The scenery, terrain, and adventure options up the Icefields Parkway are second to none. Some of the tallest peaks and biggest glaciers in Canada live up here creating a spectacular view no matter where you look. Now that we have kids we aren’t doing any alpine starts or mountaineering routes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find adventure. To get here drive west from Calgary on Hwy 1 until you get to Lake Louise, the turn north and take Hwy 93, all the way to Jasper if you want. Since it’s such a long way to go we wanted to make it worth our while without making things too difficult. We elected to forego camping (and give our 8 mo old somewhere to crawl) and booked the Hilda Creek Hostel instead. Located just 8min south of the Icefields Visitor Center Hilda Creek Hostel is a 6-bed wilderness hostel without any running water or electricity. It does have propane heat and light and a nearby creek for water (and beer cooling!). On this trip the creek was extremely cloudy and we were all glad that brought water to drink. The drive up was fairly easy. We traveled convoy style with another family: Kirk, Dianne, and their 2-yr old Annabelle; and agreed to leave Calgary at noon when all of our kids were due to for naps. Both Logan (2yrs) and Riley (8mo) crashed out hard in their car seats and we had peace and quiet all the way to Lake Louise. We stopped in LL for about 45min to give the kids a chance to wiggle and run and then started up Hwy 93 N towards Hilda Creek. Total driving time was roughly 3 hrs and leaving at nap time meant the kids slept for most of that. We arrived in late afternoon and spent Â some time getting unpacked and organized while the kids ran around outside the hut. There is a nice wooden deck out front and a flat play space where they could run and play within easy sight of the adults.
One of the easiest and most rewarding things to do was simply explore the area around the hut. For us that was probably a 1 km radius, or as far as the toddlers would go on their own. With lots of great forest areas and a raging creek nearby there was no shortage of kid friendly things to do. We also made a trip up to the Icefields Visitors Center and did the easy walk to the toe of the Athabasca glacier. I’ve been up in this area a few times in the last few years but hadn’t actually walked up to the toe of the Athabasca glacier in probably 10 years or more. It was incredible just how far back it has receded in that time. The last time I was there Parks Canada was still doing the small roped off area where you were allowed to walk on the glacier, but now there is a large river/lake formed between the viewpoint and the glacier. It’s a shame to see such dramatic change in such a short time.
The other easy hike we did was Beauty Creek, just a few minutes north of the Icefields Center. It was a great hike to do with kids and kept them entertained the whole way through. It was nice and short with a great view of the Beauty creek canyon and easy walking trails.
On the last morning we were packing up and cleaning out the hostel for the next people while the kids ran around on the now-familiar deck. When I told Logan it was time to pack his sleeping bag up he teared up and told me “No Daddy, stay this hut” – I’ll take that to mean that he had a great trip and would do it again. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that we all had a fun, engaging, and adventurous trip with plenty of time outdoors.