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Hiking the Canadian Rockies

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I haven't been around for awhile (I can only do one forum at a time, and for months now, that's been Gardenweb in connection with our condo remodel :-)).

We just got back from a 6 day lodge-to-lodge trek in Peru and it was a wonderful trip/trek. We got to wondering whether there are any "group/guided" lodge-to-lodge treks in the Canadian Rockies. If you know of any such thing, or of information for a "DIY" trek, we'd love to hear about it.

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    I remember my last year trip to Algonquin Provincial Park where I went on hiking to some of the best locations inside the park. We were able to watch numerous wild animals in action. Initially we stayed in Killarney lodge but as we moved forward we did stayed in some of the camp grounds. It was really an awesome experience.

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    There are certainly longer overnight backpacks that are possible in the Rockies (Banff, Jasper and YoHo National Parks), but probably not lodge to lodge like you did in Peru. I don't know about Peru, but in the Rockies, the landscape tends to be valleys connected by higher mountain passes, so to go long distances, you tend to have to hike up and over mountains or passes. So longer treks/hikes tend to have some fairly strenuous components.

    Besides roadside and backcountry campgrounds (and wilderness hostels), the main form of backcountry housing in the Rockies are huts. The majority are run by the Alpine Club, and house 16-35 people in bunks. They tend to have kitchen facilities & equipment/fuel, plus outhouses and simple bunks with sleeping pads. But no running water - you melt snow or carry buckets from a nearby stream/spring. You bring food, sleeping bag and toilet paper (and hand sanitizer). There are some nicer huts/lodges run by other organizations like Skoki, which are very popular and much fancier.

    You can do treks between them, but a number are up at high altitude & require glacier traverses so you must have gear & training for glaciers. Otherwise, you can link together some of the huts & campsites in sequence for nice overnight trips - think 2-4 nights tends to be more typical and unless you spend more than one night at a location. Popular routes include the Skyline in Jasper and Iceline in YoHo. The Lake O'Hara area in YoHo is supposed to be gorgeous and is served by campsites & at least one hut.

    You can also base day hikes out of one or more of the wilderness hostels. They tend to have running water for cooking, kitchen facilities & equipment, washroom facilities and one or more bunk areas/huts. Not fancy and usually no showers or flush toilets, but gorgeous & convenient locations and in some, you can book a bunkroom or building for a group so you'd have some privacy.

    I would suggest checking out the websites for the national parks, as well for the Alpine Club of Canada, which runs many of the huts. Doing such a trip will require a fair bit of advance planning as you need to get a parks pass, wilderness passes for each night, plus book space in a hut or campsite (random camping is not allowed in most areas). And spots in campsites/huts tend to be limited, as are the number of wilderness passes allotted for each night. Spots on popular hikes can sell out well in advance (you can purchase them up to 3 months in advance of your date), so you need to book early and have alternate routes in case you can't get a spot or bunk in your desired route. Weekends and holidays will be the most popular.

    For guided trips, you can hire an ACMG guide through a company or individually. Guides must have the proper paperwork to lead trips within national parks. Or you can sign on to a trip either through the ACC, one of the local clubs or via a company. In most cases, you're probably going to find that they are a bit more bare bones - more solid hikes than treks and not much in the way of amenities. Going with a company or on a national ACC trip might add some amenities - some companies will porter up all or part of the food to save you carrying weight and will deal with all the passes/paperwork.

    I've done a number of trips through Yamnuska. Their mountaineering trips/courses are probably a bit more than you want, but one of their hiking trips might be to your liking. You can also hire one or more of their guide(s) to lead a custom trip.

    Also, you might want to consider trips outside the national parks or in the other mountain ranges of BC. There are tons of lodges there and lots of companies that guide trips, especially outside the national parks.

    It really depends on your desired level of comfort, your hiking ability and how much you want to hike/trek each day.

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