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Unleash Your Inner Cowboy in Banff National Park

Do you want to unleash your inner cowboy or cowgirl in Banff National Park?

That’s exactly what I’m going to be doing in July. Considering the fact that I am deathly scared of going faster than a walk when sitting on the back of a horse that I know can smell my fear – it might seem like an odd choice. But when I found out that this year’s rides with the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies, a non-profit group that has been in existence for over 90 years, offers rides in an area that hikers would rarely if ever visit, I figured I should seize the opportunity presented to me.

"Teepees used on the trip"

Teepees used on the trip

This summer Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies (T.R.C.R.) will be running 10 six day trips. Each trip can take up to 35 people including eight staff members.

Here’s how my trip should shake down.

I’ll meet my fellow wannabe cowboys and cowgirls on a Sunday night in the town of Sundre, about 90 minutes north of Calgary. We’ll have dinner and drinks and break the ice. The next morning we’ll head out for historic Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch, about 80 kilometers to the west of Sundre. From there we’ll go to our base camp, “Teepee Town”, located on the Red Deer River at historic Scotch Camp.

"What a view to wake up to every morning"

What a Rocky Mountain view to wake up to every morning!

I understand that the first day will be an educational one – and that’s part of the reason I signed on. My fellow guests I am told, are generally not hard core horseback riders. They like me are out to revel in the Rocky Mountain scenery and unlike my usual backpacking there will be a certain amount of luxury associated with this trip. I’ll enjoy the occasional warm – perhaps even hot shower. I will dine like a queen without having to plan a meal or lift a finger and instead of sleeping on my usual ½ inch foam mattress I will have a pad in a teepee.

Every day will have a rhythm to it.

Get up, eat up, saddle up and ride.

Wash up. Eat up again and then learn how to square dance. Stuart Watkins, the President of T.R.C.R. promises me that if I know how to follow simple directions I should, at the end of just a few days, know about ten square dancing moves. I told him I’d need a drink to get going. He promises me I will have fun and that there have been countless others before me that have had the same fear of dancing – and have come to love it.

"Break time"

Break time

Of course I have presented an overly simplified version of what life will be like in teepee town.

Without any WiFi or cell service I will be able to relax – when I’m off the horse. My camera will be put to good use. I know I will enjoy chatting with my fellow guests. Not only will I come away with square dancing moves, I will learn a thing or two about my environment. There will be a guest speaker on one evening; on another I’ll be introduced to cowboy poetry.

And surely by the end of a few days on a horse, I’ll be comfortable riding at a speed greater than a walk.

"What a place for a break!"

What a place for a break!

This is a ride for people of all ages and all abilities. You will be taught what you need to know to safely ride though previous experience is certainly an asset.

I know I’m looking forward to exploring yet another part of our beautiful Canadian Rockies. Will you join me?

"Riders of all abilities are welcomed"

Riders of all abilities are welcomed

I’m ready to unleash my inner cowgirl. Are you?

Leigh McAdam



Join the discussion 33 Comments

  • Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel says:

    Book me in!! Not for this year but sometime… I love horses and although not fit to ride at the moment, I know I would LOVE to see the Rockies this way. A pleasure to read,

  • Sophie says:

    My 12-year-old daughter is very keen to hear more about this.

  • Jackie Smith says:

    My first – and possibly last – horseback adventure took place in Canada at a dude ranch near Williams Lake. My ol’ slow pokey horse (that I had requested) was great until he decided he was being left behind. He took off and the language I shouted from that bouncing saddle colored the air around me. The next day my posterior and inner thighs were so sore I could barely get out of bed. . .but I sure will enjoy reading about your adventures! Ride ’em cowgirl!!

    • @Jackie You had me laughing at this one – but wait till you get my report in July. You might be bent over double after reading about my experience. I’m a little worried about how to train the butt and inner thighs so I’m not laid up in bed for a week.

      • Stuart Watkins says:

        Guests are welcome to arrive on our rides without any “pre-conditioning” but after being on over 40 rides myself, it is not something that we suggest. Get a few hours or better yet some lessons before you arrive. We will be giving lessons and extra time on the second day for anyone that needs more riding pointers. If you are in the Calgary area, or if you come early before your ride, book with Jill Barron at wwwbarronbarn.com. She is the best western riding teacher around. She taught my then 11 year old daughter to ride like a pro is just 8 hours.

        See you on the trails for “The Best Vacation of Your Life”

        Blessings and Happy Trails,

        Stuart R. Watkins

        President, T.R.C.R.

  • Mike says:

    This sounds like a blast, Leigh. I haven’t square danced since the 8th grade. But ironically, it was a heckuv a lot of fun. Sorry, in a bit of a funk today over my kid. Good post, our friend :)

    • @Mike I’m sure it will be a blast – and I’ll head over to see what the latest is on Phoenix. Sick animals are always a huge worry.

    • Stuart Watkins says:

      Everyone is nervous on the first night about the square dancing thing…. You do not need to know how to dance, or keep time with the music, or know your left foot from your right although you do need to know your left hand from your right! (hint: for most people your left hand is one with your watch on it and your wedding rings LOL – sorry I couldn’t resist!!) Ever played “ring around the posey” when you were a kid? That is how simple square dancing is. By the end of the week most people tell us it was the one of the highlights of the week… Trust me…I have been on over 40 of these rides…. :) Also, we have live music and entertainment too….

      Stuart R. Watkins

      President, T.R.C.R.

  • Matthew Bailey says:

    This trip looks amazing and I’m looking forward to going in August. After years of full-time travel around the world, I still think the Canadian Rockies are one of the most beautiful places on the planet. How can you beat a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this! Great story!

  • Sounds like a fun and exciting way to explore the Rockies. Beats carrying a heavy backpack around for a change.

  • Muza-chan says:

    Great adventure…

  • It looks like an amazing way to see the park! Not sure I could handle it though. I’ve been on a horse exactly once and as slow as he was, I was terrified the entire time. I felt completely out of control with my feet so far from the ground!!

  • Johanna says:

    Oh gosh how wonderful. I’d love to go riding in the Canadian Rockies – no internet sounds like bliss for a few days – I’d commune with my horse I reckon :) The Teepees look like fun too. Go cowgirl!

  • This sounds amazing and what a great deal! I went to my first “dude ranch” out in arizona last year, where the general theme was also “get up, eat up, saddle up, and ride” and had such a great time, even though I never went faster than a slow trot;-)

  • Charu says:

    This sounds like a marvelous opportunity, and the glamping in a teepee aspect alone is marvelous. Enjoy!

  • Freya says:

    WoW that looks totally amazing. Stunning photos as well. I would love to do that one day

  • Marcia says:

    This sounds like quite the adventure, Leigh! I like that you’re stretching your limits as well. I agree, you’ll definitely have some fabulous photos to share when you return. Congrats!

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