The Alpine Club of Canada Cameron lake hut is a 1929 Warden Cabin in Waterton National Park. To access it, after entering Waterton National Park, turn right on the Akiamina Parkway and drive approximately 13km. Park at the road closure gates. Starting at the road closure gates it’s a 2km ski in to the hut, which you’ll find on the left side of the road. The ski in can easily be done on Backcountry or xc skis or on snowshoes. It’s a slightly rolling 2km and is a very busy area with lots of people doing day trips, so although it’s not track set, there were tracks to follow. The hut is fully stocked with everything you’ll need for a comfortable getaway. There are two family sized beds on the main floor and one big loft with a ladder that leads up to it. The beds each have good plastic covered mats, so you just need your sleeping bags. The hut has a heater and lights, no need to worry about bringing in wood or making fires. Water needs to be boiled and can be obtained by melting snow, or from a small creek nearby. If you want to plan a Cameron Lake trip, book early, as the hut books up a year in advance.
Our spring Cameron Lake hut trip was a great success and I’d recommend this trip to anyone that is wanting to try a backcountry trip but is still a bit nervous about sharing a larger hut, or backcountry tenting with kids. The Cameron lake hut is the perfect size for 2 families. We skied in on backcountry touring skis, as we find it easier and more stable to be on fatter skis with skins when pulling heavy chariots and wearing backpacks. We have 2 toddlers ages 2 & 3 and we use 2 chariots. At this age the three-year-old could ski or snowshoe in, but we always try to make our trips as fun as possible for the kids, so we bring a double and single chariot and they each get their own space for the ride in. This increases the chance of a meltdown free trip into the hut.
We have 4 adult sized sleeping bags that we zip together, so that each adult will sleep with one kid in a large sleeping bag. Because our kids don’t like sleeping in sleeping bags, we generally end up having the sleeping bags open and the adults will fight for covers while the kids roll all over us cover free keeping us awake. We brought in a soft sided cooler, so we could keep yogurt and milk cold for our one night there. We cooked our supper earlier in the week and reheated it at the cabin. We like to bring Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican beans and rice) on camping and backcountry trips. It’s not ultra-light to pack in, but it’s a great dish that covers all the food groups. For the kids, we pre-made cheese quesadillas and brought carrots, raspberries and raisins. The backcountry is not a time to test out new foods, so we always bring food that’s guaranteed to be accepted by the kids. We also bring treats that they normally won’t get at home, so they have cookies, chocolate and Nutella in the backcountry to make these trips that much more appealing. We generally don’t bring a lot of toys on any of our trips, as our kids have become great at playing with what is on hand, whether it’s pots and pans or just playing in the snow and building snowmen. For this trip, we did bring their shovels, which were a huge success. Kids LOVE to shovel snow and that kept them busy for hours. Our friends also brought food coloring, which can be mixed with water to paint the snow.
Its’ a long trip to get to Waterton for just one night, so if possible I’d book the hut for two nights. Waterton is pretty much closed in the winter, so don’t plan on doing much of anything in town. The only place that was open was the hotdog stand. No matter how close you are to another family, staying in small huts with toddlers will be a challenge. You don’t have your own space and your families won’t follow the same rules or schedules. Prepare for some challenges. These trips are tough for toddlers, they are on an emotional roller coaster that runs from really excited to over tired. Prepare for the melt downs and take a breath, it’s so worth it in the long run and even the worst meltdowns will be forgotten and the fun memories will remain.