Ride through Alberta’s Wild West, tracing the paths that the early pioneers used while exploring these untamed forests.
On this trip you will follow the Erling Strom Trail, a path forged through the dense Banff forests by renowned explorer Erling Strom in the early 1900s.
Amidst dense fragrant pines and snow-crested mountains that pierce the sky, you’ll get to experience the wild side of Banff that not many visitors get to see. Remote and without any internet or cell service, the backcountry lodges where you will be staying offer a chance to find peaceful quiet and reconnect with friends and loved ones over a crackling campfire.
With a backcountry expert to guide you, this horseback experience is a chance to learn about the history of early exploration in the region. With four days to wander and discover Canada’s oldest national park, you’ll have plenty of time to relax into the slow pace and peaceful quiet of life on the trail.
Backcountry ride to Sundance Lodge
We’ll begin our journey at 9:30am at Warner Stables at the backcountry check-in area of the large barn. (You can park your vehicle here for free during the trip.) We’ll hand out your slickers and saddle bags and introduce you to the horse that we have specifically picked just for you. Things happen on “Western Time” here so we may not leave right on the dot and you’ll have time to get to know your horse and ask any questions.
One of the aspects of these tours that guests often rave about is the connection they forge with their hooved companions. At the end of the trip, you’ll have a new four legged best friend. Our horses are steady, responsive and can be counted on to cross any terrain, from forest paths to boulder-strewn creeks.
Saddled up and ready to ride, we’ll hit the trail for the ten mile journey to Sundance Lodge. On this backcountry adventure, we’ll take you along a route that the early explorers of the Canadian Rockies blazed nearly a century ago. We will follow the trail alongside the rushing glacier-fed waters of the Bow River, Healy Creek and Brewster Creek. Along the way we’ll stop for a simple, hearty cowboy-style hot lunch on the banks of the river.
We’ll arrive at Sundance Lodge late afternoon, where your lodge host will greet you. Sundance is the ideal place for those who want to marvel at the beauty of the Banff Backcountry, while still being swaddled in comfort.
There are no sleeping bags or camp stoves here, you will be sipping from wine glasses, dining on food prepared by a skilled chef in a professional kitchen and sleeping between Egyptian cotton sheets. Your lodge host will cater to your every need and make you feel welcome, like you are a guest in their home.
Settle into your room and freshen up from your day on the trail, then gather around the table for a gourmet meal prepared by your talented host. By the end of this trip, you’ll have plenty of new friends from around the world.
Set against the craggy peaks of the Sundance Range on a gentle curve of Brewster Creek, Sundance Lodge is a 10 room log cabin that will welcome you with backcountry charm, satisfying meals and warm showers. The lodge is the perfect balance of comfort and authenticity – giving you the Wild West Explorer feeling without having to rough it.
Ride the Erling Strom Trail to Halfway Lodge
The adventure continues as you journey 9 miles southward to Halfway Lodge. The rugged peaks of the Sundance Range loom over the eastern horizon as you follow the winding historic Erling Strom Trail. You’ll be following in the footsteps that the early explorers of the Canadian Rockies took nearly a century ago. We’ll stop along the way for a picnic in the fresh air of an open mountain meadow.
Tonight we’ll stay at Halfway Lodge, located at the midway point between Banff and Assiniboine Mountain where weary riders have been stopping to rest since the 1920s. As you approach you’ll notice the trees start to thin out and the mountains peeking up above the treeline all around you. It is tucked into a postcard-perfect setting, with a striking cauldron of mountains all around it.
This lodge was constructed by Erling Strom in the 1920s as a stopover spot for the guests he lead on trips from Banff to Mount Assiniboine. With propane lanterns and candles providing lighting and a woodstove providing warmth, it hasn’t changed much in the last 80 years. (The only big change occurred in 1967 when a second story was added, due to a bear making a surprise entrance through the roof!)
Ride time: Approx 5-6 hours including lunch
Ride distance: Approx 9 miles
Follow Brewster Creek back to Sundance Lodge
Today you’ll leave your peaceful haven at Halfway Lodge and take the meandering trail along Brewster Creek back to Sundance Lodge. You’ll spend another night here, relaxing in pure backcountry comfort.
Be warned: you won’t want to leave Halfway Lodge once you have experienced this gorgeous retreat in the Rockies.
After you wake up in comfort and enjoy a hearty breakfast at Halfway Lodge, you’ll hit the trail. Your guide will lead you through the backcountry on a scenic and exciting trail, criss-crossing the valley in the historic footsteps of the early pioneers and stopping for lunch along the way.
You’ll arrive back at Sundance Lodge again, a luxurious retreat you will have fallen deeply in love with. Pamper yourself after your ride with a warm shower and a glass of wine, then enjoy another delicious meal prepared by your professional chef lodge host.
Ride time: Approx 5-6 hours plus leisurely lunch
Ride distance: Approx 9 miles
Return to Warner Stables
It’s your last morning at Sundance Lodge, which by now will feel like home due to the warm hospitality of your host. Wake up wrapped in your warm down duvet one last time, gather around for a delicious breakfast and wave goodbye as you begin the journey back to Banff.
Breathe the crisp, pine scented air as you depart for one more day on the trail with your fellow riders – whom you have no doubt become good friends with by now. Your guide will lead you through the backcountry along winding river trails and through the thick pine forests, with the jagged peaks of the Rockies always standing proudly on the horizon. You’ll stop along the banks of Healy Creek for a lunch of fresh sandwiches, baked goods and fruit.
You’ll take the gentle 9 mile ride from Sundance back to Warner Stables, arriving at around 4:30pm. You may be leaving the backcountry, but the memories you have made will stay with you for a long time.
Set at the base of Allenby Pass, Halfway Lodge is a rustic cabin with propane lanterns, candles, and a woodstove to heat the cozy kitchen, dining and living areas. There are two shared outhouses and an outdoor shower onsite.
Please note that prices are based on two guests per room, but the rooms have a variety of configurations. A single room supplement is available for an additional fee.
- Rates are based on double occupancy and a single room supplement is available for an additional fee.
- Guests participating in backcountry riding will need to be 9 years or over and a maximum of 250lbs. Banff Trail Riders is committed to the health of our horses and the safety of our guests, which means that the minimum age and maximum weight requirements are strictly enforced. As part of the check-in process, guests may be required to confirm their current weight on a scale and provide proof of the child’s age. In the event that these requirements are not met, the booking will be forfeited without a refund.
- Please note that children will not be paired with an adult – they must ride their own horse.
- For our foreign visitors we require an understanding of basic English for our horseback rides, so that you can understand simple instructions from our guides.
- Children aged 15 years and under must have someone 18 years and older with them.
- For safety purposes helmets are mandatory to be worn by all backcountry riders under 18 years of age. Helmets are optional but recommended for backcountry riders aged 18 years and over.
- Riders must wear closed toed shoes – no open toe shoes or shoes with big heels.
- All adult riders must sign a waiver prior to the tour. A waiver must also be completed by the parent or guardian of any rider under the age of 18.
- Riders must be physically capable of controlling the horse during the ride without assistance and for the health and safety of all riders we regrettably cannot accommodate any disabilities or special needs riders. We recognize that disabled riding is a unique and respected skill set that we at the barns do not have the appropriate equipment or skills to safely execute.