If you live near the National Parks in Alberta, are planning to visit there and recreate for a week or more or simply want the option of staying somewhere road accessible that’s in the heart of the Canadian Rockies then you simply have to purchase the “Wilderness Season’s Pass” by Hostelling International.
When I first learned about the “Wilderness Season’s Pass” I was intrigued, to say the least. On the outside I simply couldn’t believe what I was reading and that I had never heard about it before. Last winter myself and Spring were planning a trip into the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies to ski tour, ice climb and just generally travel around to see the sights. To facilitate this trip we had ideas to either live in a camper, sleep in the back of our SUV or try and secure some house sitting gigs.
I’d googled and searched for blogs and advice and nothing was really standing out. Until one night, while having dinner with a friend, they mentioned “look into something called a Wilderness Season’s Pass for staying at Hostels in the National Parks”, so I did.
Now, this is NOT to be confused with the “Backcountry Wilderness Pass” for the Canadian Rockies. Similar name, but the latter is needed if you plan to sleep overnight in the backcountry in the National Parks. The “Wilderness SEASONS Pass” gives you access to 10 Hostels that are designated as being in Wilderness locations.
When I found the webpage with details about this Pass I had to do a double take. After reading it over I actually then called in to clarify if what I was reading on the website was accurate. The kind voice on the other end of the phone was patient, simply answering “Yes, that is correct” to all my questions.
Wilderness Season’s Pass Details:
Cost: CA$249 (Wilderness Seasons Pass) + CA$35 (HI-Canada Membership)
Valid: 1st November – May 31st (212 Days)
Number of Hostels: 10
Number of Stays Allowed: Unlimited!
That last line was the one I had trouble comprehending. For less than CA$300 I could have the option of staying at these Hostels for 7 months of the year… unlimited!
Note: “This pass is not valid for accommodation of seasonal workers or individuals working in the area.”
The next thing I wondered about was where exactly all these Hostels were located. I wondered if they were hidden away deep in the mountains which would make accessing them difficult. But, apart from only a couple of them, the majority you can drive right up to.
To see the names of all 10 of the Hostels you can access that here: 10 Wilderness Hostels
To visualize exactly where they all are I put together a map with pins to all the Hostels on it, there’s a picture of it below but you can look at it yourself also at this link: Wilderness Hostels Locations and Map
Additional Important Details:
Reservations: You can only reserve your stay up to 3 weeks ahead of your arrival date. This measure ensures that individuals can’t book up all the Hostels right at the start of November. Some of the Hostels (i.e. Rampart Creek, Castle Mountain and Maligne Canyon) are fairly popular due to their amenities and locations and could easily be booked up solid well in advance.
Differences: It’s worth checking the facility details for each Hostel ahead of your stay. Part of why I really enjoyed staying at the Hostels I visited was that each was unique in it’s own way (i.e. Castle Mountain has male and female only dorm rooms, Hilda Creek requires a 10 minute ski/snowshoe to reach the front door, Rampart Creek has an amazing sauna… etc)
Closures: Throughout the winter some of the Wilderness Hostels have a Custodian. This is a single person looking after the entire Hostel for the entire winter. They usually get 1 day off a week when the Hostel closes. It’s worth checking ahead of time which days these are as they are different depending on the Hostel. It will also mean that through the winter it will not be possible to book a stay longer than 6 days in a row for that Hostel.
For full details about the scheduled closures and days some of the Hostels close weekly check out This Link
Key Access: 3 of the Wilderness Hostels do not have custodians, but require you to have a key code to enter them. You will get this key code when you call Reservations and book your stay. This will mean that you will need to operate and start the propane heaters, stoves and lamps, fetch water and generally open up and fully close the Hostel during your stay. These Hostels do not need to close 1 day per week so should be an option if you require a stay longer than 6 days.
The Wilderness Season’s Pass is one of the best kept secrets in the Canadian Rockies. Incredible value for money! You get unlimited stays at 10 rustic and cozy Hostels in some of the most beautiful spots in the National Parks of Alberta. If you want to immerse yourself in a true Canadian winter wonderland then you simply have to buy this Pass.
Wilderness Season’s Pass: Regular HI-Member Rate – CA$249 (including tax)
Hostelling International Annual Membership: Adult – CA$35 + Tax