Last August, I enjoyed a great (but rainy and even snowy) stay in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, one of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas on a scale difficult to imagine. You can read my trip reports here:
- Trip report: British Airways A380 Business Class from London to Vancouver
- Review: Post Hotel & Spa
- Review: Fairmont Banff Hot Springs Hotel
- Review: Emerald Lake Lodge
- Review: Lake Moraine Lodge
- Review: Mount Engaldine Lodge (today)
- Review: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (to be published later)
- Trip report: British Airways B787-8 (Dreamliner) Business Class from Calgary to London
Today (November 30, 2016): Review of Mount Engadine Lodge, a hidden gem in the Canadian Rockies.
Mount Engadine Lodge is a hidden, all-inclusive getaway in the pristine Spray Valley Provincial Park, just south of Banff National Park. Named one of Canada’s ‘Top Ten Hidden Gems’ by TripAdvisor, the lodge has recently undergone a full redesign, bringing the resort experience into the wild, beautiful settings of Canada. A specialized, full-service staff is engaged in making each guest’s experience a relaxing adventure. Meals are served ‘family style’, which is great for getting to know people. At a maximum capacity of 19 guests per night, the lodge maintains an atmosphere of a quiet retreat to indulge your need to disconnect and unwind.
Mount Engadine Lodge features in my top 10 list of the best hotels & lodges in the Canadian Rockies.
In this review (more info below the slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The lodge is conveniently located near Calgary and Canmore Alberta, but you won’t believe it when you reach the untouched wilderness during the last 30 km (20 mi) of your yourney to the lodge. It’s a beautiful drive on a well maintained gravel road and you’ll pass some spectacular scenery, and plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the views and the wildlife!
- Mount Engadine Lodge remains the only development in the Spray Valley Provincial Park and is surrounded by majestic mountain scenery that rivals the beauty of its better known neighbor, Banff National Park. With some of the greatest hiking and cross-country trails in Canada, Spray Valley has long been a camping destination, and the lodge brings the comforts of the indoors to this great natural backdrop.
- The lodge is uniquely designed and operated to create a cozy, quiet, and serene atmosphere for enjoying the wilderness. It is a back-country lodge and nature retreat rich in creature comforts. The lodge has a longstanding approach to sustainable tourism, which is a respectful fit for the gorgeous provincial park around it.
- The lodge is built up a gentle hill at the foot of the base of Mount Engadine and Mount Shark. It overlooks an extensive alpine meadow with a small creek meandering through it and some stunning mountain peaks as a picturesque backdrop. The breathtaking views can be enjoyed right outside the windows of your room.
- The communal areas are located within the main lodge building, with a couple of lounges centered around two stone fireplaces, a small library, a cozy bar, and a bright dining room with large windows showcasing the spectacular alpine surroundings. Guests need to take their shoes off at the door before stepping into tranquility.
- There is complimentary WiFi throughout the lodge although this is not the place to surf the internet as you need to explore the great outdoors.
- At a maximum capacity of 19 guests per night, the lodge maintains an atmosphere of a quiet retreat to indulge your need to disconnect and unwind. Guests have the option to stay in rooms located in the main lodge, or in private cabins close by. All rooms have recently been renovated. During my visit, I stayed in a cabin, designated Whiskeyjack, which featured one bedroom with a queen bed, one with two twins, a large deck, and a tiny bathroom with toilet and shower.
- For those looking for a little extra adventure – a yurt is also available upon request. The rustic yurt sleeps up to 4 adults and can accommodate pets. It’s easily accessed from the lodge’s main parking lot and located a short distance away. You will need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and extra clothes for chilly evenings. There is no shower access but you are able to use the bathrooms in the lodge.
- Overnight stays at Mount Engadine Lodge are all-inclusive. The excellent food is prepared on the premises using locally sourced produce. The day starts with a two-course, seasonal breakfast, after which you are given a gourmet packed-lunch to take on your outdoor adventure. Following a day in the outdoors, you can return to the lodge for afternoon high tea and to wrap up the day, the lodge’s Chef Gerard Garnier serves up a dinner, featuring an entree, a selection of vegetable dishes, and fresh salads, dessert and locally brewed beer, wine and spirits.
- The afternoon tea service deserves a separate mentioning as it is excellent perk and open to non-guests. It includes a blend of fine coffee beans brewed to perfection, a wide selection of Canadian tea blends as well as a charcuterie board with an assortment of fine meats, cheeses, fruit and fresh backed goodies.
- Meals are served family-style, meaning that everyone sits down at the same time around two tables which is a lovely way to meet new people and share travel stories.
- The lodge is open year-round, even in heavy snow (which I experienced during my stay in early September). It is a magnificent base for outdoors enthusiasts and a nature-lover’s paradise, thick with forests and dozens of creeks that flow into pristine rivers that neighbour the lodge. There are plenty of exciting activities and adventures around the lodge, throughout each season, including hiking, cycling, kayaking, snowshoeing, and skiing.
- The highly knowledgeable staff at the lodge are very familiar with the surrounding area and can help you plan your outdoor adventures.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Although I loved my stay at the all-inclusive Mount Engadine Lodge, this place is not for everyone and here’s why.
- Although very comfortable and clean, this is not a five star hotel, and the lodge is less glamorous as compared to the better known luxury hotels in the Rockies. However, the location of this property can’t be beaten, and it offers a remote wilderness experience that none of the other hotels in the Rockies can compete with. IMHO, Mount Engadine Lodge is the best and most upscale backcountry lodge in the Rockies.
- The drive to the lodge is very scenic but the gravel road is little rough and quite long.
- There are no in-room telephones, computer jacks, or televisions to take your time away from the breathtaking surroundings. But there is complimentary WiFi throughout the property and an extensive book library in the lodge to keep you entertained on a rainy day or in the evening.
- Although I enjoyed them a lot, the family-style meals where you are seated with the other guests around the same table will not be to the liking of all. But remember, when you stay here, it’s all about the backcountry experience, and you’ll be happy to share travel stories with your fellow guests.
- There is no choice of menu (other than special dietary requirements), so if you don’t like what is on offer, then there is no alternative.
- Alcohol or special beverages are not all inclusive with room rates.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: not applicable
- Resort grounds: 9/10 (the great outdoors)
- Rooms (cabins): 7/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 7/10
- Spa: not applicable
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: good: 7/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a hotel like Mount Engadine Lodge (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
As far as hiking, scenery and warmer weather goes many, the best time to visit is from late June to mid-September. Respectively this time frame offers the best chance for good weather; however, it also has the largest crowds and highest accommodation prices. Consider a trip during a shoulder season such as June and mid-September to mid-October when there’s less crowds. The accommodation prices will be somewhat lower compared to the summer months, and your chances on spotting wildlife are much better. Starting in early December and through March is the time for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Trails are threaded throughout the park, leading to beautiful nearby lakes such as Rummel and Chester.
HOW TO GET THERE
Calgary International Airport is the most convenient airport to start your holiday in the Rockies. Check the Wikipedia page of Calgary International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Calgary. From Calgary, there are two ways to reach the all-inclusive Mount Engadine Lodge: through Canmore, or Kananaskis Country Provincial Park. It’s a beautiful drive on a gravel road – you’ll pass some spectacular scenery, and plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy views and wildlife!