Sign Up for Our Monthly Explorer Newsletter
When driving the lonely, icy stretches of northern British Columbia's Alaska Highway, travelers should stay vigilant. Portions of this remote road slice through the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, nicknamed the Serengeti of the North for its abundance of wildlife. On my visit, I saw a herd of bison, two moose and a rare timber wolf, all from the highway.
One of the best places to experience the region — and one of the few properties in this sparsely populated corner of the globe — is Northern Rockies Lodge. The handsome timber lodge houses a grand dining room and only 45 accommodations. This includes several cabins, some of which open onto Muncho Lake, whose great, frozen expanse hosts ice skating and ice hockey in winter. In warmer months, guests can hike around the lake in pursuit of wildlife or launch one of the lodge’s canoes.
The Alaska Highway is as storied as it is stunning. In the frantic days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army hastened to build the road that links Alaska with the Lower 48, creating an overland supply route for the military that cuts through British Columbia. The rough, winding road opened after just six months.
In the years following the war, the highway saw a slew of improvements that straightened it, paved it and added scenic pullouts. Over time, it became the stuff of road trip bucket lists, with hardy motorcyclists and RV enthusiasts taking to its lonesome — but scenic — stretches.
Whether clients are road trippers or not, however, Northern Rockies Lodge is the ideal place to plunk down and explore the region. From here, guests can explore the Muskwa-Kechika and nearby provincial parks, where they are bound to see more wild animals than humans.
The lodge is perhaps at its best in the fall and winter, when it offers its Northern Lights Package (available Sept. 15 through April 15). In summer, road trippers are more frequent along the highway, and rooms sell out quickly. Other times of the year, clients will be likely to have the place — and this spectacular wilderness — to themselves. There’s simply not much humanity up here — no cellphone signal, gas station or visitors center — and that’s all part of the appeal.
The northern lights package offers connection to the nearest airport (Fort Nelson Airport), a visit to the natural thermal pools at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park and myriad daytime activities to pass the time before the ultimate light show that unfolds in the evenings. Because the northern lights can show up in the small hours, guests can put their names down on a wake-up call list. If the lights come on, lodge staff will knock on the doors of anyone on the list.
During the day, clients can also keep busy with activities such as scenic flights, ice skating, soaks in the property’s wood-fired sauna and snowshoeing.
Northern Rockies Lodge is a family-run affair, and that’s part of the appeal, too. Chances are clients will be greeted by the cheerful, mustachioed Urs Schildknecht, who owns the property with his wife, Marianne. Urs, who was born in Switzerland, fell in love with this little-trafficked corner of the world for its flying potential. As a trained bush pilot, he relishes zipping over this riot of peaks and alpine lakes. The couple bought the lodge in 1995 and then undertook a slew of modernization projects, turning an aging property into a respected destination.
They raised their two sons, Daniel and Michael, at the lodge. Daniel is still there, heading the kitchen. He specializes in a blend of North American and European cuisine, with strong Swiss influences reflecting his family’s heritage. Active days outside end with a glass of British Columbia wine and a plate of Daniel’s excellent schnitzel — and, of course, plenty of story exchanges about wildlife, northern lights and the mystique of these mountains.
The DetailsNorthern Rockies Lodge www.northernrockieslodge.com