The Wilderness Season’s Pass for the Canadian Rockies!

Driving the Icefield Highway.

Driving the Icefield Highway.

Bottom Line:

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.

Our cabins at Rampart Creek

Our cabins at Rampart Creek

Observations:

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.

The outhouse at Rampart Creek

The outhouse at Rampart Creek

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.

Skiing at the Bow Summit and Peyto Lake area

Skiing at the Bow Summit and Peyto Lake area

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!

Driving the Icefield Parkway on a winter night

Driving the Icefield Parkway on a winter night

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.

Community atmosphere at Rampart Creek. Everybody chips in to keep it running.

Community atmosphere at Rampart Creek. Everybody chips in to keep it running.

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

Google Map of Hostel Locations

Google Map of Hostel Locations

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.

Skiing at Parker Ridge near Hilda Creek Hostel

Skiing at Parker Ridge near Hilda Creek Hostel

Conclusion:

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.

Links:

Wilderness Seasons Pass

List of Wilderness Hostels

Key Access Details

Check Availability

Cost:

Wilderness Season’s Pass: Regular HI-Member Rate – CA$249 (including tax)

Hostelling International Annual Membership: Adult – CA$35 + Tax

More Pictures:

The parking lot at Rampart Creek

The parking lot at Rampart Creek

The wood for the sauna at Rampart Creek

The wood for the sauna at Rampart Creek

Eating area at the Rampart Creek Hostel

Eating area at the Rampart Creek Hostel

The Rampart Creek Sauna

The Rampart Creek Sauna

Views along the Icefield Parkway

Views along the Icefield Parkway

The Custodians cabin at Rampart Creek

The Custodians cabin at Rampart Creek

Rest day at Rampart Creek playing Scrabble

Rest day at Rampart Creek playing Scrabble

Bunk beds at Rampart Creek

Bunk beds at Rampart Creek

Cragging behind the Rampart Creek Hostel

Cragging behind the Rampart Creek Hostel

Mount Chephren on the Icefield Parkway

Mount Chephren on the Icefield Parkway

Ice Climbing off the Icefields Parkway

Ice Climbing off the Icefields Parkway

 

 

Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

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