If you like staying at places with soul and distinctive character, you’ll love the Charming Inns of Alberta. This collection of 12 independently owned properties put bland, characterless hotel rooms to shame.
Uniquely located, styled and operated, each of these Charming Inns is dedicated to providing a memorable stay. While a destination in their own right, these properties are also located in some of Alberta’s most beautiful places like Banff, Jasper, Drumheller and Waterton Lakes.
I first heard of the Charming Inns of Alberta through my friend Leigh, who always raved about her winter weekend escapes at Mount Engadine Lodge in the Kananaskis Valley.
In the last year, JR and I have been fortunate enough to visit four different properties in the group and our high expectations have been matched every time.
Read on to discover more about our Charming Inns experience, along with personal recommendations of places to go when you book your own stay.
Thank you to Baker Creek Mountain Resort, Mount Engadine Lodge, A Bear & Bison Inn and the Georgetown Inn for hosting us.
Charming Inns of Alberta
Before I get into the nitty gritty of each inn we have visited, let me tell you a little something about the overall experience.
Each of the Charming Inns we visited had that perfect blend of cosy yet contemporary surroundings. Small and personable but not overbearingly intimate, the vibe of each inn was relaxed and welcoming.
These are the kind of places that you could easily enjoy a romantic weekend getaway without even leaving the property.
But guests who do venture outside will be rewarded with some of the most scenic landscapes in Alberta, ranging from the rugged peaks and turquoise lakes of the Canadian Rockies to the golden fields and big skies of the prairies.
Unique places to stay in Alberta
Since the Charming Inns are a group of independently owned properties, each one is uniquely different. Though the setting, views, decor and choice of accommodation vary from inn to inn, standards are kept high.
Some common features include:
- Small size (5 to 50 rooms)
- Friendly, personalised service with innkeepers/owners present
- Dining options
- Open year round
- Canada Select three star or CAA three diamond rating minimum
Most of the Charming Inns of Alberta are family and pet friendly.
All properties have adapted policies and facilities for Covid19 safety. Check each inn’s website for more details.
Baker Creek Mountain Resort, Lake Louise
Baker Creek Mountain Resort is one of those places I have previously driven by and longingly wondered what it would be like to stay there. Located on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park, Baker Creek is a beautiful red roofed property featuring cabins and lodge rooms next to the eponymous waterway.
We stayed in a spacious Jacuzzi suite in Moose Lodge, also featuring a private balcony with calming mountain views. I almost wished it was a little cooler outside so we could have the chance to cosy up in front of the fireplace!
Another place to relax is by the creek itself, where there are well spaced fire pits and red Adirondack chairs waiting.
Baker Creek’s onsite bistro was only a few steps away from our suite. Dinner was a casual yet upscale affair, with elevated Canadian cuisine made with locally and regionally sourced ingredients where possible. We received some great recommendations from our server and enjoyed steak, salmon and the chef’s daily pie (a Baker Creek mainstay).
What to do around Baker Creek Mountain Resort
Baker Creek Mountain Resort has one of the most advantageous locations in the Canadian Rockies. Within a short drive (30km or less), you can easily reach Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Johnston Canyon and Yoho’s Spiral Tunnels. Even the start of the Icefield Parkway is within this radius!
Being right on the Bow Valley Parkway, Baker Creek Mountain Resort is also close to a number of lesser known hiking trails and viewpoints. Usually a fairly quiet road, the Parkway is ideal to explore by bike. If you don’t have your own, Baker Creek offers rental bicycles.
Mount Engadine Lodge, Canmore
One of best places I’ve stayed anywhere in Canada, Mount Engadine Lodge is situated right in the heart of the spectacular Kananaskis Valley. A road accessible wilderness lodge, it has the beauty and allure of the backcountry but with all of the comforts of civilisation.
Mount Engadine Lodge sits on the edge of a lush meadow, with the patio looking out to endless mountain peaks. As well as a number of lodge rooms and suites in the main building, the accommodation options at Mount Engadine include glamping tents and cabins as well.
Being so relatively remote, it is a particularly wonderful feature that four daily meals are included with every stay at Mount Engadine Lodge. As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner (the latter of which is usually held family style in non-Covid years), afternoon tea is served from 2pm to 5pm every day.
What to do around Mount Engadine Lodge
If you love hiking, Mount Engadine Lodge is the perfect place for you! It’s possible to start hiking right from your room, with the trail to Rummel Lake starting just across the Smith Dorrian road.
Imposing Tent Ridge overlooks the Lodge itself and offers simply magnificent views of the Kananaskis Valley for those ready to tackle the short scramble to the top.
If hiking isn’t your thing, it is also possible to mountain bike and paddle nearby. Alternatively, you could just stay close and enjoy all the views from Mount Engadine Lodge itself. Wildlife sightings are common, with the meadow in front of the dining room being a particular favourite of moose.
A Bear & Bison Inn, Canmore
Tucked away on the southeastern edge of Canmore, the Bear & Bison Inn comprises ten uniquely styled rooms overlooking the stunning Three Sisters peaks. This Charming Inn makes every guest feel special, with four poster beds and jacuzzi tubs being standard features.
Our upper level room (complete with impossibly high ceilings!) had a private balcony, ideal for watching sunrise. The lower level rooms have access to a pretty garden, still with those exceptional views. There’s a large, shared hot tub too (closed in 2020).
Our host told us that the Bear & Bison Inn is particularly popular for weddings and I can absolutely see why. Airy, bright and inviting, the shared main floor area has stunning views.
Their famed three course breakfast (worth the hype!) is usually served here but is now delivered to individual rooms at a chosen time. Breakfast on the scenic balcony was a worthy alternative.
What to do around A Bear & Bison Inn
Situated in a quieter area of Canmore, the Bear & Bison is ideally placed for exploring the outdoors. In fact, the trailhead or one of Canmore’s most iconic hikes sits just across the road!
The steep climb to the helipad viewpoint (around 6km return) of Mount Lady Macdonald culminates in spectacular panoramas of the Bow Valley.
To discover what lies below the mountains around the Inn, consider going underground with Canmore Cave Tours. Their meeting point is just a few minutes down the road. Tours explore the wonderfully wild Rat’s Nest cave system and feature sliding, squeezing and plenty of beautiful cave formations.
Georgetown Inn, Canmore
Tudor on the outside and Victorian on the inside, the Georgetown Inn is definitely a one of a kind place to stay in Canmore. Regal furnishings and assorted knick knacks line the hallways, reflecting the English theme. The elevator is an older style (it’s a must try) but all part of the atmosphere.
Our Regency Suite (one of twenty guest rooms) felt huge, this feeling exemplified by high ceilings and a luxurious King bed.
The clawfoot soaker tub was glorious to use and felt a real treat after our recent long hiking days! Our window teased views of some of Canmore’s most iconic mountains.
The Miner’s Lamp Pub is downstairs and is surprisingly authentic in terms of English country pub decor (and I say that as a Brit myself!) The menu is a mix of British favourites and Canadian classics (with a Brit twist), with the fish and chips winning best in Canmore multiple times.
What to do around the Georgetown Inn
The Georgetown Inn is an easy 10 minute walk from downtown Canmore, with all its independent boutiques, cafes and patios. In 2020, the core area has been pedestrianised to allow more space for walking.
It’s easy to access nature even from town, on the Spring Creek Boardwalk and longer trails on the shore of the Bow River.
A little more further afield is the Grassi Lakes trail. This 4.3km loop takes in a spectacular waterfall lookout in addition to two stunningly vibrant lakes.
Being so short and relatively easy to hike, this trail is exceptionally popular in summer (especially between 10am-3pm). We were the first people on the trail at 7.30am and it was worth the effort to have it all to ourselves.
8 more Charming Inns of Alberta
Judging by our experience at the above four properties, I feel comfortable to say that any of the Charming Inns of Alberta would be a great choice for destination holiday.
Best of all, they’re open year round so you can choose between a cosy winter getaway or an active summer adventure (or vice versa!)
The other properties in the Charming Inns of Alberta collection are:
- Juniper Hotel, Banff
- Riverside Chateau, Bragg Creek
- The Crossing at Ghost River, Cochrane
- Crandell Mountain Lodge, Drumheller
- Heartwood Inn & Spa, Drumheller
- Overlander Mountain Lodge, East Jasper
- The Prairie Creek Inn, Rocky Mountain House
- Kilmorey Lodge, Waterton Lakes
I hope I get the opportunity to experience them soon! Of course, if and when I do, this post will be updated with our thoughts.
The Overlander Mountain Lodge particularly has my eye, being set in a seemingly gorgeous location at the eastern edge of Jasper National Park. It’s not far from Miette Hot Springs as well.
2021 update – check out what we thought about the Overlander Mountain Lodge!
Which of these Charming Inns of Alberta will you try? Let me know in the comments section below!
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada