Nestled in the back-country of Banff National Park comes a true gem, unlike no other – a rustic mountain accommodation built in 1928 that differs from its sister huts of the Alpine Club of Canada. As a classy, off the grid, all-inclusive retreat, guests purchase a package that includes rooms and all meals, which are hearty and cooked fresh daily. However, it’s no easy feat to get there – there is no transportation which means guests are required to access it under their own steam. The 12.9km (8 miles) must be covered by skiing, snowshoeing or fat biking in the winter time or hiking on foot in the summer. This makes a getaway to Shadow Lake Lodge all the more unique!
The lodge is surrounded by true beauty and to celebrate and preserve the environment, they leave virtually no environmental footprint using solar and propane to heat water and guest rooms. Conscious of waste; the lodge also minimizes packaging through the purchase of bulk foods and groceries, while laundry and garbage are packed in and out by the staff. Products and soaps are environmentally friendly, local suppliers are utilized, and recyclables are sorted and packed out to a recycling facility.
I had the privilege of visiting Shadow Lake Lodge in late March 2022 experiencing all they have to offer their guests with adventure, cozy rooms, great food, and community. I chose to rent a fat bike at Trail Sports in Canmore to get there as I’m not the best skier. It came with studded tires, handled super easily even with a pack on my back, and worked like a dream on the packed snow. As it turns out I could have skied the trail as it is wide, regularly track set, and relatively low angled with the exception of one short section. Fat biking seemed to almost halve the travel times in and out comparing it to the people skiing. 2hrs in and 1 hour out give or take. The ride out was a blast! Note that you can not ride all the way to the lodge past the end of March, bikes must be locked up at a provided bike rack at the junction 2.4km back from the lodge during spring, summer and fall so it is a bit of a winter secret with fat biking still being a less explored endeavour.
Once at the lodge, the staff were exceptionally friendly. Meghan, Lauren, Lelani, Darryl and MA made all the guests feel welcome and gave great suggestions on activities to do in the area. I borrowed some snowshoes from them and set out to the nearby Shadow Lake right away. It was a 10 minute snowshoe and the view of 3311m (10,863ft) Mt Ball at the head of the lake dominates. I ended up making this trip many times, morning and night to try and capture optimal photography conditions – even being late to breakfast waiting for the light one day! Breakfast and dinner are served in their dining room at set times in a group setting. Bagged lunches are provided for the day’s adventures or relaxation if you so choose. We had 3 course gourmet dinners in the evenings that left you completely satisfied. The food tasted and was presented like it could have been served at an upscale restaurant, and was accompanied by a range of alcoholic drinks available for purchase. The staff chatted with the guests as new friends throughout as well as set up an interesting informal trivia style competition that kept us all entertained.
In winter the entire surrounding area is snowbound which has a quiet magical beauty, with snow pillows covering rocks and logs, simplifying the landscape, while frozen waterfalls adorn the distant cliffs, and the subtle blue hue of the hanging glaciers separate them from the accumulated snow high above. Animal tracks show evidence of who else we are sharing this place with – I noticed pine marten, squirrel, snowshoe hare and lynx tracks while I heard woodpeckers in the forest and was also informed of the snow fleas (or springtails) underfoot which I hadn’t seen before. Don’t worry they don’t bite! I definitely want to go back in summer when the trails are open to the back of Shadow Lake and up into the waterfall amphitheatre. Likewise, in fall, Gibbon Pass and Little Copper Peak become great daily objectives from the lodge with the changing of the larch needles, something I experienced 10 years ago when backpacking in the area.
In any season Shadow Lake Lodge is an amazing destination but in winter expect to slow down a bit more and enjoy the rooms, the hospitality and the peace and quiet. There is a reason many locals return here year after year, It is a must do experience in Alberta and the Rockies so adventurous visitors take note! You will feel a world away from the common accessible attractions along the main roads of Banff National Park while still being well looked after in a spectacular wilderness setting. Sharing this type of trip with friends or family would be a special memory that would stay with you forever.
How to get to Shadow Lake Lodge
For more information or to make a reservation visit the Shadow lake Lodge website here: https://www.shadowlakelodge.com/
The easiest and recommended access route is to park at the Redearth Creek car park which is about a 10-15 minute drive from Banff towards Lake Louise. Make sure to purchase a National Park Pass for your vehicle. The 12.9km (8 miles) access via Redearth Creek entails an elevation gain of 440m (1444ft) so expect to work a bit harder going in than coming out!
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