Hiking in the Canadian Rockies, Assiniboine Provincial Park, Alberta
- Explore remote high-alpine backcountry in the amazing Canadian Rockies
- Stay in the comfort of a historic wilderness lodge
- Hike, photograph, fish, or just relax below glacier-draped peaks
- Historic rustic retreat with tasty meals and comfy beds
- Daily guided hikes
- Hot showers and a sauna
|Dates||Jul 20–25, 2014|
This is a special opportunity to immerse yourself in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful alpine scenery to be found anywhere — without backpacking. Cradled majestically between Banff National Park in western Alberta and Kootenay National Park in eastern British Columbia, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park is an alpine paradise for hikers, photographers, geologists, and nature lovers. Countless small mountain lakes are scattered like jewels upon the high alpine country. Evergreens, aspen, wildflowers, and abundant wildlife — elk, bear, and eagles — complete the setting.
With a grand view of the imposing, pyramid-shaped Mt. Assiniboine (11,870 feet), we will stay at the historic Assiniboine Lodge (7,200 feet), a remote backcountry inn. Perched on a high plateau of the Continental Divide, this lodge was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1920s. Its rustic creature comforts will sweeten our wilderness experience. The lodge consists of a Norwegian-style main building and adjacent log cabins, decorated with hand-painted doors. It is the only lodge inside the 150-square-mile wilderness area.
Each day you will have a choice of two hikes: a challenging hike to ridges for gorgeous views of lakes, waterfalls, and high mountain vistas, or a more moderate trail to meadows with equally impressive vistas and wildflowers. Some of the hikes will be cross-country (no trails) and the challenging hikes may involve scrambling on loose rock, travel on snow fields, and some limited exposure. Hikes range from six to ten miles with 1,000 to 3,000 feet of elevation change. Every hike will include a Sierra Club trip leader and an experienced guide from the lodge. We will pick routes on a day-to-day basis, depending on weather conditions. All hikes offer a broad range of Canadian Rocky Mountain experiences and views.
We will travel to the lodge by helicopter from the Mt. Shark Heliport, about 25 miles west of Canmore, Alberta. We will organize carpools to drive between Canmore and the heliport. The eight-minute helicopter flight to the lodge is not included in the trip price and will cost approximately $150 each way.
It is possible to hike out from the lodge at the end of the trip. The hike is 17 miles on a usually well-maintained trail through grizzly bear habitat. A group of four is recommended for safety. Gear for hikers may be flown out for $2.25 per pound (rate subject to change). If you want to take this option, be sure to discuss it with the leaders.
The trip will officially begin and end at the Mt. Assiniboine Lodge. Pre-trip letters will include detailed information regarding meeting time and directions. Canmore is approximately 70 miles from the Calgary International Airport or 375 miles from Spokane. Commercial shuttle service is available between Canmore and the Calgary airport.
Accommodations and Food
Accommodations will be in either cabins or in the lodge itself. The cabins sleep three to four people each. They are roomy, impeccably clean, and supplied with a propane heater and lamp and running cold water. Hot water is delivered early each morning to your door. The outhouse, with its grand alpine view, is a short walk from each cabin. A few rooms, for two or three people each, are available in the main lodge. Outhouses are a short walk from the lodge. Room assignments will depend on the size and composition of the group. No radio, television, wifi, or phones will distract you from enjoying this alpine paradise to the fullest. There are hot showers and a sauna to ease the aches and pains from a day of good physical activity.
Assiniboine Lodge serves delicious family-style fare in a large dining room. The food is gourmet and can be vegetarian-friendly upon request. Hikes are designed to get participants back to the lodge in time for afternoon tea and snacks. Dinner is served around 6 p.m., leaving ample time for showers or relaxation. Lunch fixings are laid out each morning for participants to make sandwiches and choose other items for their sack lunch for the day. The trip price includes all meals beginning with dinner at the lodge on the first day and ending with lunch on the last day.
Our guided hikes will vary in difficulty. A good-to-excellent level of physical fitness will allow you to get the most from day hiking at this altitude (6 to 10 miles at 7,000 to 10,000 feet).
Expect a variety of weather and temperatures. It could rain or possibly snow lightly at night. Typically, we will have sunny days with highs in the 60s and 70s with moderately cool temperatures at night — perfect for hiking!
Equipment and Clothing
All linens, blankets, and down comforters are provided in the rooms. Bring a sturdy day pack and the usual “10 Essentials” for our hikes. You will also want comfortable, casual clothing for the lodge. We will provide a detailed packing list.
Luggage weight is limited to 35 pounds per person on the helicopter, so pack wisely in soft-sided luggage. Bring your fishing gear if you like. There is excellent angling for cutthroat and rainbow trout, and the lodge sells fishing licenses.
- “Recreational Map Banff” and “Mt. Assiniboine”
- Topographic map 82 J/13: “Mt. Assiniboine”
- Beers, Don, Banff-Assiniboine: A Beautiful World.
- Patton, Brian, and Bart Robinson, Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.
- Patton, Brian, Tales from the Canadian Rockies.
- British Columbia Mt. Assiniboine site: www.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mtassini
- Mount Assiniboine Lodge: www.canadianrockies.net/assiniboine
- Discover Canmore: www.discovercanmore.com
There are seven designated parks in this area: Kootenay, Yoho, Banff, Jasper, Mt. Robson, Maber, and Mt. Assiniboine. The United Nations designated the entire complex as the Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site. Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park is entirely roadless and all ground access is on foot.
The Mt. Assiniboine area is important because it protects such a wide variety of uninterrupted habitats, from forested valley bottoms to rugged and icy peaks. As a result of this richness and variety of habitats, many animals and birds are able to thrive in the area. The park is a prime habitat and migration area for grizzly bears. We will spend time visiting many aspects of the area and discussing the conservation of this remote area. We will also discuss the recession of the many glaciers that we can see from the lodge.
In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness. While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.