Banff is Canada's oldest national park, located in Alberta. It's the world's third national park refuge, beautified by the surrounding lakes and mountains. Worldwide travellers like to visit the area to explore wildlife and the snow-capped mountains. Established in 1885, Banff is Canada's first national park and one of the oldest national parks globally. The park's wildlife covers an area of 6,641 (square kilometres (2564 square miles), hosting grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, elk, and moose.
Horseback riding in Banff is one of the most thrilling outdoor activities that offers an unforgettable experience for adventure lovers. You don't have to be an experienced horseback rider to participate in this fun activity.
The local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations help visitors to Canada plan their vacations. Many of our most popular itineraries include Banff National Park. This area is a stunning place to visit, with a fascinating history and a wide variety of wildlife. We can even help arrange a horseback riding tour.
Here is our guide to horseback riding in Banff. Keep reading to learn more.
History of Horseback Riding in Banff
The origins of horseback riding trace back to the Canadian Rockies exploration days. In the late 1800s, horseback riding offered an efficient way for pioneers to navigate the steep terrain of the Rockies. Horses allowed them to access remote areas, and the significant milestones include the discovery and mapping of the landscapes that became Banff National Park. Over the years, horseback riding has evolved from an essential mode of transport to a recreational activity. Due to infrastructural developments and guided tours, horseback riding has become popular with visitors.
Popular Horseback Riding Tours in Banff
Banff National Park is filled with horseback riding tours that allow adventure lovers to discover the park's natural beauty. Some top of the options include:
1. Duration-based Tours
These tours, ranging from one to four hours, cater to individuals of various skill levels and time constraints. The Spray River Ride is a one-hour horseback riding tour with a refreshing exploration of the Bow Falls, the surrounding mountains, and crossing the Spray River. The tour accommodates a small group of up to 12 riders.
2. Special Tours
For a unique experience, special tours combine horseback riding with delicious BBQ cookouts. The Sulphur Mountain Trail and Windy Knoll tour takes a ride along the Bow River, then takes a break at 4.83 kilometres (3 miles) Cabin for some tasty comfort food.
3. Carriage Rides
Carriage rides are a great substitute if you dislike horseback riding. The 15-minute Downtown Banff Carriage ride takes you on an adventure through town and along the Bow River. The tour showcases the Banff original homesteads, Central Park, and Banff Avenue.
4. Sleigh Rides in Winter
Horse-drawn transportation through sleighs is available to explore Lake Louise during winter. The sleigh ride tours include:
- The 12-Day Winter Highlights of British Columbia and Alberta
- The Seven-Day Alberta Winter Wonderland
- The Nine-Day Ultimate Alberta Ski Adventure.
Overnight Horseback Riding Adventures
For an immersive experience, overnight horseback riding does the trick. Multi-day trip tours allow you to get deeper into Banff's wilderness, spending your nights in lodges. Options include:
1. Sundance Overnight
The Sundance Overnight is a one-night tour of the Bow River. Along the way, you enjoy a relaxing cowboy coffee by campfire and proceed to Sundance Lodge. Watch the starry night while lingering near the fireplace with your colleagues at night.
2. Sundance Explorer
This adventure along the Bow River allows you to spot deer, moose, or elk roaming around the shores. The tour follows the historic Erling Strom Trail, discovered in the 1900s, showcasing the Sundance Mountain range. The Sundance Lodge gives a comfortable resting place for two nights in the Banff wonderland.
3. Erling Strom Trail Lodge
This trip follows the Erling Storm Trail through the dense Banff Forest. The remote backcountry lodges rekindle your relationships with friends over a campfire for three nights. Guided by an expert, this experience lets you learn about the region's early exploration history.
Planning Your Horseback Riding Trip
Planning is essential for enjoyable, hassle-free horseback riding experiences in Banff. Banff offers year-round horseback riding tours, and you can choose the best time depending on your preferences. The summer months (June to September) provide pleasant weather and longer days for more adventure. For a breezy winter experience, opt for snowy trail rides and sleigh rides from December to March.
Due to Banff's horseback riding popularity, you must book your tour in advance. You must check your tour operator's booking requirements and cancellation policies. Cancellations within 24 hours before tour departure with the Banff Trail Riders are non-refundable. You must call 72 hours before the scheduled tour for a full refund.
What to Wear for Horseback Riding
You must wear proper attire for a safe and comfortable riding expedition. You need sturdy closed shoes and pants covering your ankle to protect you from the horse and outdoor elements. If you're on tour during summer, sunscreen hats and mosquito repellent are recommended for added protection.
Rates and Reservations
Booking a horseback riding tour in Banff is straightforward through the tour operators. The pricing options vary depending on the trip duration and your chosen package. To make reservations, visit your tour operator's official website and check the availability of the horseback rides you'd like.
Choose the date and time that is most convenient for you while noting your time constraints. Select your package and fill out information on the number of participants, name, and contact details. Review the tour operator's cancellation policies and proceed to pay for the trip. After completing the reservation, you receive a confirmation email with your booking details.
Some of the Banff trail ride rates are as follows:
- One-Hour Bow River Horseback Ride from € 66.26 per person
- Three-Hour Bow Valley Loop Horseback Ride from € 172.13 per person.
- Horseback Ride With Cowboy Cookout BBQ Lunch from € 92.91 per person.
Horseback riding tours in Banff have these restrictions to protect riders and horses:
- Guests must be at least eight years old and a maximum of 230 lb
- A guardian must accompany anyone under 18
- All guests must understand basic English to comprehend guide instructions
- Not suitable for pregnant women
- No backpacks allowed
- If you intend to bring a camera, it should be wearable around the neck.
Best Horseback Riding Tours for Different Preferences
Banff National Park offers diverse rides for individuals with different preferences. These include:
- Families: The Elk Meadows Trail Ride has you covered if you're seeking a memorable adventure. This is a family-friendly horseback ride suitable for all ages. First-time horse riders and children take a refreshing scenic ride through beautiful alpine meadows and aspen groves. You must check in 30 minutes before your scheduled ride.
- Winter Enthusiasts: If you're looking for a memorable winter activity, Banff Sleigh Rides offers a western-style sleigh ride across the Banff meadows. With the Rocky Mountains' scenic backdrop, the rides are a perfect way to enjoy the winter weather. The ride starts at the Banff stables and lasts for about 40 minutes. This memorable excursion includes a hot drink stop and a fireside warm-up after the ride back to the stables.
- Thrill-Seekers: Enjoy a refreshing evening on an adrenaline-rushing adventure in the backcountry on the Sunset Ride tour. This horseback riding trip is popular with thrill seekers and wildlife lovers. The tour includes an arena lesson and lasts for approximately two hours. If you're a skilled rider, you can enjoy the backcountry adventure confidently, and being keen enough can steal your sight of a deer or moose.
- Couples: Banff offers private romantic rides on a two-passenger cutter. Relax while the horses take you and your partner through the meadows of the remote area, with beautiful winter mountain sights. The sleigh ride package lasts 40 minutes and includes two warm blankets, an optional warm drink, and your s'mores kit by the fire. This exclusive tour acts as a romantic date, rekindling your relationship with your partner.
Sulphur Mountain is one of Banff's most iconic mountains, deriving its name from the two sulfurous hot springs on its lower slopes. You can tour this mountain on horseback riding in Banff National Park.
Riding on Sulphur Mountain
Riding through the towering Sulphur Mountains offers a memorable experience. The Sulphur Mountain Ride is among the horseback riding tours that take you on a spectacular Sulphur Mountain Trail trip. It starts from the Banff town site and continues to the peaceful wilderness.
The tour takes you to the Rimrock Resort Hotel; then, you trek down along the Spray River to the valley for water and a light snack during your break. After resting, you cross the river and continue with your backcountry adventure, riding along the base of Mount Rundle. This offers riders the experience of enjoying thrilling views across the valley and a view of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. The scenic ride on the Rocky Mountains continues to the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and reaches the Bow Falls. Here, the tour crosses the river before heading back.
History of Sulphur Mountain
Since the discovery of its hot springs, Sulphur Mountain has undergone extensive development. Canadian Pacific Railway workers discovered the hot springs in 1883. From then on, it became a significant draw for visitors seeking rejuvenation in the mineral-rich waters.
The Banff Gondola opened in 1959 and revolutionized the accessibility of the mountain's summit. Today, the gondola ride offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and Banff town. Notable figures like Norman Bethune Sanson have also contributed to the mountain's history. Sanson suggested building a weather station on Sanson Peak in 1903.
Why Horseback Riding in Banff
Various countries offer horseback riding tours, with Banff offering memorable experiences and the breathtaking natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Whether you're a beginner or an equestrian, Banff town is highly recommended by various individuals worldwide.
Testimonials and Traveler Reviews
Many individuals have expressed their horseback riding experience delight in Banff National Park through online reviews. Some reviews include:
- Roy: Roy praises Banff National Park's natural beauty and stunning landscapes. He recognizes it as a photographer's dream and one of the most gorgeous places he has ever visited.
- Layne Merryfield: This visitor praises the park's good food and plenty of activities to undertake. She encourages everyone near the national park to buy the annual pass. All tourists should consider visiting the park as it is worth it!
- Kevin White: Kevin Recognizes the good deal of wildlife in the park. He notes the quality value clients receive at the lakes along the ice parkway
Activities Beyond Horseback Riding
In addition to horse riding, visitors can explore the area's natural wonders through other activities. These are:
1. Gondola Ride
The gondola ride provides a breathtaking journey to Sulphur Mountain's summit. The top features stunning viewpoints of the Banff National Park and scenic walkways. During the ride, you get views of the location's six mountain ranges and nearby rivers.
2. Exploring the Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs bubbles up from the Canadian Rockies at 102°F(39°C). Soaking in the warm pools overlooking Mount Rundle offers healing for sore muscles. With stunning mountain views, the hot springs provide a serene setting to unwind in Banff's natural beauty.
3. Ice walk
During winter, you can embark on an ice-walk adventure led by experienced guides. The Winter Ice Walk in Johnston Canyon starts at Banff National Park and moves onto Two Jack Lake. The lake offers a sight of herds of bighorn sheep, and then the tour proceeds to Lake Minnewanka. Winter is the best time for an ice walk and exploration of Johnston Canyon and Banff Avenue.
Horseback riding in Banff offers an immersive way to discover Banff National Park's beauty. With happy testimonials and positive reviews from visitors, Banff has much to offer. Plan your trip today and experience horse riding plus other captivating activities to refresh your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us for help planning your vacation to Canada.
#1 Travel Tip: Listen to your guides
When horseback riding in Banff, its’ important to listen to your guides. Not only do they know your horse, they know the area and any wildlife risks. The guides are there to help you have the best experience possible.
#2 Travel Tip: You don’t have to be an expert rider
Even if you are a first-time rider, you can experience horseback riding in Banff. Your guide will pair you with a calm horse and ensure the trails are flat and accessible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you go horseback riding in Banff?
Yes, Banff offers various horseback riding tours for visitors of all ages and skill levels.
What's the weight limit for Banff horseback riding?
The maximum weight restriction for Banff Trail Riders is 115 kilograms (230 lbs) per person.
About the author: Katherine is Product Manager with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for almost 20 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in Calgary and one of her favourite Canadian destination is the... Read more