Banff Backcountry Riding Adventure

About the Experience

Experience the bluebird skies and alpine rapture  of Canada’s very first national park on our Banff Backcountry Riding Adventure! Before saddling up, see some of Banff’s biggest bragging rights from the fairytale Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel to the unforgettable palette of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You’ll see the hoodoos, Lake Minnewanka and Bow Falls too.

With your sure-footed horse, you’ll ride along the historic Erling Strom trail that runs parallel to crystalline glacier-fed rivers and meadows blurred with wildflowers. The wild blooms paint the broad hillsides with their palette of royal blue lupines, bright white and yellow alpine lilies and deep red Indian paintbrushes. 

Our days will be spent picnicking and riding into the panoramas of craggy Sundance and Cascade Ranges and venturing deep into the lodgepole pines and stands of fragrant spruce. 

On this signature 8-day backcountry riding adventure, you’ll be able to recharge with pampered stays at Sundance and Halfway Lodge. We’ll be in the company of brazen bighorn sheep, nimble mountain goats, grizzly, black bear, bugling elk, whisky jacks (aka: Canada or gray jay, or more appropriately ‘camp robber’) and playful marmots. Nights will be spent clustered around a stoked wood stove, sipping wine while swapping stories and guitar picks. This is Jann Arden and k.d. lang country–yes, there is an in-house guitar! It’s a prerequisite!

Following a historic pack trail, we’ll ride up Allenby Pass, where the Rocky Mountains embrace those in their daunting midst.

We eventually climb to an elevation of 2,468m (8,100 feet) on this trip but the terrain is gentle for most of the way, with a few short, steep sections on the trail to Allenby Pass.

For a soft cowgirl experience–this is it. You will be travelling at a walk (not cantering or galloping) on this trip. More experienced riders may prefer a more challenging WWE equine experience. Our Adventure Team and in-house horse trip expert can help you decide which riding trip is best for your skill set and desires!

Expect knock-out backcountry cuisine, deep sleeps and the relief of being far from the grasp of cell phone reception, internet and Wi-fi. 

 

Please note: The itinerary that follows is for our 2023 schedule. If you have signed up for a 2022 tour, your Trip Information Package will have the applicable itinerary for your trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Banff Backcountry Riding Adventure

About the Experience

Experience the bluebird skies and alpine rapture  of Canada’s very first national park on our Banff Backcountry Riding Adventure! Before saddling up, see some of Banff’s biggest bragging rights from the fairytale Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel to the unforgettable palette of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You’ll see the hoodoos, Lake Minnewanka and Bow Falls too.

With your sure-footed horse, you’ll ride along the historic Erling Strom trail that runs parallel to crystalline glacier-fed rivers and meadows blurred with wildflowers. The wild blooms paint the broad hillsides with their palette of royal blue lupines, bright white and yellow alpine lilies and deep red Indian paintbrushes. 

Our days will be spent picnicking and riding into the panoramas of craggy Sundance and Cascade Ranges and venturing deep into the lodgepole pines and stands of fragrant spruce. 

On this signature 8-day backcountry riding adventure, you’ll be able to recharge with pampered stays at Sundance and Halfway Lodge. We’ll be in the company of brazen bighorn sheep, nimble mountain goats, grizzly, black bear, bugling elk, whisky jacks (aka: Canada or gray jay, or more appropriately ‘camp robber’) and playful marmots. Nights will be spent clustered around a stoked wood stove, sipping wine while swapping stories and guitar picks. This is Jann Arden and k.d. lang country–yes, there is an in-house guitar! It’s a prerequisite!

Following a historic pack trail, we’ll ride up Allenby Pass, where the Rocky Mountains embrace those in their daunting midst.

We eventually climb to an elevation of 2,468m (8,100 feet) on this trip but the terrain is gentle for most of the way, with a few short, steep sections on the trail to Allenby Pass.

For a soft cowgirl experience–this is it. You will be travelling at a walk (not cantering or galloping) on this trip. More experienced riders may prefer a more challenging WWE equine experience. Our Adventure Team and in-house horse trip expert can help you decide which riding trip is best for your skill set and desires!

Expect knock-out backcountry cuisine, deep sleeps and the relief of being far from the grasp of cell phone reception, internet and Wi-fi. 

 

Please note: The itinerary that follows is for our 2023 schedule. If you have signed up for a 2022 tour, your Trip Information Package will have the applicable itinerary for your trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY ONE: BANFF NATIONAL PARK

Did you know Banff National Park is the oldest park in Canada? Established in 1885 you’re stepping into history and Alberta’s most coveted playground!

Our trip will begin in the afternoon. We’ll gather in the rendezvous hotel lobby at 5:30pm (please check-in to the hotel beforehand) and meet our energetic local guide for introductions and a snapshot of what lies ahead. We’ll strike out under the perennially bluebird skies, check out the famed Banff Ave. strip and swap stories over dinner at a popular go-to restaurant in the lively mountain town.

DAY TWO: BANFF’S BEST

Our private local guide will meet us at the hotel for a sightseeing bus tour showcasing all the best bits of Banff and Lake Louise. The tour will include pure natural marvels and historically significant highlights like the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, located in the pounding heart of Banff National Park. The “Castle in the Rockies” has spoiled guests for over 130 years. Located on the convergence of the Bow and Spray River, the luxe hotel  opened on June 1, 1888 and it (*spoiler alert*) truly is a surprise encounter…you’ll see on Surprise Corner Lookout.

We’ll visit the wide cascade of Bow Falls, the expansive emerald glacial Lake Minnewanka and Hoodoos Viewpoint, too!

What’s a Hoodoo? They are rock formations that have been sculpted by weather, erosion and time. The hoodoos are also referred to as spires, rock needles, goblins or  “fairy chimneys.” 

It will be a gem of a day as we take in the “Jewel of the Canadian Rockies”, Lake Louise and the equally surreal blue Moraine Lake. Both lakes are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their paralyzing natural beauty. 

Spoiled by scenery and a full day of bluebird skies and squawky whisky jacks, we’ll return to our Banff hotel for a sweet second night’s stay ahead of our backcountry ride.

 

DAY THREE: INTO THE MOUNTAINS

After a filling carb and protein load at breakfast (at our hotel) we’ll meet for a 9am shuttle that will transport us to Warner Stables just five minutes away. Here our trusty horses will be specifically chosen for us.  They will know where to step even on the most precarious of trails, so we can fully trust this team of geldings to get us where we are going in style. When we arrive at the stable, the group’s personal duffels will be packed onto the patiently waiting mules and transported to Sundance Lodge, a backcountry retreat for horseback riders.

Fringed by forest just 16km (10 miles) from Banff against the daunting Sundance Mountain Range, the 10-room log cabin and surroundings are off-grid remote and the quietude is instant. 

The purity of the mountain air will clear and reset your mind. If you’re a Capricorn, keep in mind that things happen on “Western Time” here so we may not leave right on the dot. This is the ideal time to get acquainted with your horse and ask our guide any pressing questions.

Once we have organized our gear and saddled up, we will begin our scenic journey to Sundance Lodge, temporarily following the aggressive waters of the Bow River and fast-flowing run of Healy and Brewster Creek. En route, we’ll stop for a classic cowgirl cookout along the banks of the river – the perfect fuel to give you energy for a day on the trail.

Fuelled up and first day jitters calmed, we’ll saunter into Sundance Lodge at around 4:30pm. Our uber-friendly lodge host will direct us to our rooms where we can unpack and to the shared/common bathrooms for reviving hot showers. Our lodge host will cater to our every whim and ensure that we feel like a pampered guest in their home.

Expect total backcountry luxury at this rustic lodge–we’re talking cloud-like beds, crisp linens and cozy duvets. Our menu will be wholly gourmet and prepared by our talented host in the professional kitchen. 

After dinner, we’ll take a walk around the impressive grounds and visit the horses and mules. The antics of the resident marmots grazing on the lawn are also entertaining. 

Inside the lodge, there are plenty of board games and a guitar if you feel like strumming a cowgirl tune or two. This is Jann Arden and k.d. lang country after all! 

If it’s chilly, we can stoke the wood stove and feel the true cabin vibe. Who knows how to play the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine”? It’s kinda the theme of this trip!

Please note: There may be other guests (co-ed) staying at Sundance Lodge with us!

 

DAY FOUR: BACKCOUNTRY BLISS

Our cowgal adventure continues as we journey 14.5km (9 miles) southward. The jagged granite peaks of the Sundance Range loom over the eastern horizon as we follow the snaking historic Erling Strom Trail. 

We’ll be following in the footsteps (and hoofprints) of ambitious early Canadian Rockies explorers from a century ago. We’ll stop along the way for a picnic in the open mountain meadow. Those artistically-inclined will be triggered to capture it all in graphite or watercolour.

Tonight we will stay at the appropriately named Halfway Lodge, located at the midway point between Banff and Assiniboine Mountain. Weary riders have been stopping here to rest their laurels and horses since the 1920s. 

As we approach, the transition is obvious. Lodgepole pines and spruce begin to thin out with elevation and a cauldron of mountains dominate the backdrop of the treeline.

Halfway Lodge was constructed by Erling Strom in the 1920s as a stopover spot for the guests he led on trips from Banff to Mount Assiniboine. Strom’s resilient wranglers slept outside in tents!

With propane lanterns and candles providing ambient lighting and a wood stove for radiant warmth, the Lodge hasn’t changed much in the last 80 years. The only big change occurred in 1967 when a second story was added, due to an unexpected guest’s arrival. A bear made a surprise entrance–through the roof! The added roof height has proven to be an efficient deterrent.

Please note: There are no indoor bathrooms at Halfway Lodge. There is an outhouse and a gorgeous outdoor shower with hot and cold water.

The skinny:

  • Riding time: Approx. 5-6 hours including picnic lunch
  • Riding distance: Approx. 14. 5km (9 miles)

 

DAY FIVE: BANFF’S WILD SIDE

After a giant breakfast, we’ll set off and ride into the sunset! Well, we won’t ride that long…but it just sounds good.

Today we’ll make the goosebump-inducing climb up Allenby Pass on horseback, an elevation of 2,469m (8,100ft). For many, this is the highlight (and HIGH) of the trip, as we’ll be rewarded with an enormous vista of the jagged rock formations and natural amphitheatre of the mountains surrounding us.

It’s mind-boggling to learn that millions of years ago, Allenby Pass was a sea floor. If you look closely, you can spot intricate fossils of vintage sea creatures on the rocks.

At the end of the day, cheeks flushed bubblegum pink with fresh alpine air, we’ll return to the comforts of Halfway Lodge. As the sun slips behind the mountains, we have no agenda but relaxing. If you need a to-do list it’s this: have a glass of wine, sit back, swap stories, laughs and photos with your fellow Wild Women!  

The skinny:

  • Riding time: Approx. 4-6 hours including a leisurely lunch
  • Riding distance: Approx. 5-8km (3-5 miles) depending on the time of year and trail conditions

 

DAY SIX: ENJOY THE BACKCOUNTRY

Today is an official rest day at Halfway Lodge. There’s no pesky internet, Wi-fi or cell reception so we are off the hook! We can connect with nature instead and there’s an optional hike today. The trail leads to a shimmery glacial-fed lake at the end of the valley with extreme views of the valley below.

If you’d rather chill out, doodle, journal or cat nap, there’s no pressure! Halfway Lodge is the perfect place to tune into the wild versus the wildly pinging of notifications of our phones.

We can also spend time grooming our gorgeous, stoic horses. It’s a groom with a view, after all!

The skinny:

  • Riding time: None!
  • Relaxing time: A lot!

 

DAY SEVEN: BACKCOUNTRY RIDING

Today we’ll follow the winding trail along Brewster Creek back to our old stomping grounds at Sundance Lodge.

Our guide will slice us through the velvet backcountry where we’ll crisscross the valley in the ghostly shadows of early pioneers. We’ll stop to smell the wildflowers and have lunch along the way.

Back in the cozy comforts of Sundance Lodge we’ll have time for hot showers and glasses of wine before a decadent farewell dinner prepared by our doting professional chef and lodge host.

The skinny:

  • Riding time: Approx. 5-6 hours including picnic lunch
  • Riding distance: Approx. 14. 5km (9 miles)

 

DAY EIGHT: FROM ROCKIES TO HOME

Yawn, stretch. Coffee! This is our last serene morning at Sundance Lodge. We’ll gather for a nourishing breakfast with all the spoils and say goodbye to our hosts and begin our journey back to Banff.

Our final day on the trail will involve a gentle 14.5km (9 mile) ride from Sundance back to Warner Stables. Our guide will lead us through the wild clutches of the backcountry. We’ll follow winding river trails and quietly move through tall stands of fragrant pine forests with the jagged peaks of the Rockies on our shoulders. 

We’ll stop along the banks of Healy Creek for a lunch of mile-high sandwiches, sweet baked treats and fresh fruit.

We’ll return to the stables late afternoon, brimming with tall tales from the backcountry. There will be big sighs, big hugs and the burning question–where next?

Transportation will be provided from the stables back to Banff town centre (4:30 pm arrival). You will be dropped off at your hotel provided that it is in Banff. Please note that accommodation in Banff is not included on Day 8 but you should definitely consider spending a few extra days here, Lake Louise or Calgary to absorb a little more of Alberta!

The skinny:

  • Riding time: Approx. 5-6 hours including picnic lunch
  • Riding distance: Approx. 14. 5km (9 miles)

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!