With sparkling glacier-fed lakes rimmed with forests and traversed by five mountain ranges, British Columbia offers a wealth of lodgings on high, ranging from luxe waterside lodges to comfortably rustic retreats accessible only by four-wheel drive or helicopter — all steps away from hiking and culinary adventures. Here’s a rundown of seven spectacular mountain getaways. Whether your aim is to tackle a rugged trail or relax into a hot stone massage, there’s something for everyone.
Just a six-minute shuttle ride from the excitement of “downtown” Whistler, Nita Lake Lodge’s 77 luxury suites offers a serene haven on the water. After a day of paddle-boarding or fly fishing for trout; biking or riding a gondola up nearby Whistler Mountain, you can hit the spa or relax in your own soaking tub. For dinner, the lodge features seasonal dishes with herbs and vegetables from the lodge’s rooftop garden. No one ever said that adventure had to mean roughing it.
If more off-the-beaten path (and off-the-grid) is your style, Cathedral Lakes Lodge three hours from Vancouver, is accessible only after an hour of four-wheeling through the forest. At 6,800 feet above sea level, Cathedral Lakes is the highest full-service hiking and fishing lodge in Canada, with access to nearly 40 miles of hiking trails and lakeside vistas in the heart of the Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area.
No matter if you’ve taken a relaxing stroll around Quiniscoe Lake or risen to the challenge of a full-day hike on the Cathedral Rim Trail, you’ll come back to a true retreat — no TVs, no radios, no Wi-Fi — just good conversation, wine and food around the hearth.
Amid the rugged peaks of the Canadian Rockies, the site of Emerald Lake and its namesake Emerald Lake Lodge was discovered in 1882 during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Fittingly, the oak bar in the lodge’s timber-beamed Rocking Horse Lounge was salvaged from an 1890s-era Yukon saloon. If you can tear yourself away from the microbrews and single malts (or the Rocky Mountain cuisine including free-range elk, caribou medallions or seared Skuna Bay salmon) there’s hiking, biking, canoeing and whitewater rafting in the surrounding Yoho National Park.
Afterward, savor a glass from the 400-bottle wine cellar on your private balcony, as you gaze out on the jade-colored water that gives the property its name.
Deep into the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies, 6,700 feet above sea level, you’ll make your way to Mistaya Lodge by helicopter over the Rockies. (Some guests say it’s worth the stay for that journey alone.) A largely family-run operation, Mistaya takes full advantage of its total wilderness immersion with a full hiking program at all levels, led by certified guides.
Trek to one of seven nearby glaciers or settle on the lodge’s front deck after a sauna to listen to the sounds of the rushing creek. Either way, you’ll know you’ve arrived at a truly remote escape with all the luxuries of the modern world.
CMH Bugaboo Lodge takes heli-hiking to another level with daily excursions that begin and end with a chopper lift. The resort, smack in the middle of the Purcells Mountains, provides front door access to granite cliffs, glistening glaciers and riots of summer wildflowers. With heli-hiking packages designed for every level, even beginners can explore these remote natural wonders. Guests can clamber up the Skyladder via ferrata, a unique vertical ascent with metal rungs embedded in the rocks, or take a helicopter to the edge of Bugaboo Provincial Park for a thrilling but technically easy glacier trek.
Born as a lodge in 1929, the Tweedsmuir Park Lodge offers summer eco-adventures of almost every kind (Think: rainforests, glaciers and fjords, set in the Coast mountain range.) You’ll see grizzlies in their natural habitat as you drift along the Atnarko River in the heart of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the largest in British Columbia.
Or, stay close to the lodge itself and safely spot mama bears and their babies from the property’s private viewing platform. You can opt for a massage or get heated up in the property’s sweat lodge, or venture further afield for a heli-hiking expedition in the Bella Coola Valley, or to cruise the fiords for orca and dolphin. At your private chalet or cozy cabin, relax by a river-stone fireplace while you enjoy a locally-sourced meal and wine.
Bear Claw Lodge, on the Kispiox River, 90 minutes north of Smithers, British Columbia, offers land and water adventures from a luxe home-base: a 15,000 square foot post-and-beam structure decorated with artisanal furnishings. Each of the eight suites features a stone balcony opening onto the rushing river. And if you’re craving Chinook, coho or steelhead salmon that you catch yourself, the guided fishing is the best around. Situated near the Alaska panhandle, at the base of Mount Baldy, guests can go horseback riding, rafting, hiking, or visit totem poles created by the Gitxsan, the region’s first aboriginal inhabitants. Guests are also welcome into the kitchen to talk with Heather Muir, the summer executive chef, as she prepares meals with ingredients from the property’s organic gardens, as well as traditional indigenous Gitxsan dishes.
--Paula Derrow for Destination BC