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The Real Banff Blog / Published: Fri, 08/08/2014 - 01:56

Horseback Riding Four Days In Banff's Backcountry

Add to my moments

August 8, 2014

By Jeff Mitchell

It took me all of around 30 minutes to feel like John Wayne, but in my own western movie-rolling through the incredible scenery and raw ruggedness of Banff's backcountry like I envisioned an 1830's gunslinger would. Truth is, I couldn't be farther from the gunslinging type. With no previous horseback experience, save for one disastrous occasion on a Shetland pony when I was around 6 years old, I'll admit that the prospect of four days in the saddle gave me pause. Those fears quickly dissipated after I had a brief orientation with my ride for the week, the trusty and sure footed Peyto, basically a Cadillac among horses and a soother of cowboy angst.

hoh halfway

Halfway Lodge.

In the video (above, top), we take a look at the four day backcountry trip with Banff Trail Riders-stopping at the warm and rustic Sundance and Halfway Lodges in Banff National Park. It's pretty much impossible to sum up how much fun this trip was in a 3 minute video, and similarly, I don't have the writing skills to do this adventure justice...so here are some point form highlights from a truly unforgettable week.

  • My, um, saddle area was just fine. This was my primary concern. I did wear bicycle shorts with a padded chamois under my jeans, but don't think I needed them.
  • Even after 20 years in Banff, I had no idea how beautiful and quaint the Sundance and Halfway Lodges are. I can't wait to cross country ski there in the winter.
  • There are a couple adorable marmots living at Sundance, who try to break into the lodge. Phil, and Phyllis.

hoh photo 3 phyllis marmot on sundance deck

Phil the marmot

  • The chefs and food were spectacular. Fred Flintstone sized ribs, and the best lasagna I've ever had. And I've had a lot.
  • You will probably fall in love with the pack mules.
  • You will not miss your internet, your tv, or your internet tv.
  • These are true cowboys and cowgirls. Wyatt spends his off-season delivering calves or riding broncos.

hoh photo 9 guides on sundance deck

Guides Kate, Vince, and Meaghan on the Sundance Lodge deck

  • The night skies are ridiculous. So clear and un-light-polluted there is a constant stream of meteors and satellites to watch, along with a hundred gazillion stars.
  • I started talking with a cowboy tinted accent almost immediately.
  • The shower at the Halfway Lodge has unlimited hot water, is outside attached to a tree, and has a 180 degree view of the mountains. This is almost worth the trip itself.
  • That said, it is fun to clean up in a river.
  • Cal at Sundance Lodge gave me a feather for my cowboy hat. It was from a particularly evil raven named 'McMuffin' who still roams the skies. I took this as a great honour.

This backcountry trip is just one of the many adventures available from Banff Trail Riders. For the tenderfoot out there, you can try out a day in the saddle with Trail Rides ranging from 1 to 7 hours long. Then you can immediately sign up for the full 5 day backcountry ride, which includes both lodges and a day trip up Allenby Pass, because you will be lassoed by the cowboy life.

hoh photo 25 JW on Wilson in river

Jonathan stops for a fillup.

There are several amazing horseback outfitters in both Banff and Lake Louise. For more information, please click here.   -Jeff Mitchell for The Real Banff


jeff horse 2 from connie

Me and my trusty steed, Peyto

hoh photo 16 mike night in Halfway kitchen

Mike and Wyatt in the Halfway Lodge kitchen

hoh photo 7 close up mule face fence

So a horse walks into a bar, bartender says...

HOH horseback june 27 2014 B

At the Banff stables.

hoh photo 18 sunrise Halfway stable sign

Halfway Lodge stables.

hoh photo 4 Sundance viewed from above

Sundance Lodge.

hoh photo 28 Mule magazine

Some light reading at the Sundance Lodge. For those who really love mules.