Camping or Luxury in the Rockies: Which Travel Style Suits You Best?
If you work in tourism, you learn pretty quickly that most people in this industry don’t do it for the money. Tourism is more a labour of love. It’s an industry that rewards us in other ways: the chance to create special moments for our clients, to help support local communities or causes that we care about, or simply the opportunity to travel and explore new places in ways that we might not be able to otherwise.
For me, what started as a summer job that got me out and about in the mountains, quickly turned into a medium of greater exploration. Guiding outdoor adventures across Western Canada eventually evolved into travelling from coast to coast and even going abroad to promote Canada. I found myself in an industry that allowed me almost endless opportunities to experience our country and I made it a personal goal to see as much of Canada as possible.
As a guide, I did my share of “roughing it”: sleeping on the ground, chopping wood, stoking fires and putting in the kilometres by foot. Eventually my job evolved into the luxury bespoke travel space and I found myself on charter flights, staying in high-end hotels and luxury wilderness lodges. It was always interesting to live vicariously through my clients and I feel incredibly fortunate to have visited corners of the country that I may not otherwise have had the opportunity to explore, such as the luxury wilderness resorts in BC, like Nimmo Bay, or the Tweedsmuir Park Lodge or the incredible Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.
Although it’s tempting to get sucked into the luxury space, I feel very fortunate that I get to experience the full spectrum of Canadian travel. Whether you’re camping, or staying in fancy hotels, I think each type of travel has its positives.
One part of the country where these two worlds live in harmony is the Canadian Rockies. The views are spectacular whether you’re seeing them from the window of a luxury Fairmont room or the side of a tent but the experience is much different, especially when travelling in the busy summer months.
Which type of travel suits you best?
Luxury Stays in the Rocky Mountains
On the luxury side, the iconic Fairmont properties in the Rockies can serve as an oasis. First-class hotel amenities, top-level dining and prime locations that put the best views at your doorstep allow you to bob and weave through the crowds and take in things more at your own pace.
From staying at these properties, I’ve learned that:
The views from the Banff Springs hotel are some of the best in Banff.
Staying at the Chateau Lake Louise in the summer allows you to enjoy the lakeside in the early morning or late evening before the crowds arrive or after they leave. If you’re hiking, it puts you in a prime location to get on the trails before those that have to drive in.
The Jasper Park Lodge’s sprawling property, located just outside the Jasper townsite, provides amazing views of the mountains in one of the most peaceful settings.
To top it all off, you can take out the hassle of driving on the sometimes busy highways by connecting these locations by scheduled transfers, private car or even by rail.
Nature Stays in the Canadian Rockies
Another way to escape the summer hustle and bustle is to go off the grid so to speak and become one with nature. I had an absolute blast spending my summers camping and hiking through the Canadian Rockies with guests.
Our Rocky Mountain National Parks have world class trail systems — Banff National Park alone has more than 1,600 km of trails — and in my opinion this is truly the best way to take in the natural beauty of the Rockies. The majority of the tourists that visit the Rockies don’t venture far off the beaten path and getting out on the trails allows one ample opportunity to take in the serenity and majesty of the wide-open spaces. For those willing to put in the legwork, there are countless photo ops, picnic spots and swimming holes to discover — and I can almost guarantee your photos will not match those of the millions of other tourists posing in all the well-known locations.
There is also a simplicity and peacefulness to heading back to a campsite at the end of the day. A meal cooked outside, and a night with friends spent gazing into the fire or the stars above is a welcome retreat from the big city life that most of us live. In many ways, I find it more valuable than a night in a fancy hotel.
I understand this type of travel may seem intimidating or inaccessible to some. Perhaps you’re not comfortable camping or hiking on your own, or you don’t have the equipment. Or perhaps, like many of us, you just don’t know where to go, which places are worth seeing, which campsites are worth staying in and which hikes are worth the effort. As a former guide, my advice is to join a guided or group experience. This is a great option for those looking to explore in nature without the hastle of planning and packing up all the equipment necessary for backcountry travel.
Check out these guided outdoor experiences in the Canadian Rockies: our 5-day Rocky Mountain Canoe Adventure takes you along the Athabasca River and our Canadian Rockies: Hike, Paddle, and Explore will get you on the trail and away from the crowds.