for the walk back.

    Peaceful soaking in the Indigenous Baths

    Biking around Fairmont

    Some of our favourite family-friendly mountain bike trails are located near Fairmont. The Spirit Trail is a fav. bike ride of ours and it's a short drive from the resort.

    Mountain biking is one of our fav. family activities at Fairmont

    There's also a brand new paved bike trail that starts near Invermere and ends at Fairmont. The Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail is 25 km long (one way) and has easy, intermediate, and advanced sections.

    Read more about the trails around Fairmont here in my bike guide:

    Paved Biking on The Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail 

    Hiking around the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

    For hiking around the campground, we like the Owl Loop and the Geary Lookout Trail. 

    Note the Waterfall Trail is officially closed due to flooding and erosion that occurred in the spring of 2020. 

    And for a fun walking challenge, check out the Hot Spring Heist Scavenger Hunt. The game is free for resort guests with a special code that staff can give you.

    There are also several geocaches hidden around the resort that we've had fun looking for.

    There are many great walking trails around the resort 

    Adventure with the Mineral Mountain Ziplines

    Located on the resort property, this zipline adventure is one of the best we've tried in BC. Soar across the valley on 6 different lines as you fly high above the resort on this amazing family-friendly adventure.

    Visit the Mineral Mountain Ziplines website for more information and to make a reservation. The zipline adventure opens mid May each year and is open through September.

    Soar high above Fairmont Hot Springs Resort on a zipline adventure

    Other activities to try include:

    • Tennis and volleyball courts (on site at the main resort)

    • ATV tours (nearby)

    • Horseback riding at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort stables (along with pony rides for the younger kids)

    • River rafting tours (nearby) - Read: Rafting the Kootenay River in Radium Hot Springs

    • Golf (there are 3 golf courses at Fairmont Hot Springs)

    • Complimentary Mini Golf at the main resort (Pick your clubs and balls up inside the main lodge beside the check-in desk.)

    The mini golf course is one of the best in the valley!

    Note there are additional charges for most of the activities above and some of them are not guided by the resort. The Activity Centre will connect you with your tour operator though and make reservations for you. 

    For more information, follow this link to Things to Do at Fairmont Hot Springs.

    Join a rafting tour while camping at Fairmont Hot Springs in the summer!

    Recommended Reading

    For more inspiration, check out my large guide to the entire Columbia Valley:

    Disclaimer: We have been hosted at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort many times. All opinions are my own.

    Friday, August 11, 2023

    RV Glamping at RidgeView Resort in Radium Hot Springs, BC

    We spent a long weekend at the RidgeView Resort in Radium Hot Springs, and it seriously raised the bar! Camping has never been so comfortable, and “glamping” would perhaps be a more accurate term. 

    Many campgrounds label themselves as RV “resorts,” but this one truly deserves the title and gets a 5 star rating from my family.

    Camping is pretty comfortable when you stay at the RidgeView Resort in Radium Hot Springs

    Highlights for us included

    - Large fully serviced RV sites with wooden decks and covered gazebos, BBQs + propane included on every site, and outdoor electrical sockets to create a true patio kitchen and living area. - and this is every site (not just luxury or premier sites!)

    - The huge outdoor swimming pool with a legit deep end , ~ 7 feet, (clearly marked with a rope to protect young children.) There’s also an indoor pool + hot tub (with an open patio door separating the two areas.) 

    Add loungers surrounding the pool, cabanas to rent, and a poolside snack shack, and we spent a LOT of time here until the recreation centre closed every night. Families can easily set up for the day, buy lunch to enjoy beside the pool, and even play cards or games at the tables behind the pool. And yes, small floaties are allowed!

    - Live entertainment on Saturday beside the pool! The musician was fabulous and he kept us entertained with a great mix of sing-along classics. - and there is nothing like floating in a pool while Margaritaville is being performed LIVE beside the pool. (Note the live poolside entertainment is a special event on long weekends.)

    - The Saturday night dance party with live band (a regular event all summer long.) Next year I’m brushing up on my two-step before we return!

    Every campsite at RidgeView has a wooden platform and gazebo

    Not a bad way to start your camping day!

    Introduction to the RidgeView RV Park and Vacation Club

    Promoted as Canada's best RV Park and Vacation Club, the Holmgren Family has owned and operated the RidgeView Resort for over 20 years. 

    And when I say that this resort is "family" owned, I mean owned, managed, and very involved! We met and chatted with the owner, Wayne Holmgren, every single day as he drove his golf cart around the campground chatting with guests. He'd stop to ask how our day was, where we were heading for the day, or to ask if we had any questions about the resort.

    Grandpa Wayne walks around the pool every afternoon, stopping to chat with every guest beside the pool. He knows everybody by name and he doesn't just sit in the shadows or spend his summers in a house somewhere else while a management company cares for his property.

    Wayne's son Jeff is also a vibrant active member of the resort, living on site as well with his wife, and is the current manager of the property. Jeff is always visible throughout the day and evening, helping out with resort activities and events, and is extremely approachable and friendly.

    The resort describes their property below:

    "Located on the edge of Radium Hot Springs, and immersed in the beautiful Columbia Valley of British Columbia, RidgeView offers over 100 acres of peaceful wilderness. The Club includes paved roads and RV lots which accommodate Class A, C, and Super B motorcoaches, in addition to rental houses for the non-campers among us.  RidgeView is the mountain oasis you have been searching for.  A perfect place to choose your own adventure on, or off the resort."

    The resort is located on a scenic bench overlooking the Columbia River Valley (Photo: RidgeView)

    There are several scenic campsites on the ridge at RidgeView (Photo: RidgeView)

    The RidgeView Resort Vacation Club Experience

    RidgeView Resort is technically a "vacation club" where members pay for their vacation week and return to the same site on an annual basis, guaranteed to have the same site and week(s) without the hassle of annual bookings. Think "time share" but for RV camping.

    Non-members can still camp at the resort however, and are extremely welcome here. Sites that are not going to be used by members get released into the general rental pool, and then available sites can be reserved starting in September each year for the following season.

    So book September 2023 for the 2024 camping season.

    Summer availability is limited (so make your reservation early,) but there is always lots of availability in spring/fall. 

    Note all campsites are for self contained trailers and RVs (must have a kitchen + bathroom.) There are no tent sites. There are also no rental RVs so you’ll need your own.

    And don't worry about pressure to become a vacation club member! This isn't an all inclusive resort with pushy salespeople on site. You will not be invited to attend a special "welcome breakfast" to discuss membership. ;)

    Our cozy RV site at night with its wooden deck and gazebo

    The resort also has 9 vacation homes that can be rented by non-campers who may want to join you for your trip. Each vacation home has 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a gas fireplace, a sun deck with BBQ, and high speed Wifi.

    Finally, there is also the option to lease an RV site at RidgeView which includes affordable winter storage (and dry winter camping as of the 2023-24 season.)

    Visit the RidgeView Resort website to check availability for RV sites or vacation homes. 

    Vacation Homes at RidgeView Resort (Photo: RidgeView)

    RidgeView Resort Amenities

    RV sites are fully serviced and include a wooden deck and covered cabana with outdoor electrical sockets, a BBQ with propane, and full hookups. 

    Note there are no fire pits on campsites, but propane fire bowls are allowed, and there is a central courtyard propane fire pit near the recreation centre.

    Each campsite includes a covered cabana, picnic table, and BBQ!

    Vacation homes or campsites include access to resort amenities including an indoor swimming pool and hot tub in winter, an outdoor pool in summer, fitness centre, arcade room, playground, pickle ball and tennis courts, beach volleyball, a basketball court, and mini-golf (May - September.)

    The outdoor pool opens late June and closes after the September long weekend.

    Follow this link to see more photos of the resort

    The Central courtyard is the place to be Saturday nights with live entertainment! (Photo: RidgeView)

    Summer RV Life at the RidgeView Resort

    The Resort Hospitality and Events Coordinator plans many family and children’s events between July and the September long weekend including a kids kraft korner, kids half-day camps, and pool-side activities.

    • Kids Kraft Korner: (Monday-Thursday) – where children will have fun making a quality nature themed craft

    • Kids Half-day camps – 4 hours of fun filled events under the supervision of the resort's trained staff including craft making, nature walks, mini-golf, outdoor play and snacks from the Snak Shak. 

    • Pool-side activities – The resort hosts numerous activities around the pool including bingo, games of name that tune, water volleyball and other fun events sure to entertain the entire family. There is also live entertainment beside the pool over the July and August long weekends.

    Krafts and day camps can be signed up for online on the resort website.

    Mini golf is just one of the activities kids will be able to enjoy (Photo: RidgeView Resort)

    The Outdoor pool is the place to be on a hot summer day with poolside loungers, cabanas to rent, and easy access to the indoor pool/hot tub when it's cooler outside. The poolside Snak-Shak has a full menu including hot dogs, hamburgers, poutine, fries, and nachos. They also have healthy and fresh options including salads and fruit cups, and of course you can get ice-cream and slushies. They even have staff members circulating around the pool to take orders so you don't have to even leave your lounger!

    The outdoor pool and courtyard are the centre of RV life at RidgeView

    A Courtyard fire pit is an exciting resort addition this season. It serves as a community gathering place in the RidgeView Courtyard, surrounded by a dozen red Adirondack chairs. Hang out here while your kids play basketball, play at the playground, or just simply to enjoy a tall glass of red wine by the warmth of a smoke-free propane fire under the stars.

    RidgeView Resort courtyard 

    The resort hosts a weekly Saturday Night Market and Dance through the summer season with a live band! Tables are set up in the courtyard and this is a fun event for the entire family!

    Then Sunday morning, skip the cooking, and attend the weekly pancake breakfast at the resort for an affordable price.

    There is live music Saturday nights all summer long! (Photo: RidgeView Resort)

    Saturday night dance party with live music!

    Check out what's happening around the resort for your upcoming visit on the online calendar (including events around the Valley.)

    Skip the cooking Sunday morning! (Photo: Ridgeview resort)

    Making a Reservation at RidgeView Resort

    Visit the RidgeView Resort website to check availability for campsites and vacation homes. While summer fills up quickly, the resort always has lots of vacancy for the spring and fall months when it is very warm and sunny in the Columbia Valley. 

    Truthfully, spring and fall are our favourite times to camp in the Radium Hot Springs area. 

    Just one of the gorgeous campsites at RidgeView Resort (Photo: RidgeView)

    Plan Your Trip to the Columbia Valley 

    Recommended Reading:

    Radium Hot Springs is a great destination for your next camping trip

    Disclaimer: We have been hosted at RidgeView and this story is written in partnership with the resort. Many photos were provided by the resort. Others are my own.

    Thursday, July 20, 2023

    Backcountry Glamping at Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff National Park

    Shadow Lake is one of the most beautiful destinations in backcountry Banff National Park, and it is easily reached year round via the Redearth Creek Trail. The trail can be hiked, biked, or skied as a long day trip (14 km one way,) but I recommend splurging on an overnight stay at the decadent Shadow Lake Lodge.

    Gorgeous Shadow Lake in Banff National Park

    A few weeks ago, I was given an incredible opportunity to spend a night at the backcountry Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff. My family wasn't able to join me (work + school) but I wasn't passing up this trip - and I found a couple of very willing girlfriends to join me.

    I got to experience the luxury of going backpacking in the Canadian Rockies without a tent or sleeping bag, and I carried nothing other than my regular day hiking gear, lunch for the first day, and basic overnight items (PJs, toothbrush, etc.)

    Waiting for me was my own private cabin at the lodge, gourmet home cooked meals, hot water + showers, and a comfortable bed to sleep in!

    Backcountry Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff National Park

    Introduction to Shadow Lake Lodge

    Shadow Lake Lodge was first established as a backcountry rest house by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1930. Ownership was then transferred to the Brewster family of Banff in 1938 who ran the property as a backcountry lodge until just recently when the lodge was sold to the Alpine Club of Canada in 2019. (Read more about the history of the lodge here.)

    The Alpine Club of Canada maintains a large collection of backcountry huts, cabins, and shelters across Southern Alberta and BC, but Shadow Lake is their first luxury property offering private cabins and gourmet meals prepared by a talented team on site.

    The lodge is situated in a beautiful meadow half a kilometre from Shadow Lake (easily visited in the evening after dinner or the next morning after breakfast.)

    Shadow Lake is a short walk from the lodge, and perfect for those sunset and sunrise photos

    All Inclusive Backcountry Stays at Shadow Lake 

    Each stay at Shadow Lake Lodge includes afternoon tea when you arrive with an assortment of charcuterie items and hot beverages. A gourmet three course dinner is served later with a salad appetizer, a main course entrée, and dessert. We were treated to a beat salad, seared chicken breast with lobster sauce, orzo primavera and roasted broccoli on the side, and then there was lemon blueberry cake for dessert.

    Breakfast is served the next morning with fresh baking, granola, yogurt, fruit, and a hot entrée (we had blueberry pancakes with raspberry maple syrup and thick slices of bacon.) Then a lunch is packed for your hike with a sandwich on homemade bread and tasty snacks or cookies. (Guests custom order their sandwich choices at breakfast each morning.)

    All meals are prepared on site at the lodge. Baking is all homemade, the desserts are fresh, and nothing is generic or pre-packaged from a store. This isn't backpacking so you won't find oatmeal packets or "just add water" meals here. And they definitely don't ship items in that were cooked or baked elsewhere.

    Seared chicken with lobster sauce, broccoli, and orzo

    Alcoholic beverages are not included with your stay, but the lodge has a large wine collection along with beer and other beverages available for purchase. You are welcome to bring your own drinks as well. If you want to enjoy a beverage by the lake in the evening, I recommend bringing your own (or bringing a container that you can use for a beverage you purchase at the lodge.)

    Note, the lodge tries to accommodate all dietary restrictions and allergies, and you'll be asked if you have any special concerns before your visit. Don't be shy here! If there's something you can't eat, or even that you really don't like, make sure you say something before your visit. You are paying a lot of money to enjoy your visit, and while you can always pick around a vegetable you don't like, it's hard to pick around a salmon fillet if you don't eat seafood of any kind.

    I want to stress that meals at the lodge are planned well before you arrive and that all groceries are ordered a week in advance, and delivered by helicopter. A request upon arrival to have carrots instead of broccoli probably won't "fly" unless the chef happens to have carrots on hand. Please be respectful of the kitchen team and make your requests known before your visit. 

    Read more about dining at the lodge here (especially if you have allergies or a restrictive diet you are concerned about.)

    I really need to get the caramel banana bread recipe!

    Private Cabins, Showers, and Hot Water

    Nothing says decadence in the backcountry like hot water and sleeping in a real bed off the ground! Take a hot shower when you arrive and enjoy a comfortable sleep in your own private cabin with two double or queen sized beds per cabin. 

    There are no bathrooms in the cabins, but the shower cabin is a short walk away where you'll find toilets, sinks with hot running water, and then of course the showers. 

    Other than the private cabins, there are two shared cabins, one for meals, and one with a fireplace for common gathering in the evenings. During the summer you'll likely spend a fair amount of time outside on your cabin porch. Come winter however, that shared fireplace cabin is a very cozy place.

    Relaxing on our cabin porch in the afternoon was one of my fav. highlights of our stay

    Overnight Stays at Shadow Lake Lodge

    The lodge usually requires two night stays from their guests. My visit was last minute, and I couldn't find two nights in my schedule for the trip. - Trust me though, you'll appreciate having a day at the lodge to rest before your hike out rather than a quick in and out trip.

    All stays are based on double occupancy (so bring your partner or a friend) but each cabin sleeps up to four people with a small add-on amount per extra person.

    For information on rates at the lodge, visit the Shadow Lake website. And I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter where they promote their specials.

    Each cabin has two queen or double beds

    Shadow Lake Lodge is fabulous for a girls' trip away

    Access to Shadow Lake via Redearth Creek (hiking, biking or skiing)

    The easiest access for the lodge is via the Redearth Creek Trail which is basically an old gravel/dirt road. The trail is used by mountain bikers, cross country skiers, and hikers looking to access Shadow Lake and the Bow Valley Highline Trail which runs all the way from Sunshine Village in Banff to Arnica Lake on the Banff border with Kootenay National Park.

    Redearth Creek isn't the most interesting trail in the Rockies but it provides the shortest and easiest way to get to Shadow Lake. You hike the old road for 11km to the junction with Pharaoh Creek and then continue for a final 3km on a narrower trail to the lodge.

    The Redearth Creek Trail is the easiest way to access Shadow Lake Lodge

    The first 11 kilometres can be biked, but you must lock your bike up at the junction before the final climb to the lodge. (There are bike racks at the junction.) The next 3 kilometres starts with a steep hill that most skiers will walk, carrying their skis to the top. It takes about 15 minutes to get up the hill, and then the trail flattens out again for easier hiking or skiing.

    Overall, the trail gains less than 500 metres of height, spread out over the 14 km. It's an easy mountain bike ride and an intermediate trail for cross-country skiing. As a hike, it's very easy compared to the other trails that access Shadow Lake, and the elevation gain is always very gradual (other than the one hill at the junction.)

    Allow for 4 to 5 hours to reach the lodge if hiking. 

    We were like a traveling circus on our first family visit to the lodge (sled, snowshoes, and skis)

    In the winter, this is one of my favourite cross-country ski trails, and it's also great on snowshoes. On our first family visit to the lodge we looked a bit like a traveling circus! We had to hike the lower trail due to lack of snow that year, and then we switched to snowshoes higher up. Then we had also brought skis for the way out.  Add a stupid sled (that I wouldn't recommend,) and it was an interesting trip!

    Now that my son is 14, I hope to visit the lodge again as a family, and we'll all be skiing the entire time. There will be no snowshoes and definitely no sled.

    I highly recommend skiing this trail in winter

    And if you're visiting with young children, this trail is amazing with a balance bike. My son used his when he was a preschooler on a previous visit to the lodge. We had to carry it a bit on the way in, but man could he fly riding out! (My husband had to jog to keep up!) - And we took the balance bike all the way to the lodge.

    The trail would also be chariot-friendly or doable with a big wheel jogging stroller. The steep hill would be your only challenge, but I believe you could push the empty chariot or stroller up the hill with a child walking or carried. - just know that once you arrive at the lodge you will have to park the stroller for any additional hikes, so bring a child carrier if you need one.

    The Redearth Creek Trail is exceptionally easy on a bike!

    Access to Shadow Lake via Arnica and Twin Lakes (Summer hiking)

    I've been to Shadow Lake a few times in summer/autumn (either to stay at the lodge or on tent backpacking trips) and I've always hiked in via Vista, Arnica and Twin Lakes, which is a more scenic approach than the Redearth Creek Trail.

    On my recent trip we took this scenic way in and then we hiked out via the Redearth Creek Trail. This is my preferred way of visiting Shadow Lake but requires two vehicles.

    Looking down on Vista Lake from Highway 93

    The first lake on the trail: Vista Lake

    You can see from the map below where we started at the parking lot on the border with Kootenay National Park on Highway 93. This is a very scenic trail which descends from the highway to Vista Lake before climbing to Arnica Lake, the Twin Lakes, and then Gibbon Pass. You descend from Gibbon Pass to arrive at the lodge.

    There are several day hiking options while staying at the lodge, and then I recommend hiking out via Redearth Creek to the TransCanada Highway.

    It took us just under 6 hours to complete the hike in via the lake route. Then it took us 4.5 hours to hike out via Redearth Creek. Both trails have approximately the same distance, but the lake route has much more height gain.

    It takes approximately 15 minutes to drive between the two parking lots (a 16 km drive.)  It's not a long shuttle, but longer than I'd want to do on a bike or on foot!

    Map courtesy of Shadow Lake Lodge

    What to expect on the Arnica / Twin Lakes Trail

    The trail begins by losing 137 metres of height as you descend to Vista Lake in 1.4 kilometres.

    You then climb 579 metres to reach Arnica Lake over 3.6 km and this is where you'll earn the decadent meals at Shadow Lake. I always find this section to be a grind, and it's usually hot and humid in the forest. We all had sweat running down our faces on our recent trip and we had to stop for numerous breaks.
    Looking WAY down on Vista Lake from the trail to Arnica Lake

    Beautiful Arnica Lake with it's different hues of green

    Upon reaching Arnica Lake, you have another 138 metres to gain in less than a kilometre before you reach the high point above the Twin Lakes. The bad news however - you have to descend to reach the lakes. (Losing 229 metres over 2.4 km.)

    Crossing boggy sections on the way to the Upper Twin Lake

    The trail gets a bit boggy and wet around the Twin Lakes so expect a bit of mud. Fortunately there are simple wooden bridges over the worst sections and large boulders assist with one creek crossing.

    I recommend poles to help with any rough sections.

    Approaching the Upper Twin Lake (the prettiest of the two lakes)

    This was where we took our first real break of the day, eating our lunch to summon fresh strength for the final climb to the top of Gibbon Pass.

    The Upper Twin Lake is a gorgeous destination even for a day hike

    And apparently I wasn't impressed by the second lower lake (or was too tired by that point) because I didn't take a single photo of it.

    The Upper Lake is a beautiful destination though and I'd recommend it for a day hike from the lodge if you hike in/out via Redearth Creek. (From the lodge, it will be the second lake you come to.)

    Upper Twin Lake, my favourite lake in this hike

    After reaching the two Twin Lakes, you begin to climb again to reach the top of Gibbon Pass. Fortunately, this is a very gradual section of trail and it's a breeze compared to the climb to Arnica Lake. And it's only 224 metres of very gradual climbing here spread out over 2.7 km.

    This larch forest is magical late September when everything is golden!

    I had in my mind on our recent trip that the descent down from the pass to Shadow Lake was a short little jaunt, and that we'd be there in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and we had to lose 450 metres of height and still hike another 3 km to reach the lodge.

    It's a great feeling to finally reach this large monument!

    And somewhere along the descent, it began to occur to us that we'd have to repeat this all over again the next morning (since we were only staying one night) because we hadn't set up a car shuttle.

    We were going to have to climb that 450 metres the next morning (a steep climb at that) and then we'd have to climb back up the ~200 metres to the high point above Arnica Lake. Then, before reaching the car, we'd have the final climb from Vista Lake back up to the highway.

    Thankfully one of the lodge staff members assisted us with a shuttle so we could hike out Redearth Creek.

    Lesson learned for the second time!! - I had already made the same mistake on a previous visit to the lodge with my mother some 15+ years ago. Other lodge guests rescued us that time, driving us back to our car on the other highway.

    I love Gibbon Pass (but it's especially beautiful late autumn with the golden larch trees)

    If you are able to do it, hike in via Arnica Lake, and then hike out Redearth Creek.

    I don't recommend doing the trip in reverse because Redearth Creek makes for a great trail when you're tried and just want to trudge your way slowly downhill for a few hours. It's fairly mind numbing to hike up. And the Arnica Lake trail is best hiked with fresh (first day) energy.

    And below is what to expect if you visit this area late September! The photos were taken on a backpacking trip I took to Shadow Lake many years ago. As a trip, most of it was miserable, with rain the entire hike in, and we could smell the amazing lodge food from our campground. I swore I'd never camp there again. We huddled under a tarp in the rain, eating our dehydrated backpacking food, while I dreamed of the warm fire at the lodge.

    Twin Lakes and Gibbon Pass are magical late autumn with golden larch trees

    Total trip distance

    According to the Shadow Lake website, the distance via Arnica and Twin Lakes is 14 km (the same as for Redearth Creek.) However, the height gain is listed as 960 metres (compared to the 440 metres for Redearth Creek.)

    It's suggested you allow up to 7 hours to hike in via Arnica Lake - and make sure you plan to arrive at the lodge by 4:00pm so you have time for afternoon tea before dinner. That would mean you should be on the trail by 9am.

    We started later than that, and did make it to the lodge in time for tea, but we certainly didn't have much time to take breaks.

    It took us just under 6 hours to complete the hike in. 

    Note RE distances and height gain: All distances and heights gained/lost are approximate! The numbers above are taken from my Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies book. Added up, they might not total the 14km (listed on the lodge website.)

    I find every book, website, app to be different. When we tracked the hike, we actually tracked 15 km with 1000 metres of height gain.

    Another photo of backcountry Arnica Lake (one of the prettiest lakes in Banff)

    Day Trips from Shadow Lake Lodge

    When you arrive at the lodge, staff will give you suggestions for day hikes from the lodge while staying there. Top choices will include:

    • Shadow Lake and the Cirque above the lake (stopping to visit the iconic Parks Canada red chairs at the end of the lake.) This hike would be 8-10 km return depending on how far past the lake into the cirque you go. - Link goes to the All Trails site.

    • Gibbon Pass - If you didn't hike in via Gibbon Pass, this makes for an excellent day trip from the lodge. It is only 6 km return with 450 metres of height gain, and if you're at the lodge late September, this should definitely be your first choice for the golden larch trees. 

      From Gibbon Pass you can continue on to the Twin Lakes, again if you didn't hike in this way. 

      See the full route on All Trails covering the Vista Lake - Arnica Lake - Twin Lakes - Gibbon Pass hike. Hike as far as you want from the lodge and return the same way.

    • Little Copper Mountain via Gibbon Pass - This is the easiest mountain you can climb from the lodge and in late fall the larch trees are spectacular from the top of Little Copper Mountain. You also get great views of Shadow Lake far below.

      It's only 7 km return with 700 metres of height gain (400 of which takes you to the pass itself.) And it's a fairly easy summit given that my son first did it when he was 5 years old. The link above goes to the All Trails website 

    • Haiduk Lake and Whistling Pass - From the lake, take the trail heading towards Egypt Lake to the junction with Ball Pass. Continue on to reach Haiduk Lake, and then climb to the top of Whistling Pass if you choose. It is approximately 14 km return to reach Haiduk Lake from the lodge. Add another 3 km round trip if you want to visit the pass.

      You can see the full route on All Trails which starts at Sunshine Village and goes over both Healy Pass and Whistling Pass to reach Shadow Lake. This route then continues on over Gibbon Pass to Highway 93 making for one epic traverse for strong hikers. 

      Should you choose this trip, you'd hike to the lodge from the Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff, and then you'd need a second vehicle at the Vista Lake trailhead. You can either hike up the Healy Pass Trail from the bottom of the ski resort or you can take the gondola up, and then hike to Healy Pass via Simpson Pass for less climbing. Both make for stunning but long days. 

      Follow this link for more information on a spectacular Sunshine Village / Shadow Lake Hut to Hut traverse where you stay at both the Sunshine Village Mountain Lodge and Shadow Lake Lodge. I admit, this trip is on my dream life list.
    Little Copper Mountain with Gibbon Pass and Shadow Lake far below

    Shadow Lake is definitely the first outing you need to make from the lodge

    Big Reasons for Families to Love Shadow Lake Lodge

    We visited shadow Lake Lodge twice when our son was younger, once in winter, and once in autumn. Both trips were extremely successful.

    The easiest backpacking trip ever!

    We've done proper backcountry trips as a family and let me tell you, there's a LOT of stuff to bring!  Fortunately we're done with diapers and bottles, but backpacking with kids is still a fine art that takes years to master (if you ever do) and the more children you have, the more gear you're going to have to carry. 

    We visited Shadow Lake Lodge a couple of times when our son was younger and it was gloriously easy for a backcountry trip. Our son carried some snacks, a water bottle, and... - that's about it.  Our packs as adults were moderately heavier but only because we chose to bring luxury items for our son such as books, an electronic tablet, and a few toys for down time.

    We never could have hiked here as a young family in winter without staying at Shadow Lake Lodge

    Private cabins

    Families will especially appreciate having their own cabin. No other backcountry lodge in the Rockies offers individual cabins for each family/group unless you pay extra at a couple of them (a lot extra.)  Most backcountry lodges provide small rooms in the shared building (that are seldom very soundproof.)

    And if you've every stayed at a backcountry hut, you'll appreciate not having to sleep in a large shared room, all together with the other guests (some getting up at crazy early hours for alpine climbs, and others going to bed very late.)

    My son has always been an "early to bed" kid and it was challenging in the early years putting him to sleep in backcountry huts or lodges where the adult guests would stay up for hours past his bedtime, playing games and chatting loudly. Shadow Lake provides privacy for families who want quiet time on their own schedule. 

    Our son biked most of the way in and out from the lodge thanks to this little bike

    Easy hiking

    The Redearth Creek Trail is well maintained and easy to follow.  You'd be seriously hard pressed to get lost going into Shadow Lake Lodge.  

    There's also a lot of easy exploring to do from the lodge. On one winter trip, we spent half a day playing at the lake and felt safe at all times.  When we finished snowshoeing on the lake we came back to the lodge, played in the meadow and enjoyed afternoon tea. On an autumn visit, we hiked up Gibbon Pass and summited Little Copper as a family. That was a great day trip, and a very easy summit.

    Little Copper was a fantastic day hike from the lodge when we visited one autumn

    Special items to consider bringing

    In case your child decides they don't like what's on the dinner menu, you may want to bring some supplemental snacks.  We brought peanut butter and cheerios which were both well appreciated by our son over the course of the weekend. I'd also suggest notifying the lodge if there are food choices that would be more enjoyable for your family (safe vegetable or meat choices your child likes.)

    Also bring "quiet time" activities for your child/children so that if you choose to hang out in the fireside cabin together as a family, your kid(s) won't be running around like crazy disturbing everybody.  

    Finally, I recommend baby monitors with small children so you can put them to bed earlier while you retreat to the fireside cabin.

    Shadow Lake Lodge is a fantastic destination for young families

    An Enjoyable Backcountry Trip for All Experience Levels

    Shadow Lake was the first backcountry lodge I ever visited with my husband, skiing in one winter after I'd just moved to Calgary some 20+ years ago. It was the perfect backcountry getaway for this princess at the time, very new to mountain sports and eager to try a winter backpacking trip (without having to sleep in a tent!)

    I still remember how proud I felt that I'd actually skied into a backcountry lodge. It seemed like a huge accomplishment and it was one of those first big adventures that fueled many more to come.

    5 years later, I hiked into the lodge with my mother, who would have given a hard nope to any kind of camping (even in summer!) We hiked in via Arnica Lake, which was a bit much for the two of us in hindsight, but we made it, and had a lovely stay at the lodge. Since then I've taken my mother to a couple of other backcountry lodges (both summer and winter,) and these will be core memories I have together with her as mother and daughter.

    Shadow Lake is gorgeous summer or winter! (and easily visited for all abilities)

    For my third solo trip (without a child in tow,) I just recently visited Shadow Lake with two girlfriends and realized how amazing it is for a girls' getaway! (and you only have to pay for one person when you do it this way!)

    It was a refreshing experience visiting the lodge without my family, and not having to worry about whether my son would like the food, whether dinner would be too late for him, whether he'd enjoy the hike in... - I only had to focus on myself!! (And I'm easy to please.)

    Last winter I skied into the lodge as a day trip (a long day with ~30 km round trip distance) but I can't wait to return and actually stay overnight again. Add snowshoes instead of skis, and most people could easily reach the lodge summer or winter.

    Shadow Lake is a great girls' trip destination for a glamping weekend!

    Plan Your Trip to Shadow Lake Lodge 

    Visit the Shadow Lake website to view availability and rates for a potential upcoming visit. If planning a trip this year, I highly recommend planning around the third or fourth week of September when the larch trees will be at their peak for golden splendor around Gibbon Pass above the lodge.

    Leave Moraine Lake to the tourists, and enjoy crowd-free hiking around Gibbon Pass on quiet peaceful trails. (Day hikers usually turn around by the Twin Lakes.)

    Gibbon Pass is magical late September!

    Now is also a great time to plan ahead for a winter visit to the lodge. It's an easy snowshoe or winter hike up the Redearth Creek Trail, and intermediate cross-country skiers will love the trip. The lodge is open weekends in winter with the trail groomed and trackset every Thursday for guests to arrive Friday, and then ski out Sunday. On your free day, there are several choices for easy outings from the lodge that won't take you into avalanche terrain.

    Holiday specials can also be seen here for the Christmas period.

    And I recommend signing up for the lodge newsletter so you receive emails for any new specials that they offer.

    Grab a friend and book a couple of nights for this coming winter

    This was my fav. ski trip last winter! I can't wait to repeat it this coming season

    Disclaimer: My recent stay was hosted in partnership with the Alpine Club of Canada and Shadow Lake Lodge. All words, opinions, and photos are my own.