Move over heli-skiing (at least, for the season): it’s all about heli-hiking now.
Taking hiking to new, wondrous heights, the adventure sport has gained traction in recent years. On the mountainous west coast of Canada, outdoor exploration companies in postcard-worthy spots throughout Alberta and B.C. have offered helicopter-centric hiking adventures for decades.
Yet, it’s still a relatively under-the-radar option in the adventure travel world.
The unforgettable experience takes hikers of varying levels – from beginners to the mountaineering set – deep through Canada’s famous Rocky Mountains, well beyond the well-trodden trails. It offers a scenic adventure above the clouds and through surroundings full of snow-capped peaks, tumbling waterfalls, and piercing lakes.
In short, if you’re an active outdoors-lover, this is something you’ll want to check off the travel bucket list– especially if you have a passion for snapping epic landscape shots and inhaling fresher-than-fresh air.
Rather than meals of granola bars, oatmeal, and beef jerky and basic lodging accommodations, however, today’s disconcerting heli-hikers can enjoy a five-star experience throughout, from stunning chalets to elevated and exceptionally curated culinary experiences. This includes everything from après hike wine and apps, to memorable multi-course meals.
Last September, Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), a longtime Banff-based heli-adventure company, launched a new trip called Alpine Appétit that pairs helicopter-accessed hiking with luxury lodgings and thoughtful fine dining. The company partnered with Banff’s Park Distillery and B.C.’s Hester Creek Estate Winery and Field House Brewing Co. to pair drinks with menus from CMH chefs for memorable experiential meals. The hot-ticket program is designed to showcase the farm-fresh goodness and local libations of each province.
After a fresh air and fine dining-filled day, guests will unwind at the iconic CMH Bobbie Burns Hiking Lodge, a recently renovated and sprawling chalet-like spot located outside of Parson, B.C. An $8.4-milion in 2019 drew inspiration from the pristine Canadian wilderness by thoughtfully incorporating natural timber, stone, and metal elements throughout.
Removing any element of “roughing it” from the equation, a stay at Bobbie Burns includes an outdoor hot tub, wood-fired sauna, steam room, and massage services.
Perhaps the most impressive draw of the lodge, however, is its picturesque (to say the very least) and soul-soothing surroundings of old-growth forests, towering peaks, dramatic moraines, and photo-worthy glacial lakes.
While the coveted culinary-focused experience is currently sold-out (there is a wait list) there are other options available too. CMH also offers other three-day heli-hiking excursions through other parts of the Rockies, including those with stays at the company-owned Cariboos and Bugaboos lodges. With all of the CMH excursions, a common denominator includes craft cocktails, apps, and locally sourced gourmet meals. Oh – and scenic hot tubs.
All of the CMH’s heli-hikes are lead by professional guides accredited by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) or the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA), and professional gear is included for guests.
If you’re looking to go all out and make up for lost travel time, western Canada is also home to private luxurious helicopter access-only backcountry lodges that accommodate large families and groups. For example, Banff’s Talus Lounge – which is only accessible via helicopter – accommodates groups up to 12 and offers a kick-off point to mountainous, guided hikes.
If you’re in the western part of Canada and want to experience a taste of heli-hiking – as opposed to committing to a multi-day adventure – other Rockies exploration companies offer day and half-day heli-hiking trips as well.
Either way, a magnificent trek deep through the Rockies is definitely one worth taking.
Featured Image: Robin O'Neill for CMH