Join a small band of fellow adventurers on this unforgettable horseback riding vacation through the forests and meadows of the Kananaskis country before exploring the higher reaches of the Rocky Mountains.  This horseback ride has some rugged trails, you will need good balance and control of your horse through these sections, we therefore recommend intermediate or above for this ride. 

All the gear is carried on pack horses leaving you free to ride some more difficult terrain, or at a faster pace at times. Camp in unspoilt locations surrounded by the vastness of nature, just as the first explorers of this country did, enjoying food made on campfires and working together in an awe-inspiring but demanding land.

Multi-day pack trips are the answer for those who want to get into the real back-country, relax and recharge their batteries in the splendor of nature, learn more about horseback riding, and enjoy the companionship of horses.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from RB of BRIGHTON on 20/09/2023

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Excellent trip..as described and exceeded expectations in every way.
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
5
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Whist riding skills at walk, trot and canter are all that is required, the rides are long and require a certain amount of endurance. Also, elevation changes required balance and courage.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your comments and glad your ride was everything you wanted and more! :)

7 Day Wilderness Pack Trip Itinerary 

Day 1
Arrival at Calgary. Guests will be met around 4pm and transferred to the ranch, roughly 1 hour drive, where there will be a reception with a welcome BBQ where introductions will be made. You will have some time to get acquainted with your fellow adventures before retiring to the lodge for your overnight stay.

Day 2
After breakfast, pack up your gear into a duffel bag for the packhorses to carry and meet your horse for the week. You will receive instructions on western saddling and riding and get the opportunity to ride your horse for the first time in an arena. Departure will be shortly before noon.  You will ride through the beautiful forests and meadows of the Foothills before reaching the first camp, ride time approximately 5 hours.  Settle into camp and participate in the necessary chores, including grooming, feeding and watering of your horses.  Dinner is cooked over an open fire.

Day 3
After a hearty breakfast, prepare to break camp for the longest ride of the week. Today, you will take a breathtaking ride through the foothills and across the Forgetmenot Mountain Range.  This will take the best part of 7 hours before reaching the second camp.  This ride cannot be done in poor weather. 

Day 4
The plan is to make a short but dramatic ride up the hidden valley.  Because we will be returning to the same camp, we can make a more leisurely start, and you should be back early enough in the afternoon to take a refreshing swim in the river near the camp.

Day 5
Offers two possibilities, a longer 7.5-hour scenic ride around the mountain range using some challenging trails, this is one you will never forget, or a shorter easier but scenic ride around the valley you are camped in.  

Day 6
After breakfast you will depart for your final day of riding.  Again, there are several options – an easy 3-hour ride or a 5.5 hour route that will take you over the ridge line and offers some phenomenal views.  In the afternoon you will reach the trailhead where you will be picked up by the trailer and return to the ranch.  Back at the lodge you can relax and settle down for one final dinner. 

Day 7
After one final breakfast is it time to say your farewells.  The shuttle will pick you up around 9:30am and take you back to Calgary.

10 Day, 9 Night Mountain Prairie Combo Itinerary.
This combines both incredible mountain scenery with galloping over the open prairies. The ride will run as a standard 7 day pack trip with an additional 3 days. For those who are interested in doing the whole trip it will continue as follows:

Day 7 
Transfer to Writing-on Stone Provincial Park ( ca 4 hours by car), set up camp and vet check for Competitive Trail Ride, overnight in tents. 

Day 8 
Participation in the Border Coulee Competitive Trail Ride (Novice or Intermediate Category), overnight in tents.

Day 9 
Leisurely ride through the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park ( ca 2 hours), transfer back to ranch in the afternoon (ca. 4 hours by car), overnight at the ranch.

Day 10 
Departure and transfer to Calgary after breakfast.


Please follow this link for a map of the start point of these itineraries: Wilderness Pack Trips

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

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 are all sensible, hard-working and uncomplicated, they are chosen and maintained for working in the mountains and local climate and range 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 knowledge 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 that your hosts have access to. Because they must consider a variety of factors in route planning, like bear activity, river conditions and snow depth in the high passes, they resist the temptation to publish a detailed schedule and trail description. After all, this is a back country-adventure you're embarking on, not a bus trip!

The amount of terrain and spectacular scenery the group experience depends largely on the length of the ride chosen. Encounter forest trails, open alpine meadows, rugged and rocky trails, exposed passes, and river crossings. The 7 and 10 day pack trips afford more opportunity to get into the really high country, and experience has proved that after 2 or 3 days most people's riding and outdoor skills really begin to improve, and the team – guests and staff - mesh together.


Rider requirements

Riders must be comfortable at a walk, trot and canter. The Mountain Prairie ride involves extensive canters in open country so independent control of your horse is required. There are occasions when riders may be required to dismount and lead horses through difficult sections. On the 10 day expeditions some hiking on rugged ground at elevations between 7000 and 8400ft (< 1 mile) is required. For 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. Great Plains distances are up to 50 km per day. On all trips guests are expected to participate by grooming and saddling their horses as well as assisting on other camp chores such as watering and feeding horses.

Minimum and Maximum Group Size
The ride considers 8 to be optimal group size for the back-country trips.

Minimum group size is 4 people for custom trips.

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. They have had people in their 70's on pack trips, but again, 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 the ride 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.

The first and last nights are spent in bunkhouse style lodging at the ranch, 2 or 3 people to a room with a shared bathroom. 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 your hands and face, anything more requires a visit to a nearby stream. The ride provides thermarest mattresses as well as duffel bags and sleeping bags so you don't have to bring your own.



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



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 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 first and last nights so bring plenty of batteries or a solar charger.

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

7 day / 6 night Wilderness pack trips are available from June to the end of September. The Mountain Prairie ride is only offered once per year in late Sept. Ideal group size is 8 riders for optimum experience of the wilderness.

Departure Dates

2024: 7 day pack trip: 20 June (FULL), 14 July (FULL), 11 Aug (FULL), 14 Sept (FULL).
2024: Mountain prairie combo: 14 September (FULL)
2025: 22 - 28 Jun; 13 - 19 Jul; 13 - 19 Sep (Full)

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 £
2024 - Mountain Prairie Combo10d/9n8double pp3,329
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 - Mountain Prairie Combo10d/9n8double pp3,925
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 - Mountain Prairie Combo10d/9n8double pp4,375
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 - Mountain Prairie Combo10d/9n8double pp46,395
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 Great Plains 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 was filmed here, as were a number of westerns like The Unforgiven.

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 £930 pp return. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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