Backpacking into the Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos [Family Edition]

The sun is nearing the horizon and the sky has lightened to a pale blue. The mountains hold mist in their laps as they wait for the heat of day.

The bright moon that spent the night hanging next to Bugaboo Spire has moved on and the glacier sits below, a silent sentinel slowly creeping down the valley.

I am lying here, on my 4 inch foam mattress, peering out the window of the loft while the heavy breathing and occasional snores of my six-year-old punctuate the quiet.

The Conrad Kain Hut sits perched on stone, high in Bugaboo Provincial Park and is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC). The Bugaboos are a trad climbing mecca, a place for those wandering souls that are always looking to the mountain tops. Surrounded by glacier and granite spires, it is also a place of inspiration, a place where you cannot help but let your deepest dreams surface.

Conrad kain Hut, Bugaboos at sunrise

For many years I’ve look forward to a time when we could take our kids into a backcountry hut (they aren’t as common in Utah) and when the kids would be old enough to handle both the hike in and whatever sleeping arrangements were dished at them. This summer was our summer.

We teamed up with Tanya Koob, a Canadian, friend and co-writer, from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, to make this trip into the Conrad Kain hut happen.

Erickson / koob Bugaboos

Honesty, we knew getting into the hut on day 1 would be the hard part and after that it would be a piece of cake. We arrived at the trailhead near mid-day. Found two spots for our cars squished between the other cars and promptly began the Bugaboo tradition of surrounding our car with chicken wire to keep the porcupines from apparently eating the wiring. No one really seems to know if this is still necessary, but no one wants to take the chance either. 🙂

Chicken wire around the cars at Bugaboos

There are restrooms at the trailhead, and hosts of hikers, climbers and peak baggers from all over the world preparing for the trek in.

Day 1: Hiking into the Conrad Kain Hut (2.6 miles, 2,600 ft of gain)

The start of the hike begins with a super mellow first mile, slowly meandering over streams and up the valley.

Trailhead to the Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos The forest is cool but we all know the easier it is now, the harder it will be later. Because at some point we have to start gaining that 2,300 vertical feet.  backpacking into the Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos

Don’t worry! The trail pitches distinctly uphill around the 1 mile mark. And from previous trip reports, I know it doesn’t let up till we reach the hut.

hiking into Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos

As we hike steeply uphill, up rock steps (I cannot imagine the trail work that went into this trail), the views of Bugaboo Glacier become more and more amazing.

First views of Bugaboo Glacier

The best part of the hike (for us and the kids) are the ladders and chains. While the chains are largely unnecessary, they added an element of fun for the kiddos. The exposure is minimal, but there is a feeling of being high, especially due to the sweeping valley below. I’d still suggest caution with young kids.

The start of the chained sections.

The start of the chained sections.

Chained sections Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos

climbing ladder on Bugaboo hike

How often do you get to climb a ladder during your hikes?

Hiking in the Bugaboos

We know we are nearing the top when we approach the bridge.
Hiking in Bugaboo Provincial Park

Our home for the night.

Our home for the night.

All in all it took us 3 hrs, the same amount of time that is suggested for most adult parties as well. Even with our late departure time, we still made it to the hut by late afternoon and had time for some exploring and scrambling before dinner.

scrambling, Bugaboo Provincial Park

Day 2: Exploring up to Crescent Glacier and Applebee Dome

On Day 2 we set off to explore higher into the Bugaboos. We didn’t make it far at first, just to the large boulder for some play time.

Playing on the rocks in the Bugaboos

Then we headed up towards Crescent Glacier. We didn’t know what all might be in the cards for the day, so we brought our climbing gear (in case we found simple climbing for the kids or needed to rope up on the glacier). After climbing another 1000 feet we started picking our way toward Crescent Glacier, a smaller glacier up above Applebee Dome.

We put our Kahtoola micro-spikes on, but we’re lucky we didn’t have to rope up to explore this gentle glacier.

Exploring glacier debris or moraine in the Bugaboos

Exploring glacier debris or moraine in the Bugaboos

Crescent Glacier, Bugaboo provincial Park Crescent Glacier, Bugaboo provincial Park

The decent back towards Applebee Dome and campground was a bit more exciting than we’d expected. Some fun down climbing and snow crossings. Descending back towards Applebee Dome and campground

scrambling in the Bugaboos _DSC6167

This is Applebee Campground, where many of the climbers camp so they have closer access to their objectives.

Applebee Campground, Bugaboos

Day 3: Going home

Partially due to the fact that I don’t have as many photos of our trip out, this seems like a good place to pause and share some hut experiences!

When we arrived at the hut, welcoming folks adopted our kids and had a little guitar sing-a-long while we found beds for the night and unloaded food into the kitchen. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate people who enjoy our kids, rather than resent the fact that we brought them along!

The Conrad Kain Hut has a large gathering area for eating and such on the first floor as well as a kitchen complete with stoves, fuel, sinks, running, hot and filtered water, dishes and utensils, pots and electricity! Totally plush in terms of backcountry huts!

Conrad Kain Hut eating area COnrad Kain Hut, Bugaboo Provincial Park COnrad Kain Hut, Bugaboo Provincial Park - kitchen

We shared the kitchen with 35 other people so keeping our gear and food organized was important. I labeled everything with a Sharpie Extreme.

There are two upper levels for sleeping. And the mattresses provided were so comfortable!

Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboo Provincial Park Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboo Provincial Park

We had an amazing adventure and experience for our first hut trip in the Canadian Rockies!

_DSC6326 _DSC6308 _DSC6291

The AAC operates the largest collection of backcountry huts in North America. Check out their site and our friends at Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies for more info on family-friendly huts.

The Stats:

In Bugaboo Provincial Park in southeastern BC

82K/10 (Howser Creek) and 82K/15 (Bugaboo Creek)

2,230 m (7,315 ft)

NAD27 11U 516700 5620754

50°44′ 18″ / -116°45′ 48″


Summer only

$25 members, $25 others

kids stuffed dog in backpack

We geared up for this trip with the help of sponsor, Sharpie Extreme. We’d like to thank them for their partnership.

14 Comments Permalink
14 comments on “Backpacking into the Conrad Kain Hut, Bugaboos [Family Edition]
  1. For the record, yes the chicken wire really is necessary, my husband’s lines have been chewed on. I think it’s the coolant lines they tend to go for.

    • Our kids are 6, 8 and 10. The exposure isn’t bad in my opinion, but our kids are used to scrambling and climbing. There are chains for any sections you might be nervous about. But really this will come down to the parent/child’s own comfort. There were other children in the tween range that hiked in just for the day. We didn’t worry at all with out 8 & 10 yr old. We had an adult stick close and follow our 6 yr old closely on the ladder and chained sections. Coming down was a little more intimidating.

  2. The chain section appears to have an expose the hiker to a maximum 24 inch ledge with a very steep incline rather than a straight drop off cliff? Which of the coming down part was intimidating – the chains or ladder or both? Have you taken the Cobalt Lake trail as well?

    • I would agree with your assessment. Steep incline into steep bushes, a fall would hurt but it isn’t a cliff ledge. Coming down was mentally intimidating as the mom. 🙂 I just made sure an adult headed down the ladder first. My kids were completely fine. I haven’t done Cobalt Lake. I’d check with my friends … They would be an excellent source of info.

  3. What an awesome hike, especially with kids. I could never have gotten my kids (when they were that young to hike that far) I’ll keep this on my bucket list of hikes I want to do. Thanks for sharing, love the pictures!!

  4. What a wonderful account of a great hike. Such beautiful photos and I couldn’t believe the ladders as part of the hike. Great that the kids were made to feel welcome as that certainly is not always the case. I’d love to do this someday. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. I love this! Huts are always so much fun. I’ve always wanted to explore more of Canada so I’ve saved this for later. Thanks for the tips regarding the porcupines! That would be an unpleasant surprise to return to. It’s great seeing kids out doing some more extreme stuff. Excellent family outing!

  6. excellent writeup! am planning to take the kids (7 and 11) to the hut this summer and you gave me the confidence boost that I was looking for. Yes We Can do it!

  7. Hi! We are heading there this summer with our kids as well. Can you comment on the temp rating needed for the sleeping bag? We have some lighter + 10 ones for the kids. Just curious how cold it gets up there at night…

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