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By Diane Spicer
Hike-in lodges take the idea of base camping up several notches.
Imagine a pristine wilderness setting like the one above as the sun drops behind a spectacular peak.
You're sore and tired from a long day of hiking, but no worries! The lodge is just around the next bend in the trail.
And dinner is waiting for you.
You can book a week in heaven and choose just how heavenly you want it to be.
Use these questions to begin your list. Don't skip this step, as it sets the tone for your entire hiking vacation.
Hiker, know thyself!
Some lodges will rent you a bed (bring your own sleeping bag and pillow), give you access to a community kitchen, and pretty much leave you on your own to hike each day.
Some lodges give you the royal treatment, with bed and bath linens provided.
Other hike in lodges will cook meals, provide trail advice, and offer guided daily hikes, scrambling and other outdoor adventure.
Regardless, indoor plumbing is a rarity. Be sure to ask about access to an indoor sink for washing up, a "liquid only" toilet for night time visits, or the need to use an outhouse.
Hike-in lodges have personalities, just like their owners.
There are 3 approaches to choosing the best hike-in lodge for you:
Avoid misunderstandings and disappointment by doing one, or all three, of these suggested ways to explore what your lodge experience will be.
Watch for buzz words like "gourmet meals", which indicate that a sturdy day hiker who racks up a lot of mileage each day might be a bit hungry with small portions.
"Family style" is a more relaxed and abundant approach to meals. That's the ticket!
If you have a food preference, intolerance or allergy, you need to talk directly with the lodge owner.
It's unrealistic to expect a backcountry kitchen to
cater to severe allergies, and it's not fair to disclose your food needs
once you show up. There's no grocery store around the corner!
The larger the lodge, the busier meal times will be.
Introverts will have a few buttons pushed by having to wait for the meal to be served, and having no control over your dining companions or topic of conversation.
Expect people to ask where you're from, what you do, and which backpack you use. Curious cats!
The European model of hosting hikers in the back country seems to be the preferred choice in western Canada:
In the United States, there are fewer options which cater to hard core hikers.
Shadow Lake Lodge comes to mind.
These folks have a spectacular setting near Banff National Park, BC.
If you've never stayed at a hike-in lodge before, you might not think to ask about the following factors.
But they can determine how much fun you do (or don't) have at these back country oases.
There are many different price points for hike-in lodges, and sometimes you can score a great deal if you wait until the last minute because the lodges are happy to fill up the space.
This is a dodgy practice if you only have one specific week to book a lodge, though, especially in high summer.
Most lodges will require a deposit to hold your space, often up to 50% of the trip.
The balance will be due shortly before you arrive.
Know which method of money transfer they prefer.
Be sure that you understand the refund and cancellation policies. There are windows of time where you can receive most of your money back, but the window shrinks closer to your arrival date.
For this reason, trip insurance is recommended to protect you from unforeseen events that make your trip impossible.
Also factor in a tip for the hiking guides.
Considering a lodge in a different country?
Check the currency exchange rates so you're fully aware of what the trip will cost.
Rates fluctuate daily, so it's possible that the price
will swing up or down at bit if you wait to book your trip.
I don't recommend waiting, though, because summer hiking time is so precious. You don't want to be disappointed, right?
And if the rate is in your favor, lock it in by booking your trip.
Be sure you know what you have to do to get to the trail head:
If you have to leave your vehicle, you want to know if there's a parking lot for the lodge, or if you'll be just one of many day hiker vehicles at an unsecured trail head.
You might also have to bring or borrow chicken wire mesh to put around your tires, to discourage porcupines from gnawing on them!
You also want to know how long the trail is in terms of time and distance, and whether there are any streams to ford, steep elevation gains/losses to deal with, and how well marked your route in will be.
Once you're at the lodge and ready for a day hike, what's in store for you?
If you want to acquire a new skill, look for a lodge which can teach you those skills.
I've stayed at lodges that feature staff (resident experts) who can teach you:
Don't overlook the fact that you will be dining and hiking with hikers who may have a deep skill set they're willing to share with you, too.
You can contact me here.
Here's a great way to look at backcountry hike-in lodges:
I highly recommend that you try hike-in lodges for your next hiking vacation!
Another type of vacation to consider:
And if you want to bump it up another whole notch, there's heli-hiking.
Enjoy your hiking vacation. You earned it!