This 10-day equine pack trip vacation is only a short transfer from Calgary and offers 8 days of horseback riding across a wide range of topographies. Ride through three iconic Alberta landscapes, following in the footsteps of the first nations people, explorers, mounted police and cowboys. Riders will need to have full control of their horses at all gaits. Horseback rides range from 4 to 8+ hours/day, so riding fitness is essential.

The adventure starts in the forested foothills and Rocky Mountains, from there, load up the horses and drive 350 km to the vast grasslands in Southeastern Alberta, finishing the equestrian adventure on the high plateau of the Cypress Hills near the Saskatchewan border.  Expect long trots and canters where footing is suitable.

During this10-day horseback vacation, riders will both camp under the stars, as well as enjoy 4 lodge nights, providing a comfortable bed and the opportunity for a hot shower every few days.    

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The itinerary is an outline of what to expect, rather than a fixed agenda and may change due to conditions like weather and river levels .

Day 1
Guests will be met in Calgary around 4pm and be transferred to the ranch where there will be a reception with BBQ and an opportunity to meet the fellow adventurers. Retire to the lodge for the first night's stay.

Day 2
After breakfast, embark on the first day ride from the ranch into Kananaskis Country. 5 hours riding. Make camp and enjoy dinner over an open fire.

Day 3
After a hearty breakfast, set out on a 7 hour trail ride deeper into the mountains, returning to ranch in the late afternoon.

Day 4
After a comfortable night’s sleep, pack up and load the horses before driving to Writing On Stone. Explore one of the largest areas of protected prairie, this historical land contains the greatest concentration of rock art on the North American Great Plains. Camp for the night.

Day 5
After breakfast, continue to explore the magical backcountry of Writing On Stone Provincial Park on horseback before returning to camp.

Day 6
After breakfast, pack up and ride 40 kms across sweeping grassland down the meandering Milk River before setting up camp and sitting down for dinner cooked over an open fire and a well-earned rest.   

Day 7
After breakfast, pack up the horses once more and ride another 40 kms to the second ranch, stay in Manyberries. Enjoy a delicious meal and the luxury of a hot shower before settling down for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Day 8
After breakfast, pack up once more and ride in the historic Cypress Hills.  These grass covered hills provide some spectacular views. 

Day 9
After breakfast, enjoy one final morning ride in the Cypress Hills and all its beauty, before trailering back to the ranch in the afternoon for dinner and one final night.

Day 10
After breakfast, depart for Calgary around 9:30am.  This adventure may be over but the memories you have made will stay with you forever.

 

Riders must be willing to share while on the trail as single tents are not an option

Please note transfers for arrivals from Calgary Airport leave at 4pm. Departure transfers arrive at Calgary Airport at 11am. Please book your flights accordingly.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are chosen and maintained for working in the mountains and local climate, they are all sensible, hard-working and uncomplicated. Ranging from 14hh - 16.1hh, The horses are all used to Western style riding, but some respond to English aids as well. The pace of the ride is mostly at the walk but there is some trotting or cantering when trail conditions are suitable.



The terrain covered is often rugged and steep on undeveloped wilderness tracks. It is sometimes necessary to dismount and walk with the horses. Riding is guided at all times by an English-speaking guide and usually starts at 10am and finishes around 5pm with several short breaks and a longer lunch break. The guides are extremely knowledgeable of the country and its hazards and will err on the side of caution if there is a question of threatening weather, wildlife, or other natural hazard, so the trip itinerary may be altered if it deemed wise to do so by the senior guide.



All of these trips are customised, using a network of over 300 km of trail, a variety of factors must be considered in route planning. Considerations like bear activity, river conditions and snow depth in the high passes,must be taken into consideration, thus no detailed schedule and trail description is published. After all, this is a back country-adventure, not a bus trip!



Riders will encounter forest trails, open alpine meadows, rugged and rocky trails, exposed passes, and river crossings. 10-day pack trips afford more opportunity to get into the really high country, and experience has proved that after 2-3 days, most people's riding and outdoor skills really begin to improve, and the team, guests and staff, mesh together.


Rider requirements

Where the ground allows long trots and canters in open country are possible so riders must be comfortable at a walk, trot and canter and have independent control of your horse. There are occasions when riders may be required to dismount and lead horses through difficult sections. On this 10 day expedition some hiking on rugged ground at elevations between 7000 and 8400ft (< 1 mile) is required.
For these mountain rides, riding skills are less essential than a sense of adventure and general fitness. Typical days are between 4 and 8 hours (including an hour for breaks and lunch), and will cover 15-32 kms.
Riders are expected to participate by grooming and saddling their horses as well as assisting on other camp chores such as watering and feeding horses.

Age and Weight Restrictions
The minimum age for pack trips is 8 years old. Anyone under 15 should be a regular and enthusiastic rider, have a keen sense of adventure, and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There have been people in their 70's on pack trips, they were fit, in good health and rode regularly prior to their holiday. We ask that you judge yourself (and your children) honestly in this regard, as we will take your word for it and plan the trip accordingly.

For all age groups: It is important that you feel fit and healthy before going on the trail. You are travelling in the wilderness, and medical services (beyond first aid) will not be readily available.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Day 1, 3, and 9 finish at the ranch which offers bunkhouse style lodging, 2 or 3 people to a room with a shared bathroom. Day 7 finishes at the Manyberries Salon and offers a comfortable night stay and a hot shower. 



Other nights are spent camping in large wall tents capable of sleeping up to 6, or smaller tents sleeping 2-3 (additional C$10/day). Ablution facilities are minimal on trail. It is easy to wash one's hands and face, but anything more requires a visit to a nearby stream. The ride provides thermarest mattresses as well as duffel bags and sleeping bags so riders don't have to bring their own.



Single rooms may be available for lodge nights at C$50 per night.



Riders must be willing to share while on the ride as single tents are not an option

 


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Dependent on your country, Passport and Visa requirements can change from regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada are expected to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid Canadian visa.

To visit Canada, you will need to meet some basic requirements, such as:
• have a valid travel document, such as a passport,
• be in good health,
• have no criminal or immigration-related convictions,
• convince an immigration officer that you have ties—such as a job, home, financial assets or family—that will take you back to your home country,
• convince an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit, and
• have enough money for your stay. (The amount of money you will need can vary. It depends on things such as how long you will stay, and whether you will stay in a hotel, or with friends or relatives.)

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/canada

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Canada.html

Climate Summary

Typical summer temperatures (June-August) range from 18-25 C during the day, to near or even a degree or two below freezing at night. Snow has fallen in every month in the mountains so one must be prepared for all possibilities. Sleeping bags rated to -5 degrees are provided should guests prefer not to bring their own. Most precipitation normally comes in short but intense thunderstorms. Periods of several weeks without any rain are also common, particularly in the later summer. An unusually hot day would be 32 degrees. Humidity is quite low. Best time for autumn colours is mid-September to early October.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

The cost of medical treatment can be very expensive in Canada. For emergency health care you can go to a hospital’s emergency room or to a large number of walk-in clinics where an appointment is not required beforehand.

Giardiasis is present so do not drink water from streams. Tap water is safe to drink.

Rabies is endemic in Canada, do not approach stray dogs.

Lyme disease can be a risk in wooded regions; it is a rare tick borne disease.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Canada and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

This is a wilderness pack trip in a remote area from which evacuation may take up to 6 or 8 hours. It is not recommended for anyone whose health is compromised in any life-threatening way. There is no electricity anywhere en route, so medication that must be kept chilled or unfrozen poses a problem.

Electricity

In Canada the supply voltage is 120V. If the appliance or its power supply are not dual voltage rated, the single voltage appliance will have to be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly (unless the appliance operates at 120V).

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Mobile phones do not work in the riding area. Internet access is not available either. Electricity is only available on the lodge nights so we recommend you bring plenty of batteries or a solar charger. If you want to bring a GoPro please be advised that you will have to have permission from all other guests and guides that they are willing to be filmed.

Packing List

You will be provided with a waterproof duffel bag to pack all your gear and personal items for the week. The weight limit for the packed duffel bag (including sleeping bag and mat) is 11kg (25 lbs). Please respect this limit as the wranglers and horses have to be able to handle the bags for you.
What you need to pack into your duffel bag:
• Sleeping bag rated for -5 degrees Celsius or warmer (you can borrow one at no extra cost)
• therm-a-rest (you can borrow one at no extra cost)
• Change of clothes for the week: it varies per person and length of trip how much you need to pack.
We recommend at least 1 extra pair of trousers (in addition to the ones you will be wearing during
the day), 2 or 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 t-shirts, warm underwear (mostly for the night), 1 pair
of socks and set of underwear per day, warmer outer layer (fleece), windproof layer (jacket or vest)
• warm hat (toque), mostly for sleeping and in the mornings
• toiletry bag and personal items (please refrain from packing too many perfumed creams or soaps
as they do attract wildlife). Ideal is biodegradable soap, a small microfiber towel, toothpaste
and brush and deodorant.
• flashlight
What do wear during the day:
• brimmed hat, riding helmet or ball cap. If you are used to wearing a helmet at home please don’t
stop now! You can bring your own helmet or borrow one from the ranch. The cowboy hat is a very
useful piece of gear to protect your face and neck from the sun, rain and low branches. It does not,
however, protect your head if you fall.
• trousers suitable for riding (jeans or breeches, whichever you prefer)
• chaps: half chaps are recommended if you choose to wear breeches. Otherwise chaps are handy
but not necessary to bring
• boots: choose boots or shoes you are comfortable in. You will be wearing these shoes all day,
walking and riding. Light hiking boots are often a better choice than fancy western boots.
Boots should be water-repellent, at least ankle high and have a small heel. Some people like to bring
light weight camp shoes or sandals to wear around the camp site.
• long sleeve shirt: We recommend that over a short sleeve as you can roll up the sleeves when it is
warm and down when in the shade or dense forest to avoid scratching your forearms.
• pocket knife (to cut lunch items and maybe some string)
• bandana - this is an optional item. We find a bandana handy as it serves many purposes: protection
of your neck from sun burning, cooling you off when dipped in a mountain stream or simply
tie something together when needed.
You will also be provided with a set of saddle bags to tie behind the saddle of your horse. Part of the
saddlebags will be needed to pack “group” provisions such as lunch items or part of the horse first aid kit.
The remaining volume can be packed with items you may need during the day:
• sun cream: you are starting at an elevation of 1350m (4400 ft) and are getting up to well above
2200 m (7000 ft). The sun is very strong at this altitude. Please be sure to protect your skin
from burning.
• camera: whether it’s a DSLR, pocket camera or smart phone - bring a camera! The scenery is
stunning!
• gloves: can come in handy for riding, picking up a hot pot from the fire and other activities.
• rain gear: the “slicker” will be tied behind you saddle so it is with you during the day. The weather
in the mountains can change rapidly so you must be prepared all the time. If you do not have
suitable rain gear you can rent oilskin slickers for C$5 per day.
You can leave any luggage you don’t need at the ranch while you are in the back-country.

Clothing should be comfortable and well-tested. A broad-rimmed hat is useful, although again the centre has some hard hats that can be borrowed. Nights can be cold so a sleeping bag is useful, although the centre has some that guests are welcome to use. The high altitude and low humidity mean sun cream will be necessary in the summer months for fair skins, but biting insects are rarely a problem.

Programmes

10 days / 9 nights (8 days riding)

Departure Dates

2024: 25 May - 3 June
2025: 24 May - 2 June

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

Single rooms may be available for lodge nights at C$50 per night.
Riders must be willing to share while on the ride as single tents are not an option

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
202410d/9n8double pp3,369
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
202410d/9n8double pp3,925
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
202410d/9n8double pp4,429
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
202410d/9n8double pp46,995
Wildlife

All major charismatic species native to the Rockies can be found in this area, including Grizzly and Black bear, Cougars, Wolves, Coyotes, Moose, Elk, Bighorn sheep, Mule and Whitetail deer, and wild horses. The rides begin in the foothills ecosystem and move progressively into subalpine and alpine regions. This allows guests to immerse themselves in and learn about the different ecologies present at different elevations.

It should be noted that while many species of large mammals are present in the region through which we ride, some are very elusive and are unlikely to be seen, even when close. For example, there have been occasions of no grizzly sightings in previous pack trips, and normally cougars are seen only once every few years although this area has one of the highest densities in north America. Given their general preference to avoid humans and the huge area with good cover in which they can roam, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Oddly enough, there are more wildlife sightings on the grasslands ride than in the mountains. This is because: 1. There is no cover, and one can see everything within 5 or 10 kilometers. The animals living there are also unperturbed by humans at these distances; and 2. The prairies are actually a more animal-friendly habitat, with milder climate and ample grasses for grazing animals to eat.

In general, none of these animals mean trouble to us as we travel in groups on horseback. We are careful not to attract bears in camp by hoisting the food on a high tree. Please DO NOT store any food within your personal gear but hand it to the guide at the end of the day.

Other Information

Guides and Wranglers
Interesting and entertaining guides share their knowledge of the different areas you will visit. You can learn about horsemanship, back-country navigation, survival skills and living in nature. Depending on the group size you will have one or two backcountry guides with you at all times. Wranglers lead the packhorses with your gear into camp, usually on a different, easier and less scenic route than the one the group takes. They all share the same love and pride for this country and will be delighted to pass it on to guests.

Gear and Equipment provided

You will be provided with:
* Canvas wall tents, sleeping mattress and sleeping bag (warm enough for local climate) and a duffle bag
* 3 hearty, delicious meals cooked over the open campfire
* A surefooted and well trained horses that will suit your riding abilities, size and weight
* Comfortable western and endurance saddles with saddle bags
* An enthusiastic team that will do its best to provide you with an unforgettable adventure together with a handful of likeminded horse people.

Located within an hour’s drive of both Banff and Calgary, the Bragg Creek region offers the rare combination of nearby urban conveniences with ready access to an enormous wilderness region. Brokeback Mountain and westerns such as The Forgiven, were filmed in this area.

Other Country Information

People migrating from Asia crossing the Bering Strait first settled the North American continent. They formed a number of tribes that can be distinguished by language: the Algonquian in the eastern sub-arctic and maritime areas spreading into the prairies and plains of the mid-west; the Iriquioian speaking tribes mostly in the St Lawrence Valley and around Lakes Ontario and Erie; the Salishan, Athabascan and other linguistic groups lived along the rivers and coastline of British Columbia. Small, isolated Inuit bands developed a unique culture in the harsh environment of the Arctic.

John Cabot, a Venetian working in the service of the English sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. This and later explorations formed the basis of the English claim to Canada. The Frenchman Jacques Cartier undertook a series of explorations, mainly along the route of the St Lawrence River during the 1530s and 1540s and he claimed the land for France.

It's the edginess between Canada's indigenous, French and British traditions that gives the nation its complex three-dimensional character. Add to this a constant infusion of US culture and a plethora of traditions brought by migrants, and you have a thriving multicultural society.

Canada is between 3.5 and 8 hours behind GMT depending on where you are in the country. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +1.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Calgary Airport (YYC)
Transfer:
Included from Calgary airport or town at around 4pm. Approximate transfer time is 1 hour. Return transfer arrives to the airport approx. 11am. Please book your flights accordingly.
Flight Guide:
London - Calgary return from £920 pp return. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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