If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, MATHILDE GREGOIRE is pretty sure you’ll find one in Alberta, Canada.
With unrivaled equestrian outdoor activities and spectacular scenery, a riding holiday in western Canada sure will take your breath away! Its diverse wildlife, freshwater lakes, snow covered mountains and friendly Canadians make the English-speaking province of Alberta a popular destination for Australians seeking adventure.
Western riding is deeply rooted in Canada’s culture, and you’ll find many working and guest ranches in this province. But look no further – we have two gems to help you make the most of your riding holiday.
Anchor D Ranch
Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in Black Diamond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Anchor D Ranch offers the ultimate western experience. Located an hour south west of Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, the ranch has a wide range of riding and outdoors experiences available all year round.
A three hour ride will take you into the depths of the beautiful Kananaskis countryside, where a seemingly endless forest of pine and birch trees, and incredible views of the Canadian Rockies await you. Following Sheep River out into the vast prairies where cattle roam freely, this raw country horseback riding experience is a dream come true for adventure and nature lovers alike.
And this is not your usual nose to tail ride: prepare to channel your inner cowgirl as you canter through the prairies and uncover grizzly bear tracks along the way. The experienced wranglers and their sure-footed horses will give you the confidence to ride along the ridge line and through steep terrain as you drink in the beauty of the Rockies.
With over 100 horses, Anchor D Ranch has a variety of American breeds, including Appaloosas, mustangs, and Quarter Horses. Additional activities, including sleigh and wagon rides in winter, are also offered at the ranch, and overnight stays in fully equipped rustic log cabins are available if you want to indulge in a longer visit. Treks over several days out into the back country may well suit riders wanting a full wildlife experience.
Brewsters Lake Louise Stables
If you are looking for a peaceful ride with incredible views, this place is for you! At Brewster Lake Louise Stables you can choose from a variety of rides through magnificent Banff National Park, an area famous for its turquoise alpine lakes, majestic mountains and glaciers.
Riding in Kananaskis Country – backdrop of Canadian Rockies Mountains
The half-day Lake Agnes Teahouse trail ride follows the lake’s tree line and reveals unbelievable vistas. As you go up the mountain overlooking Lake Louise, a Rocky Mountains panorama with views of Mount Temple’s triangular peak opens up before you. After climbing to an altitude of 2,100 meters, you can take a break and enjoy tea or coffee at the iconic teahouse. Overlooking Lake Agnes and its waterfall, the teahouse, which is only accessible by foot or on horseback, basks in a secluded ambience that invites you to relax.
This slow paced ride is for riders of all levels. Even as a relative beginner, you’ll enjoy walking your horse through a breathtaking landscape that offers some of the best views in Canada.
Canada can get extremely cold in winter, with temperatures going well below zero. If chilly weather isn’t your thing, the best time to visit Banff National Park and the Calgary area is from May through to September. However, there’s a majestic winter beauty to be enjoyed when riding through a fresh snowfall. Just ensure you’re appropriately equipped for the cold, particularly on a windy day, so you can immerse yourself in the ride and the sound of virgin snow crunching beneath your horse’s hooves. A winter wonderland of snow covered landscapes and trees decorated with white powder guarantee an experience like no other.
Another advantage of riding during winter is avoiding crowds of tourists who mostly visit in July or August. Even in those months, the weather in the mountains can change drastically from one moment to the next, so bring several layers. You’ll need them – even in summer.
Many Canadian ranches advertise their rides as suitable for all levels. However, riders of different experience are mixed together in groups where the pace is usually slow, with horses following each other in single file. This is ideal for those looking to take their time and prioritise experiencing the views and scenery, but if you’re seeking more dynamic and faster paced trails, be sure to book a private ride.
The Calgary Stampede
Want to build even more excitement into your trip? Every July, Calgary hosts the Annual Stampede. Referred to as the greatest outdoor show on earth, the festival celebrates western culture and First Nation heritage. From rodeos to barrel racing and parades, this 10-day event will give you full immersion into North America’s western lifestyle. And if you want to look the part, you’re sure to find your dream cowboy hat and boots at one of the festival’s pop-up shops.
Feature Image: Lunch stop – Pine forests with Anchor D ranch in Kananaskis Country