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Prime Base Camp in the Canadian Rockies

by Jim Barr

As we all know, with the Canadian Rockies at our doorstep – we’re pretty spoiled. Endless options make it tough to decide which trail to hit and which direction to take. Being a big fan of the great outdoors means I am always looking for the next base camp for my adventures. While I enjoy Banff, Jasper or Canmore, the goal for me on a hiking or biking getaway is to score some peace and quiet. Years ago, I discovered what I consider one of the Bow Valley’s signature base camps, tucked in just off Highway 1 at the junction to Hwy 93 south – the Castle Mountain Chalets at the base of the mountain that share the name.

Individual cabins, spacious lawns, oversized deck chairs, BBQs and even an outdoor hot tub make up the amenities. It also happens to be walking distance to the start of one of Bow Valley’s must-do hikes. 

“The proximity to the trailhead is great; Castle Mountain is such a prominent feature of the Rockies. Staying at the chalets and having that mountain right at its base is awesome,” explains Kelly Smith Alpine Club of Canada member since 2005. It was by Smith’s suggestion that my buddy Jeremy, my dog Mala and I hit the trail up to Rockbound Lake and headed for the summit of Castle Mountain. 

Within seconds we were off the Chalets’ lawn and onto the trail. For the first two or so hours, it's a graded trail that quickly gained elevation and got you up and into the trees. “You get a dynamic array of different geology and topography. The granite is very old in the Rockies, so you get a very cool experience with every elevation change and into completely different scenery,” explains Castle Mountain Chalet co-owner Matt Decore. “That type of experience lends itself to great hikes. I think this is why the Bow Valley has been such a magnet for hikers, climbers and mountaineers.”
After about three hours on the trail, we made it to Rockbound Lake – approximately eight kilometres from the Chalets. Now with Castle Mountain in close view, you’ve got that experience Decore described, differing types of rock make up the mountain face and made for some interesting points of view. On this hot day, the dog really appreciated a swim and after a great lunch, we pressed on. Although we should have taken the hot temperatures into consideration and packed more water, the ridgeline and mountain shelf we reached afforded incredible views including the highway – way down below. For us, arriving at such a spot and scoring incredible photos was enough of a day, especially when there’s such a great base camp waiting with cold beers in the fridge.

Similar to sitting on the deck reliving your après ski experience, Castle Mountain Chalets affords visitors this same luxury. The mountain towers over the resort and with your feet up in those oversized chairs it's a beauty spot to relive the day and pick out the next trail. Castle’s calling me back to unfinished business so I’ll return in the near future. Fortunately, it comes with a brilliant stay that wouldn’t steer anyone wrong. And it’s not just this hike that awaits – the Bow Valley is full of adventures and the Castle Mountain Chalets makes for the perfect base camp to take them all in.  For more on its location and amenities hike over to

FEB 15/ 2012

Castle Mountain Chalets offers a great stay for Lake Louise travellers

Sterling Todd Keys

Mount Washington, British Columbia, Canada
Castle Mountain Chalets offers individual cabins and an outstanding location for both relaxation and adventure.
Photo courtesy of Sterling Todd Keys

CASTLE MOUNTAIN, AB — After a day of skiing, hiking, and only taking small breaks to grab a packed lunch in the trees, it was almost torture to think about the long drive back to Edmonton from Lake Louise Ski Area.

Fortunately, nestled between Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, just off of Highway 1, is the saving grace of Castle Mountain Chalets.

A cluster of beautifully-designed cabins form the accommodation, each cabin being individually rented out and furnished for great comfort. After checking in at the rustic convenience store at the entrance of the grounds, which is fitted with a functioning old-fashioned gas pump, we made our way to our private cabin and begun unloading our gear.

It’s a great feeling to be surrounded by towering mountains after spending the day playing around in them, when you can take a moment to just relax and let their quiet grandeur truly sink in. Arriving at our cabin, we were blown away by the rustic feeling and sense of comfort that we were greeted with. The staff of the resort had even stocked the cabin’s fireplace full of kindling and wood, with a note on the table indicating that we most likely would need it after a long day of skiing. Nice touch.

A fantastic starting- and ending-point

The grounds themselves provide ample entertainment for guests, with large common areas throughout the resort, including the Activity Centre, complete with a communal hot tub and gym. As with our own, each cabin is fitted with a kitchen, making it a great place for an extended stay in Banff National Park.

To top if all off, being close to both Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, as well as being an excellent starting point for many cross-country skiing trails, this resort truly is a hidden gem for people looking to get away from the traditional hotel-style lodgings.

Unfortunately, there is only so much a body can take before it says enough is enough. An early morning of driving combined with a full day of exhilarating turns in the snow translated to a very early evening after a dip in the hot tub to relax. Besides, we had another early morning ahead: Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort awaited us.

For more on the adventures that await just outside our doors – check out some additional stories on the area from our friends at – a website dedicate to informing and inspiring winter minded road trips.

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OCT 4/ 2011

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