There are a lot of ski-in, ski-out lodges throughout North America but few that can offer a great “snowshoe out your door” experience to winter hikers. Most of us don’t want to stay at a crowded ski resort (even if it does promise snowshoe trails somewhere on the property) and the best winter hiking trails are far removed from busy chair lifts and gondola lines.
Winter hikers and snowshoe enthusiasts are looking for a quiet lodge away from busy ski resorts where we can access the peace and solitude of the backcountry, where we can find adventure right outside our door, and where we can play in glorious powder all day long – without having to spend hours hiking to this magical destination. We’re looking for a front country lodge with backcountry charm. Let me introduce you to Mount Engadine Lodge.
Mount Engadine Lodge is located in the remote Spray Valley in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. It is outside busy Banff National Park and far from the resort atmosphere of the popular ski hills in Banff or Lake Louise. At Mount Engadine Lodge you will experience backcountry solitude while staying at a luxurious front country lodge and you’ll have the opportunity to go snowshoeing, hiking, or cross-country skiing right out the front door of the lodge.
Being somewhat of a foodie, I knew I was in love with Mount Engadine Lodge the second I walked in the door for afternoon tea and saw the enormous spread set out for guests and visitors. It rivals anything I’ve seen at a front or backcountry lodge in the Rockies and I am not ashamed to say that I probably visited the buffet table a half-dozen times.
A stay at Mount Engadine Lodge includes the famed afternoon tea and buffet table loaded with appetizers, desserts, and hot soup. It also includes a gourmet dinner and breakfast the following morning. Ingredients are laid out for lunches before your outing the next day and this is one bag lunch that won’t disappoint. Meals are shared in a communal fashion with other lodge guests so that you can share your day’s adventures with one another and maybe even find a new hiking partner for the next day. The atmosphere at Mount Engadine Lodge is unparalleled and by the end of a stay at this lodge you will feel as if you are close friends with the other guests and staff.
Snowshoeing at Mount Engadine Lodge
And now for what you all really want to know: Where can I go snowshoeing or skiing from the lodge? And can I really just walk outside the door without driving? The answer is yes, you can cross the highway from the Lodge and head straight up towards Rummel Lake on either snowshoes or light touring skis without ever getting in your vehicle. The trail is fairly straight forward, usually well packed down, and avoids any major avalanche chutes. While it is fairly steep at times, most fit adults should be able to make the six-mile round trip distance on snowshoes.
If you’re staying at the lodge with children or want to do a short evening hike, there are other short loops in the immediate vicinity of the lodge or you can go explore the meadow below the lodge in search of a moose or a new bird to add to the bird counter on the patio door of the lodge.
Other Trails near Mount Engadine Lodge
Other trails in Spray Valley Provincial Park can be found on the Alberta Parks Website but my favourite trail near Mount Engadine Lodge is the one to Chester Lake. Located in nearby Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, this popular trail will get your heart pumping with a steep climb up to a beautiful lake with meadows that are honestly the most beautiful I’ve ever hiked through in winter.
The trip is only 5.7 miles round trip and my six-year-old recently did the hike so it’s easily tackled by fit families or adults. It’s my top pick for trails in the area because it’s always well packed down and there are orange markers every 600 feet so that there’s no way you can get lost (I dare you to try.) If you bring children, make sure you bring a bag of candy and dole them out generously at each of the “candy trees” bearing the special markers. It’s a sure incentive to help them at least reach the meadows.
Skiing and Snowshoeing in nearby Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Any visit to Mount Engadine Lodge has to include at least one day touring nearby Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The park offers over 52 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails in the Kananaskis Lakes area off Highway 40 with another 19 miles of ski trails in the Spray Valley. For hikers, there are seven official snowshoe trails in the provincial park within the Kananaskis Lakes area with another six official trails located in the Chester Lake area near the lodge. To sum it up, there is no way you could snowshoe and or ski every trail in the area were you to visit Mount Engadine Lodge for a whole week. (Though it is a good challenge if you are able to stay a week.)
For more information on the official snowshoe trails in Kananaskis, follow this link to the snowshoe brochure that Alberta Parks has created. It shows a map with trail description for each of the 15 trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and the Kananaskis Valley.
For information on the ski trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, follow this link to the Alberta Parks ski brochure. The ski trails are amazing so if you like both skiing and snowshoeing, I recommend trying to do a bit of both while at Mount Engadine Lodge.
Where to start your winter vacation in Kananaskis
If you are traveling from out of country or province to spend time in Kananaskis, you’re going to want to stage your trip out of nearby Canmore. This quaint mountain town is located just outside the Banff National Park gates and is less than an hour from the city limits of Calgary. You’ll can rent a car in Calgary and then you can rent snowshoes and skis in Canmore before heading out to Mount Engadine Lodge. From Canmore, you are only an hour from the lodge on Hwy. 742, The Spray Lakes Road. The drive is very scenic so make sure your camera isn’t packed in the trunk, and stop often to take in the views of the Spray Lakes Reservoir.
If you’re planning on spending some extra time in Canmore, it’s recommended you visit the Canmore Nordic Centre which offers trails for everything from cross-country skiing to skate skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking. The rental shop on site can get you started with any gear that you need (including a fat bike) and you can even wrap up your visit with some ice skating or sledding if you have children with you. The trails here are world-class and the Centre was originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. It continues to be a major training ground for Canadian athletes and you’ll be skiing on the same trails that these young champions race on.
For more information on the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, visit this link to the Alberta Parks website.
For more information on Mount Engadine Lodge and to make a reservation, visit their website at Mount Engadine Lodge. The lodge fills up quickly on weekends in winter so it’s advised to start planning that trip for 2015 or 2016 now.