Hut Hopping:

🕔Apr 07, 2011

Anyone who’s travelled to a backcountry hut knows the feeling: rounding that final corner, cresting the final ridge or emerging from the final stand of trees and seeing a rustic cabin that will be your home, perhaps just for the night.

The Ritz-Carlton never looked so good.

Backcountry cabins provide shelter and little more, putting no distractions between you and outdoor adventure. Perhaps someone’s arrived before you. They’ve lit the fire, found the board games, and have adventure stories that they’ll share in exchange for your last piece of chocolate.

While there’s nothing like backcountry camaraderie, huts in northern BC are blissfully underused and you will often have the place to yourself.

Unlike backcountry cabins in southern BC and the Rockies, which are often run by the Alpine Club of Canada, northern BC’s huts are mostly run by volunteers with a passion for the outdoors but limited resources. Many huts have basic amenities and provide little more than protection from the elements and wildlife (mice notwithstanding).

To keep these hidden hideaways in good condition, remember to use only what you need, leave the cabin as you found it, and consider joining volunteer work-bees or donating to the organizations that run them. This will help ensure there is always somewhere to hang your muddy socks and air your aching blisters under a warm, dry roof.

This list of backcountry cabins in northern BC is by no means exhaustive—go exploring, source your secret hideaway, and enjoy the alpine from your own luxury lodgings.

Eagle and Ozalenka cabins
Glen Stanley remembers when members of the Ozalenka Alpine Club first discovered the Ozalenka Valley: They had to make the thorny decision of whether to construct a cabin in this beautiful location, or keep the spot for themselves.

“We found the valley and fell in love with it,” Stanley says, 20 years after building the Ozalenka Cabin. “It’s really, really beautiful, with quite a few lakes and a lot of good ski terrain.”

The decision, he reflects, was the right one: “It turned out that putting in a cabin saved the valley from logging.”

Five years later, Ozalenka Cabin was so overwhelmed with visitors, the club decided to build a second cabin, in Eagle Valley. It is now considering a third cabin in the area.

Both Eagle and Ozalenka valleys offer beautiful summer hiking, and Ozalenka offers moderate tree skiing in winter. Eagle Cabin has some avalanche exposure on the way in, and the snow there tends to be more wind-affected, so visitors should be well-versed in winter backcountry travel, and carry appropriate safety gear.

The area is accessed by a 19-kilometre drive or snowmobile along the Dore River Road, five kilometres west of McBride. Terrain beyond the 19-kilometre mark is not suitable for snowmobiles, so it’s an additional seven-kilometre ski or hike to Ozalenka Cabin and nine kilometres (in the opposite direction) to Eagle Cabin.

Both cabins include cooking and eating utensils, propane stove and lantern, woodstove, and foam mattresses. Although sleeping bags are available, they are intended for emergency use only, so bring your own.

Cost is $10 per person per night or $100 for a school group for the weekend. Young children are free and families are encouraged. Contact Ozalenka Alpine Club at 250-569-2596 to book.

Sugar Bowl Grizzly Den Traverse
Sugar Bowl Grizzly Den Provincial Park, about an hour’s drive east of Prince George, boasts Eight Mile, Grizzly Den and Raven Lake cabins, all within five kilometres of each other and 14 kilometres from the highway, making for an exciting traverse or a comfortable base for hiking and skiing adventures.

“The trail system is the closest area to Prince George where you can easily access the alpine in about two hours of hiking,” says Rick Roos, an area supervisor with Ministry of Environment. “The cabins are partly maintained through an agreement between the Prince George Back Country Recreation Society and BC Parks.”

The potholed Hungary Creek Forest Service Road is drivable in summer but rarely plowed in winter. Eight Mile Cabin is a kilometre beyond the summer parking lot; about 14 kilometres from the highway with 450 metres elevation gain, it makes for a moderate half-day ski in winter. Although the forest service road is well tracked by snowmobiles, all cabins lie within the park boundary and can be accessed by human power only.

Eight Mile Cabin is the largest of the three cabins, with room for 15 people or more, and was built in 1977 by the Sons of Norway Ski Club as a midway point for accessing Grizzly Den Cabin, another five kilometres (and 500 metres elevation gain) up the trail. Grizzly Den Cabin is a popular ski destination, Roos says, as it sits at the bottom of an alpine bowl. Grizzly Den and Raven Lake cabins are both simple, six- to eight-person A-frame structures.

Raven Lake can be accessed from Grizzly Den through four kilometres of alpine terrain, but Roos says its steep surrounding slopes make for less-friendly skiing. Its imposing scenery, position next to Raven Lake, and well-established trail from the summer parking lot make it a popular hiking destination. With the right expertise, the entire loop can be traversed in summer or winter.

All three cabins have woodstoves, firewood and galvanized steel counters. Bring your own stoves, cooking and eating utensils, sleeping pads and sleeping bags. Cabins are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Joe L’Orsa Cabin
Named for the man instrumental in creating the Babine Mountains Provincial Park, the Joe L’Orsa Cabin is accessed via a 20-minute drive to the trailhead from Smithers, making it an easy overnight destination suitable for families or individuals with a spontaneous urge for a night in the backcountry.

From the summer parking area in Driftwood Canyon, access involves an 8.5-kilometre gentle uphill hike along an old mining road. Although the first seven kilometres don’t offer much for views, when trees give way to Silverking Basin about a kilometre below the cabin, it’s all worthwhile. Ideally, plan to spend at least two nights at the cabin, allowing a full day to explore the surrounding mountains.

With two bedrooms downstairs and two upstairs, plus the large common area, the cabin easily sleeps 15 to 20 on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring a tent in case the cabin is full and hope your trip doesn’t coincide with a 4-H Club overnight outing.

Winter tends to be quieter, but requires a little more commitment, with five extra kilometres of unplowed road adding to the ski. When you arrive at the cabin, be prepared to handsaw your way through a log before splitting it for firewood. If you’re lucky, someone will have left a few pieces for you. Remember to do the same for the next visitors who arrive cold and hungry. While esthetically beautiful, the log structure’s vaulted ceilings create open air space that can take a while to heat.

Skiing beyond the cabin is in more advanced terrain and avalanche skills are essential. That said, simply skiing into the cabin and enjoying the views is a worthwhile adventure. Managed by the Ministry of Environment’s Parks and Protected Areas Division, a $5 fee is payable at the cabin.

Starr Creek Cabin
Win Hobson remembers an old mining shack that offered a porcupine-ravaged base for dedicated skiers before Starr Creek Cabin was built: “We skied into that old hut for three or four years and it was terribly dilapidated,” he says.

In the early 1990s, Hobson and a group of volunteers used curved 2×8 beams to preassemble a small hut in his shop. They flew the frame into the Starr Creek drainage in the Telkwa Range just south of Smithers and 10 days later had completed its tin roof.

The Bulkley Valley Cross Country Ski Club bought Hobson out and continues to run the cabin, which survived an avalanche in 1997.

One of the most appealing things about Starr Creek is that you can catch an early Canadian Helicopters flight from Smithers and be settled into the cabin before breakfast. Taking about 20 minutes, a flight costs roughly $400 per person (round trip) but the relatively inexpensive cabin — $12 per night per person — makes it an inexpensive getaway in a stunning location. The hut sits in a basin with access to gentle tree skiing and steeper alpine slopes above, as well as great summer hiking.

The cabin has a propane stove, woodstove, cooking and eating utensils and foam mattresses for maximum eight occupants. Starr Creek is booked through Valhalla Pure in Smithers (

Hankin Lookout Cabin
The best feature of this once-fire-lookout cabin is its 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks. Although the cabin had fallen into disrepair, work began last summer on extensive renovations which should be completed by July, 2011.

In summer, the cabin is accessed via a 90-minute hike from an old forest service road off the Kitseguecla Lake Road, about 20 minutes west of Smithers. In winter, the access road isn’t plowed and skiers should expect an additional eight-kilometre ski to the trailhead.
“It’s kind of a neat area to go up and explore,” says Brian Hall. “There’s some easy hiking in that area.”

Hall is spearheading trail development on Hankin Mountain’s northeast slopes, with trails cut for skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. Although not easily accessed from the Hankin Lookout Cabin, experienced skiers can reach the area through complex alpine terrain.

Less experienced skiers will find gentle spring skiing on the slopes above the cabin, Hall says. An additional run, which takes skiers from the Hankin Lookout Cabin back to the uptrack, is currently in the works.

This two-storey building has five beds downstairs and one upstairs, along with a propane stove, fridge and heater. Although access to water in summertime involves some walking, the renovations will include a water catchment system.

The entire 4,000 hectares that include the Hankin Lookout Cabin were recently designated non-motorized as Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Trails by the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Rec Sites and Trails BC. The area, as well as the cabin, is run in partnership between the Bulkley Backcountry Ski Society and Bulkley Valley Backpackers Society. Book the cabin through Valhalla Pure in Smithers (

A day-use shelter on Hankin’s northeast slopes is not intended for overnight use, as firewood and waste disposal would divert resources from creating ski terrain and maintaining access roads.

Larsen Ridge Memorial Cabin
Al Munroe and Al Evenchick were two Terrace-based Ministry of Transportation avalanche technicians killed by an avalanche while working in Ningunsaw Pass in 1999. As founding members of the Mount Remo Backcountry Society, their ski community decided to build a cabin in their memory. The Larsen Ridge Memorial Cabin was completed two years later.

“It’s a beautiful log cabin, so you can be in a big storm and you don’t even know it,” says Duncan Stewart, with Mount Remo Backcountry Society. Designed for helicopter access, the cedar log cabin is located on Larsen Ridge west of Lakelse Lake at 1,200 metres elevation. It sits at treeline, with alpine ridges and steep bowls offering skiing and hiking for mixed abilities.

The cabin is most often reached via a 20-minute helicopter flight from Terrace, although it can be accessed by snowmobiling to the end of a logging road and a six-hour ski into the cabin. It’s also possible to hike in during summer, but only flagging tape marks the route.

The cabin sleeps six comfortably and includes a woodstove, propane cooking stove and cookware. Bring your own sleeping pad and sleeping bag.

Jointly managed by Mount Remo Backcountry Society and the BC Forest Service, the cabin is booked through Skeena Valley Expeditions in Terrace ( The nightly fee is $25 per person.