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An Unforgettable Weekend At Purcell Mountain Lodge In BC

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

“We call it the Purcell stair climber” exclaims Kevin Blades, a veteran mountain hiking guide at Purcell Mountain Lodge. The approach to Porcupine Ridge, our goal for the day, is certainly steep at times but with high alpine scenery that’s in the world-class category, it’s not a hardship to be hiking here, even if it means I’m sucking wind at times. In fact John and I reveled in the fact that we were able to get high up into the Purcells, not once but twice on a three day/three night visit to the lodge.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Porcupine Ridge is on the left so we have to get to the end of this valley first

Built in 1989 but showing no signs of age, Purcell Mountain Lodge is the most luxurious of the backcountry lodges I’ve visited in the Canadian Rockies to date. Accessed via a scenic, 10 minute helicopter flight from Golden, British Columbia, the lodge welcomes guests in summer for hiking and in winter for backcountry skiing. Most guests stay for three or four nights, enough time especially with no access to phones or computers (okay there are a couple of high spots in the mountains where your phone might pick up a signal) to unwind.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Purcell Mountain Lodge – guest bedrooms all with views are on the top floor

What a typical day at Purcell Mountain Lodge looks like

It doesn’t take long to get into the groove of life in the lodge. The hosts – in our case retired school teachers Cathy and Doug from Canmore, guides Sarah (from Banff) and Kevin (from Kimberley) along with our cook, Gerry Gallant (formerly at Crazyweed Kitchen and Emerald Lake Lodge) ensured that our stay lived up to our expectations from the minute we got to the lodge.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

A nice touch with all the guest names on a welcome board

Purcell Mountain Lodge has a different format from other lodges I’ve visited. You chopper in to arrive in time for breakfast on the first day. That means you’re in the mountains at an altitude of 2200 metres drinking coffee, carbo loading and enjoying stunning views into Glacier National Park while getting to know your fellow guests by 9 AM with the whole day stretching in front of you. Granted there’s a 30 minute intro and safety talk, but by about 11 AM you’re actually out on the trails, with a delicious packed lunch to see you through to appy time – at about 4:30 PM. (On the non-travel days, coffee is ready at 7 AM and a cold and hot breakfast along with freshly made smoothies is served at 8:30 AM.)

By 4:30 PM chances are you’ll be back at the lodge from your hike. Then there’s a dilemma. Hot shower and clean clothes first or a cold drink and some of Gerry’s amazing appetizers? And by amazing I mean pizza in four flavours that will satisfy even the vegans and gluten intolerant, rice wraps with dipping sauce, a charcuterie board overflowing with goodies – and that’s just a sampling of what we enjoyed. Gerry whips up magic all day long in the kitchen – and then puts your willpower to a test. Mostly I flunked – but happily so. And the shower had to wait.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Gerry whipping up some vegan tapenade-y type of appetizer

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

A filled to overflowing charcuterie board served as an appetizer

Dinner is served around 7 PM so you have a couple of hours of free time. Find an Adirondack chair and watch the hummingbird wars. (Rufous hummingbirds have a mean streak!) Flush out your pores in a sauna. Read. Chat with your fellow guests. Play a game. Peruse their extensive library. Sip wine. Do nothing.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

The Adirondack chairs are waiting for you; notice all the hummingbird feeders

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Hang out in this upstairs quiet room with a good book

And then at 7 PM sit down family style to enjoy a three course gourmet dinner. While wine and drinks are extra, John and I landed on a weekend that included a wine tasting of Ex Nihilo wines. Not only did we learn about the winery located in the heart if the Okanagan, but we were able to see what wines paired well with food – and then order a glass of it to accompany our meal.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Who needs a main course when you get scallops as an appetizer

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Tried a range of both red and white Ex Nihilo wines

Hiking at Purcell Mountain Lodge

Hiking in the massive, wildflower filled meadows with exceptional  mountain scenery as a backdrop is a big reason to visit Purcell Mountain Lodge in the summer. That’s certainly why I was interested in visiting and the experience didn’t disappoint.

We hiked together as a group on the first day and split up on the second day with the keener hikers doing a longer day. Since you’re on holidays when you’re at the lodge, you can do whatever it is you want to do with no pressure. For some that may mean a short hike from the lodge so hours can be spent taking photos, while others may want a half day hike followed by an afternoon nap. It is possible to go off and hike on your own – as long as you sign a waiver and carry a can of bear spray.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Gorgeous Glacier National Park backdrop on our first hike

John and I did three hikes in total. The first, an easy hike with little elevation change except on Knee Grinder, offered stellar views of Mount Sir Douglas via stops at Poet’s Point, Cook’s Point and Inukshujk Point.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Some of the views we enjoyed on our first hike

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Our backdrop – Glacier National Park

The second, an all-day affair took us up Copperstain Mountain, along a ridge, back down a valley with some really pretty waterfalls – and then the kicker – a solid 40 minute climb at the end of the day back to the lodge.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

After an easy romp across the meadows there’s a moderate climb up Copperstain (notice the blue lodge in the far left of the photo)

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Sarah our guide stopping to talk to us about the wildflowers we see

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Some of the group making their way up Copperstain

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

And this is why you hike up Copperstain

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

It’s definitely more challenging to hike down the ridge than it is to retrace your steps on Copperstain

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

There are still cornices and snow hanging around in July

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Fortunately the trail along the ridge stays back from the edge

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

It takes 10 years for moss campion, a mountain dwelling wildflower to bloom – fun fact via Sarah the guide

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Slip sliding on some low angle snow

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Easy hiking at the end of the ridge

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Back into a world of green

Porcupine Ridge was the third hike we did. Although it’s close by and parallel to Copperstain Mountain it offers an altogether different experience. You start and end the hike on the same trail you finish with on Copperstain but the rest of the hike is in new country. It’s not hiked very often – mostly because the ridge portion of the hike is slightly harder than Copperstain.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

We did see a porcupine on our hike to Porcupine Ridge

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Saw fresh wolf tracks in the valley and on the snow going over the pass

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Heading for the high point and a lunch break

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

That feeling you get when you’re on top of the world

What sets Purcell Mountain Lodge apart from other lodges

John and I both thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge for a number of reasons – the layout of the lodge, incredible hiking, delicious food and the camaraderie you share with like minded people.

I especially loved the set-up of the lodge itself. All the guest rooms are on the top floor and while simple they are very comfortable. Each comes with a bed, a sink and a couple of chairs on the balcony. While bathrooms are shared there are lots of them – and they are all private. Most other lodges I’ve stayed in have more of a highschool set up with banks of toilets and no privacy. There are also private showers with shampoo and conditioner from Rocky Mountain Soap Company. The rooms come in different configurations with some sleeping as many as five people with bunk beds, a great set-up if you’re visiting with your family.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

One of the bedrooms with a bunkbed setup

The main floor is home to an entrance area where you leave your boots and coats, a kitchen, bar, dining room and common room with a fireplace and wrap around couches where everyone tends to congregate. Outside on this floor is a balcony with enough Adirondack chairs to go around.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

One night anyone who could sing or strum did so

What also come through on a visit is how the Purcell staff all see themselves as family. It shows in the way they work together and treat each other. The guides and hosts help with serving, clearing and dishes – basically everything other than cooking. They’re ready to pitch in where needed and while its relaxed around the lodge, the details are certainly attended to. Everyone is made to feel very comfortable.

Want the whole lodge?

For those of you who prefer to travel with people you know, there is the option to rent the whole lodge for special events like a wedding or a corporate retreat. There’s also a chalet, a 30 second walk from the lodge where you can enjoy more privacy and in theory cook for yourself, but why you’d want to do that when Gerry turns out the food he does is beyond me.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Set up in the private chalet – it’s like a home away from home

A huge thank you to Purcell Mountain Lodge for hosting John and I. What a treat it was!! We both had a great time – leaving well-exercised, well-fed and with a few more laugh lines, thanks mainly to the jokes told by Danny Hooper – a charity auctioneer who practiced his profession in the woods to scare off any bears. We saw none.

If you’re looking for a stellar hiking holiday in a landscape that would otherwise be hard to access visit Purcell Mountain Lodge for pricing and further information. The lodge is a true gem.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

An Unforgettable Weekend at Purcell Mountain Lodge in BC

Leigh McAdam

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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