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Reviewed 18 August 2015

We booked a 3-day/2 night horse ride for our family (2 adults,2 girls , age 11&12). The horses were really good, our guide , Duncan, was an authentic cowboy, very skilled and so nice. Gilbert who owns the company was a laid-back, gracious host who made us feel welcome and at home. The Tonquin Valley was beautiful, and riding 19km to the lodge, then a second day riding above the lake for awesome views, and a third day riding out was magic for our kids. We were lucky to be there with a group of 5 hikers who were wonderful and fun company at the big table for meals. We are backcountry campers, so a cabin with a bed and someone making meals was luxury for us, but note that this is rustic, with an outhouse, mosquitos and no electricity in your cabin. Recommended for a unique, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and if your kids like horses, they will be in heaven.

Stayed: August 2015, travelled with family
2  Thank Boomerang409
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 August 2015

What a way to do a family bonding trip with a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandaughter (9 years old) and great neice (13 years old)! The hike in requires a bit of persistence, but at every stage there is something beautiful and interesting to see. Accommodation is rustic but comfortable, and very welcoming. We stayed two nights, and spent the middle day on the lake, courtesy of the row boats that are provided for guests. I am sorry we hadn't made arrangements for another day (or two).

  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled with family
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Thank Freedom005
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 July 2015

This is the third backcountry lodge we have visited in Banff/Jasper (along with Skoki & Shadow Lake) and it was our favorite, although all three are excellent. (I offer a brief comparison at bottom.) Here is our take:

Gilbert's hospitality is second to none. He is a wonderful host and made us feel like we were visiting an old friend rather than feeling like we were staying in a hotel. The week we were there (July 2015) the lodge had only six guests. Gilbert was struggling with a sick horse, a late season snowfall and a bunch of other little difficulties, so the food selection was below his normal standards (for which he kept apologizing) but despite that, everything was absolutely excellent. He was an attentive, friendly, helpful and in every way delightful host. His helper for the season, Marie, was also terrific. We really cannot say enough about how much we appreciated the hospitality.

The Location
While all three lodges I mentioned above are in beautiful locations, the Tonquin Valley is the best of the bunch by a good margin. The lakes are beautiful the mountains (Ramparts and others) are spectacular, the day hikes are amazing. We took a short row on the lake, we visited the Eremite Valley and did a brief climb above the Alpine Hut to see some of the glaciers up close. We only stayed two nights and we realized we really should have stayed twice that long. The hike in and out (see below) we also great and made so much nicer thanks to Gilbert's assistance at the trailhead. This is a fabulous location.

The cabins are clean, comfortable, and the lodge has the amenities that make it eminently livable. Propane heat and solar lighting, a hot water shower, clean comfortable bedding etc. are all here. That said, Shadow Lake's facilities are nicer and Skoki also has a bit more polish thanks to a government grant. You will be warm, clean and comfortable at TA but the other two lodges offer upgraded accommodations. On the other hand, if you are selecting a back country lodge based on which one has the nicest hotel rooms, you have missed the point of the trip entirely, IMO. TA is more than comfortable and you are coming here for the location and the hospitality. If you want fancy accommodations, spend 3x more at the Fairmont and order an in-room massage. That is not why you come here.

The Trip In / Out
There a two trails in and out: the Astoria River (Cavell Road) and Maccarib Pass. We strongly recommend coming in Astoria and hiking out Maccarib. The hike in on Astoria is beautiful in its own right (wear bug spray) and the trail, despite being a horse trail, is in good condition and well maintained until the last few kms where it gets muddy and difficult. There are many lovely spots and the ~20 km trip has a reasonable elevation gain but nothing too difficult (the switchbacks are a bit of a pain). It took us 5.5 hrs to do the hike with day packs.

The trip out over Maccarib is absolutely spectacular (although the trail condition is appalling in many places and Parks Canada needs to do some very, very overdue maintenance). The guide books will encourage you to hike into the valley on Maccarib to get the best views. That is true, but those views come at the price of a very challenging and steep elevation gain. The hike out, by contrast, has a very gradual and modest elevation and you are downhill on the steepest parts. We would advise all but hardcore hikers to take this 24km trip on the way out (just remember to stop and turn around to enjoy the views behind you as well as those ahead).

Thanks to Gilbert's generous assistance we were able to park our car at the Astoria trailhead and give him the keys when we arrived at the Lodge. He kindly moved our vehicle to the Maccarib trailhead so it was waiting for us when we walked out.

The other option, of course, is to ride in on horseback with Gilbert. This is a terrific option and something we would seriously consider when we visit again.

That is probably a good note on which to end. We would very definitely go back to TA. There is so much more there to explore and we so thoroughly enjoyed Gilbert's hospitality, that we will have to find a way to visit again.

Comparison of Back Country Lodges
Shadow Lake - most polished and modern. Location is nice but day hikes are limited. Recommend 2 nights here. Ideally hike in from Healy pass and stay overnight at Egypt Lake and go out through Arnica Lake. If you want an easy hike in, do the fire road.

Skoki Lodge - A nice historic lodge (the main building is very noisy) with excellent food and a lot to see and do. Recommend 3 nights here. Hike in is a bit more challenging but also much more beautiful (than the fire road).

Tonquin Adventures - The best location of the three hands down. The hikes (or horse rides) in and out are worth the trip in their own right, and there is tons to see and do. The lakes are wonderful (did I mention the fish literally jumping out of the water all over the place?) and the lodge has all the conveniences to make you comfortable. Recommend 4 nights here.

  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
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7  Thank harriedtraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 October 2014

If you enjoy the back country you will love it at Tonquin Valley Adventures. Close to three back country camp sites the lodge offers great fishing and hiking. There are row boats for fishing or just exploring the lake.
The cabins are heated with propane. There is no electricity or running water in the cabins. the toilets are pit toilets. The view was breath taking.

  • Stayed: August 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank Donna H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 October 2014 via mobile

We LOVED our trip here! I'd go back in a heartbeat - to see it in winter too :)
The two of us hiked in together over the LONG (don't underestimate it!) MacCarrib Pass route from Portal Creek. Our pace was slow and steady with lots of breaks for enjoying the spectacular scenery. Took us a whopping 10 hrs. for the 23 km. trip - exhausting but definitely in the top 3 of the couple-hundred hikes of my lifetime in Western N.America!
We were warmly greeted by Gilbert (the lodge operator) and 4 of his guests already there as we stumbled in. The HOT shower upon arrival totally hit the spot to revive us from our long day with big packs (we did this as a hike-only trip, no horses). We didn't use the shower again as it's rough and not the most appetizing, lol - yet absolutely functional! - and miraculous to see a hot shower at all in such a remote and rustic lodge :D
We stayed for 3 nights which was long enough to get a real flavour for the area, though 4 nights would have been ideal as we had wanted to venture down to the other lodge by boat and then explore that area on foot but alas, not enough time.
Our cabin (named Surprise Point) was one of the newer ones which I reeallly appreciated as I am quite squeamish about any rodent signs - NONE at our cabin. The propane heater worked wonderfully to take away the morning chill - 2 of our mornings had a slippery frost on the grasses and dock at lake edge.
There was a light in the cabin but it didn't work. We had brought our own head lamps though (something I'd recommend) so did not need to bother Gilbert with that little detail since he was running the place as a one-man show - we don't know how he did it! - 2 more guests came the next day so he was cooking for 8 of us - EXCELLENT, AMPLE FOOD by the way :)...AND he was also looking after horses, making sure supplies were in order, sharing his supreme knowledge of the area and answering guests's questions, and managing logistics as well! - He arranged a car key drop-off for us so that we could hike the entire loop, exiting via the Astoria River trail on the way out (shorter but still over 19 km and 7 hours back to the parking lot at our slow but steady pace!).
Awesome that we got to do the whole loop! - the Astoria river a gorgeous green but that rockslide area downright scary to cross ;0...All in all, the MacCarrib Pass route was our preference - longer but more scenic. Unfortunately, it has worse damage from horse's hooves along with their sheer weight - some muddy, sink holes on the stretch nearing the lakes were a tripping hazard - thankfully I was not injured :)
I could see why there was some talk about limiting horses in the Valley, perhaps having one of the lodges become hiker-only (that had not happened this year). I can also see that the horse option is awesome for those that can't/ or don't want to hike the long distance to and from the trail parking lots.
The lake, the ramparts, the amazing scenery, the peace and solitude, and the wildlife (we saw several caribou but no bears - just some very large paw prints) were over-the-top spectacular.
In the eves, guests would make a fire in the original heritage cabin which has seen better days and could use some TLC. A family of tame and entertaining marmots live underneath the old foundation and are really very destructive and stinky, despite their extreme cuteness ;0
Late August was the perfect time to do this trip (barely any mosquitoes!!! - the bug horror stories are pretty much confined to July and earlier in August).
The weather was sunny with cloudy periods except for one day when smoke from BC forest fires moved in and it was pretty hazy and hard to breathe during our day hike through the Eremite Valley to Arrowhead Lake. Fortunately, the smoke had cleared out by the next morning.
We really enjoyed boating on the lake, best early in the day before the breeze picks up making the water choppy. There was a lot of competition for the one rickety (but seaworthy!) canoe with non-guests of the lodge borrowing it then not returning it to the dock. We picked it up at the end of the lake, and it was wayyy easier going with the canoe as opposed to the rowboats for us
non-fisherman types ;)
All in all, Do not expect luxury at this lodge! - there's that lingering smell of marmot in the original heritage cabin. And the dining building had a lot of flies getting inside by summer's end (a screen door would be my recommendation).
However, you will sleep in clean, warm, comfy cabins, be treated to a feast for every meal, enjoy communal dining with the other guests (adventurers like us), and be well-schooled and taken care of by Gilbert with his wealth of info., and gracious
One last point is that this place is an outstanding compromise between doing the trip with huge packs full of camping gear and food, and doing it with some pampering :)
With a solid roof over your head, and all bedding and food provided, there's more time to chill, or to hike, or to boat and fish, when all the cooking, and
kp duties are provided :)

  • Stayed: August 2014
    • Value
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Thank VncrCanada
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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