Horse Packing Trips in Alberta
Alberta’s vast national parks and spectacular scenery provide plenty of impetus to take on the excitement and adventure of a horse packing trip.
by Mike Souza
Horseback Adventures Ltd
Formed in 1979, Horseback Adventures Ltd is a family-run business, owned by two brothers, Tom and Shawn, who have horse-riding in their blood. From 1939, their parents ran pack trips and trail rides through the Brewster Company, out of which Horseback Adventures Ltd emerged. Tom and Shawn break in their horses with their own hands and work only with percheron quarter crosses, horses known for their sturdiness and endurance.
Horseback Adventures Ltd offers two main types of pack trips – the “Real West Vacation” and the “Wilderness Adventure.” The “Real West Vacation” is a four-day long journey that leaves from Brule, Alberta. The trail takes you across Solomon Creek before climbing up a ridge, the top of which affords stunning views of Solomon Valley. After adventuring through aspen forests, you ride down into the valley, where you come to The West Range Cabins, your accommodation. The four day journey also includes a visit to the top of Paradise Ridge and a ride through thick pine and spruce forests to the source of Solomon Creek.
Horseback Adventures Ltd’s six-day “Wilderness Adventure” pack trip kicks off in a similar fashion to the “Real West Vacation,” with a ride to The West Range Cabins on the first day and an exploration of Paradise Ridge on the second. The third day, however, sees your arrival at the pristine Moose Horn Lake, where you experience the magic of backcountry tent camping. From that vantage point, you can explore the northern edge of Jasper National Park.
Both pack trips are led by Horseback Adventures Ltd’s trusty guide, Tom, who knows the area like the back of his hand and does whatever he can to make his guests feel safe and inspired. The company’s chef comes along as well and cooks all of your meals, which is a big bonus after a day spent riding in the wilderness. All gear is provided.
The “Real West Vacation” offers a more comfortable pack trip than the “Wilderness Adventure.” On the “Real West” ride, you stay only in The West Ridge Cabins, where you have access to heaters, warm showers, lighting and bunk beds. The “Wilderness Adventure,” however, also incorporates a stay in Horseback Adventure Ltd’s tent camp at Moose Horn Lake. Although a little more rustic than The West Ridge Cabins, the camp does feature well-maintained, spacious tents and a central kitchen tent, with a wood stove, as well as the adventure of staying close to nature.
The four-day “Real West Vacation” costs around $998 + GST per person, while the six-day “Wilderness Adventure” costs around $1,500 + GST per person. Horseback Adventures Ltd also offers an extensive twelve-day “Wilderness Adventure” for those who want to explore Alberta’s backcountry in depth.
Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures
Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures operates out of a ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, near Bragg Creek, southwest of Calgary. The surrounding scenery has been made famous by films such as Brokeback Mountain, The Unforgiven and Lonesome Dove and features a tremendous geographical diversity, from snowcapped mountains to steep limestone cliffs. Riding in this area offers constantly changing views and countless opportunities for experiencing the unknown and unexpected.
Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures was founded in 1991 by passionate adventurer, Neil MacLaine, and, since 2005, he has run the business with his partner, Undine MacLaine. They aim to run their pack trips in a way that minimizes impact on the environment and they restrict group numbers, so that riders can become familiar with one another and enjoy personalized service. Their well-looked after and diverse stable contains a horse to suit everyone, from Arabs to Missouri Foxtrotters to Hannoverians.
An impressive range of pack trips is available, catering to individual abilities and needs. One example is the seven-day “Forgetmenot Ride,” which involves two nights spent in the company’s guest house and four nights camping. Five days are spent riding a distance of 100-120 kilometers in Kananaskis country, across rolling foothills and along mountain ridges.
If you are enthusiastic, and a little experienced, you could consider the Kananaskis Longrider which, as the name suggests, is an extended journey. Over ten days, the ride covers between 170 and 200 kilometers, mainly in rough mountaintop country, where you pass unspoiled lakes and fresh streams. Along the way, the Moose Mountain guides will teach you skills in horse packing, horsemanship and riding and camping in the wilderness.
Both the Forgetmenot, $1,799, and the Longrider, $2,599, include meals and accommodation as part of their package. These are just two of the many pack trips offered by Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures.
Lazy Vu Rocky Mountain Pack Trips Ltd
Like Horseback Adventures Ltd, Lazy Vu is a business run by a family with a history in horsemanship. John Groat, a third generation horse professional, and his wife, Judy, are Lazy Vu’s owner-operators. They own a thirty-five strong herd which roams their land in Hinton, Alberta.
Lazy Vu’s pack trips explore the Willmore Wilderness Area, which lies to the north of Banff and Jasper National Parks. The shortest pack trip on offer is four days in length and the longest is two weeks. There are set itineraries, but clients can also ask for a custom itinerary or add an adventure to an existing one.
The “Adams Creek Pack Trip” is the easiest and most relaxing pack trip offered by Lazy Vu. After a two and a half hour ride to base camp, you set up for four or five days and then take day trips. This means that you avoid the inconvenience of repeatedly taking down and setting up camp. From Adams Creek, you can ride to a mountain peak, visit alpine meadows or go on a fishing trip.
At the other end of the spectrum is the “12 Day Pack Trip,” which begins with a five and a half hour ride up the Berland River Valley. For 12 days, you explore rugged backcountry, visiting such remote locations as Snow Creek, Blue Grouse Camp, the Sulphur River and the source of the Wildhay River. You do have to change camp every couple of days, but the sheer beauty and incredible diversity of the scenery makes it worthwhile.
Lazy Vu charges a flat rate of $300 per day per person, which includes the horse, all gear and meals.