There’s a time and place for thrilling adventures, and for sitting in front of the fire place all day in a robe, sipping mulled wine. Emerald Lake Lodge, an exceptional year-round accessible resort in one of the world’s most beautiful wilderness settings, offers a home base for both.
I visited the Kootenay Rockies region in September, as the leaves began to change for the season. After a full day of heli-hiking in Revelstoke our group made our way to Yoho National Park, wherein lies the legendary Emerald Lake Lodge, founded at the turn of the last century during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once accessible only by rail and horse-drawn coach, this lodge has stood the test of time, providing absolute luxury in the middle of a spectacular natural landscape.
Since the lodge is located in a National Park, guests first drive into a main parking lot off-site. There you can stow your vehicle while you walk over to a cabin and pick up a direct line telephone to call the lodge to pick you up. A shuttle arrives and drives you past parked tour buses and over the two lane bridge that connects the National Park to the lodge’s 13 acre peninsula in the heart of the jade-coloured lake.
Coming from our alpine trek, tired and rain-soaked, our group then checked in at the main lodge. Greeted by the warmth of the century-old fireplace, I sunk in for a bear-hug from one of the large leather arm chairs as I checked my email — the lodge being the only building on site that has Wi-Fi.
Accommodations range from lodge rooms, suites, and cabins, with a lodge room being one of four rooms in a single building. There are 85 units in total, situated in 24 chalet-style cabins. I was in a lodge room, with a private balcony and lake view, fireplace ready to light, and big comfy bed that I couldn’t wait to fall into after dinner. The rest of my group found their rooms and went out to the state of the art stainless steel hot tub, catching a rainbow falling across the lake in the process. I stayed in, showered, and lit a fire to warm up and reflect on the day.
When it was time for dinner I walked up to the main lodge, dodging chipmunks and black-billed magpies on the path, and met my colleagues for a drink. Built of hand-hewn timber, the lodge features a massive stone fireplace, sitting rooms, an elegant dining room, quiet reading rooms, games room, and conference facilities. The lounge, where we ordered some bold whiskey-based cocktails, features an oak bar salvaged from an 1890’s-era Yukon saloon.
Dinner featured bison and elk from Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch, owned by the lodge’s parent company and located 30 miles southwest of Calgary, Alberta. Seasonal vegetables, local wines, and great service rounded out our candle-lit meal in the lodge. Surrounded by history, and mountainscapes viewable from grand windows and verandas, the warmth of Emerald Lake Lodge glows on even the cloudiest and coldest of days.
In the morning, after a buffet breakfast at the lodge, I walked down across the bridge and over to the boathouse where there is a trailhead that will lead you around the other side of the lake. While I stopped to take photos, tour buses of travellers visiting the national park came and went, like a tide of people with cameras and selfie sticks that flowed in and out every 15 minutes. I was handed a few cameras to capture this moment for a handful of couples who beamed with excitement about being in such a lovely place, and their happiness was infectious even though I was feeling rather wonderful already.
Our group eventually met up near the boat house, which also houses a great little gift shop, and some took out the bright red canoes that glow like ruby gems on Emerald Lake, while I opted for the hike around the lake.
In the winter, you can snowshoe and cross-country ski both of these routes. The walk features placards and signs with history and information about the area. You will also walk through an avalanche path, carved out each year by inevitable slides that prevent tress from growing and pressing the ground flat as a pancake in one single strip, very visible in the summer months as vegetation attempts to re-grow.
Yellow leaves, sandy stones, luscious green lake water illuminating even the greyest of days as the Rocky Mountains attempt to peer through the clouds, it all made for an amazing autumn stroll with my camera in hand. I can only imagine winter days where everything is covered in pillowy white powder, save for the evergreen tree tops surrounding the lodge. Sharp, harsh slopes of the Rockies peeking out from all around you, not realizing that they have you surrounded as they take turns revealing themselves in the late afternoon sunshine.
Enjoy the great outdoors in spring, summer, and fall in the greatness of Yoho National Park with all of its offerings, or spend your entire day on the pristine waters of Emerald Lake Lodge. In the winter — yes the Rocky Mountains do make for a fantastic winter getaway — Emerald Lake Lodge has packages for your snowy mountain escape including Christmas at Emerald Lake Lodge complete with a visit from Santa and dinner with all of the trimmings.
As mentioned, there is no Wi-Fi in the rooms (just in the lodge) and cell phone reception is spotty. But what it lacks in connectivity, Emerald Lake Lodge makes up for with its ample recreational opportunities and even more ways to relax and enjoy its stunning setting.
Emerald Lake Lodge is about a 2 hour drive from Calgary International Airport, and 2 hours from Revelstoke coming from the west. For more information, check out the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts website, Destination BC, and Kootenay Rockies Tourism to plan your getaway for any season.