Yes, there are big cities throughout the province, but the heart of the prairies is often found on horseback, gazing out across the prairies and mountain peaks. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for you to saddle up and discover your inner cowboy.
1. Bar Diamond Guest RanchVisit Bar Diamond Guest Ranch, where the nearest next door neighbour is miles away. It’s a working ranch in Bindloss, across 34,000 acres along the Red Deer River. Live in harmony with the land, eat very well, and leave your worries in behind. It’s also the location of the only Twin Medicine Wheels site in North America, representing an important Blackfoot spiritual site – making your ranch vacation authentic in a way no other can. After a home-cooked breakfast, head out with your hosts on their jet boat for a tour on the river and discover extraordinary views.
2. Lucasia Ranch
Lucasia Ranch, near Claresholm and tucked into the Porcupine Hills, is a historic working cattle ranch, established in 1881 and still keeping true to tradition. The Lucas family will welcome you with old-fashioned hospitality and show you what it means to live the spirit of the west! Brush up on your roping skills (or develop some in the first place!), find a seat to relax in the peaceful garden, eat hearty home-cooked meals and spend the night in the hand-crafted log guest cabin. Go on a trail ride or help out on regular ranch activities, including cattle drives and branding.
3. Wildhorse Ranch
Wildhorse Ranch, near Rocky Mountain House, is not selling a product or brand. It’s providing an experience, where you can “live the dream, live the legend, live the West.” Ride well-trained horses through the Rocky Mountains, sample great cowboy food, relax next to a crackling campfire, and live the laidback days of the west. They offer a variety of programs, including girls youth camps, women’s empowerment retreats, team building events, adult trail riding adventures, and customizable packages to suit your group’s needs. Beginners are more than welcome to saddle up – the Bakers will help you build your confidence.
4. North Shore Homestead
Take advantage of the opportunity to stay at one of the most unique retreat locations you’ll find at North Shore Homestead. Cabins and suites on the private ranch just out into Lesser Slave Lake, putting you front and centre with spectacular scenery year round. Beside a beachfront location, there’s something else that makes this ranch stand out from all the rest. It’s not a cattle ranch. Instead of heads of cattle roaming the land, you’ll find a herd of bison! Learn about the herd and the history of the area with a guided tour and take pictures of views you won’t find anywhere else as the sun rises and sets over the lake. It’s also an excellent home base for hunting and fishing trips.
5. Old Entrance B ‘n B
Near Jasper National Park, Old Entrance B ‘n B gives breathtaking views of the Rockies from its location nestled along the banks of the Athabasca River. Guided horseback trails for any skill level take you through the Athabasca River Valley, ranging from one hours tours to full day excursions. A quiet alternative to the high prices of staying within the park, Old Entrance has cabins, B&B guest rooms, teepees, and camping sites available for rent on their 60 acre property. They even have Bed & Bale packages available for those bringing their own horse. Venture off the ranch for swimming, canoeing, wildlife viewing, and snowshoeing. The nearby Hinton Golf Course has 18 holes waiting for you to practice your swing.
6. Red Lodge Guest Ranch
The Bradshaw family will welcome you with open arms to Red Lodge Guest Ranch. The ranch offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for adventure on the high ropes course or 400’ tandem zip line, relaxation in the quiet countryside with fresh air and stunning skies, or real ranch life by working with cattle, saddling up and riding horses, learning to handle a rope, or harnessing and driving work teams. Children’s pony rides and youth retreats help make it a destination for the whole family. Once a month, they host live music with supper in their fully-licensed dining hall, so plan your trip accordingly. If you don’t make it for that, be sure to catch a Sunday brunch at least!
7. Centre Peak High Country Adventures
Nestled along the eastern slopes of the Livingstone Range between Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek, Centre Peak High Country Adventures is home to third-generation ranchers the Keils, who will welcome you with western hospitality and real cowboy adventures. They offer guided trail rides and western riding lessons who need a bit of a refresher or learning experience before saddling up and heading out among the mountain scenery. They also offer Ranch Hand Getaways, a minimum two-night stay in the Stucco House with cattle work tailored to each guest’s desired experience. Riding horseback through the mountains? A bucket list item to cross off, for sure!
8. Rocking R Guest Ranch
Ranch vacations don’t have to mean roughing it in the bush! Rocking R Guest Ranch near Strathmore has luxurious cabins with stunning views, cozy fireplaces, and much more! Delicious home-cooked breakfast are served to your cabin, then finish off the day with a soak in a hot tub outdoors. Total beginners can take a two-hour introduction to horses lesson. More experienced riders can take a scenic trail ride through Kananaskis Country or go all in with a three-day equestrian adventure with days on horseback and nights under star-filled skies. The Ranch is also driving distance to the Calgary Stampede, Royal Tyrrell Museum, the Rosebud Dinner Theatre, and Oxbow Golf Course, plus much more.
9. Homeplace RanchExperience the life of a cowboy at Homeplace Ranch! Just 40 km southwest of Calgary, Homeplace welcomes you to the “Last Best West”. Ride horseback, get lessons, learn the history of the ranch and area, and see the spectacular scenery of the Kananaskis country and foothills. There is fishing and golf nearby, and you’re not that far from Banff National Park for day trips away from the trail rides (if you really want…). Take a Wine & Beer Ride: a trail ride with a stop at a local brewery for locally crafted beer or a winery halfway through. The Ranch do not offer a place to stay, but there are plenty of options nearby in Bragg Creek and Turner Valley.
10. Sierra West
Have you ever wanted to drive the cattle under endless blue sky? Then Sierra West is the place to be! Step back in time and experience the “Old West” at this Ranch near Lundbreck that offers a Canadian Signature Experience. Enjoy the fresh mountain streams, trail ride through rolling foothills and continue on to the pristine mountains. Try Roping and stay at log cabins that are set on the banks of Todd Creek.
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There’s nothing more Albertan than saddling up for adventure across the province at ranch vacations. Giddy up!
** The list is arranged in no partcular order!