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Horseback Riding in Banff- What to Expect on a Guided Trail Ride

Horseback riding in Banff is a relaxing way to experience the natural beauty of the Bow Valley. Whether it’s a short 1 hour trail ride near the Banff townsite or an overnight backcountry lodge trip, you’ll get to enjoy blue rivers, rocky mountains, grassy meadows, and peaceful forests, all while letting loose your inner cowboy or cowgirl.

Horseback Riding in Banff

Horseback Riding in Banff- Banff Trail Riders

Guided Banff horse riding tours are offered exclusively by Banff Trail Riders and operate out of Warner Stables and Banff Springs Corrals, both conveniently located near downtown Banff.

Warner Stables in Banff, home of Banff Trail Riders
Warner Stables

There are several tour options for horseback riding in Banff including hourly trail rides and multi-day horseback riding vacations.

The hourly trail rides stick close to the town of Banff, exploring along the Bow River, Spray River, and around Sulphur Mountain. These tours cater to beginners or those who are short on time. The Banff trail rides range from 1-4 hours.

The Bow River as seen while horse riding in Banff
The Bow River as seen from horseback

The multi-day trips venture out into the backcountry of the Sundance Range and include overnight stays at Halfway Lodge and/or Sundance Lodge. These tours are perfect for people who have some riding experience and are comfortable being on a horse for 4-6 hours a day. The multi-day trips range from 1-5 nights.

Banff horseback riding tour travelling through the forest

Since the hourly horseback rides are the most popular, with several departures a day, here’s a look at one of the Banff trail rides offered by Banff Trail Riders.

Banff Horseback Riding Tour- Sundance Loop Trail Ride from Warner Stables

The Sundance Loop Ride is a 2 hour guided horseback experience that explores along the Bow River and climbs partway up the forested Sulphur Mountain.

The tour starts at Warner Stables, on the outskirts of the Banff townsite. After checking in at the barn and receiving a riding helmet, you’re free to look at the horses until your tour group is called.

Warner Stables in Banff National Park

When it’s time for the tour, your group will enter into a corral for some basic horseback riding instruction. You’ll learn how to handle the reins to make the horse turn left, right, and to stop.

After this quick lesson, you’ll be matched up with a horse and helped onto its back. The staff will then adjust the length of the stirrups so that you’re comfortable sitting on the horse. It’s important to make sure the stirrups are fitted correctly otherwise you could end up with sore legs and knees.

Banff Trail Riders staff helping guests onto horses

Once everyone is on their horse, one guide will start leading the group out of the corral and onto the trail while another guide follows behind to keep everyone together.

Leaving Warner Stables, the horses walk slowly in a line beside Sundance Road before turning onto a tree-framed horse trail. After a short ride in the forest, the views open up a bit once you begin to ride alongside the Cave and Basin Trail.

Horses on a Banff trail ride
Mountain scenery on a Banff horse riding tour

As you pass by the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, your guide will tell you a bit about its history and how it inspired the creation of Banff National Park. You can’t see the site from the trail, so you’ll have to pay a visit afterwards if it’s of interest.

After passing by the historic Cave and Basin, the tour turns onto Sundance Trail and heads through the forest towards the Bow River.

A group horseback riding in Banff

Once you reach the river, the horses will be riding beside a paved walking path that runs along the shore. The views of the Bow River and surrounding mountains are lovely during this stretch of trail, especially the blue-green colour of the water.

Walking path and horse trail beside the Bow River
View of the Bow River seen while on a Banff horseback riding tour

As the horses continue on, they’ll eventually leave the river behind and start heading towards Sulphur Mountain. Before you arrive at the mountain you’ll get to enjoy views of marshes and meadows backed by rocky peaks.

Mountain scenery on Sundance Trail in Banff

The next part of the trail ride takes you into the forest as the horses climb a short ways up Sulphur Mountain. It’s quiet and secluded, with the occasional mountain view appearing through breaks in the trees. 

Group horseback riding in Banff on Sulphur Mountain
View from the horse trail on Sulphur Mountain

While on Sulphur Mountain you’ll pass by Windy Knoll, but won’t get to go up to the lookout to enjoy the view. Again, this might be a place worth coming back to if it’s of interest.

After leaving Sulphur Mountain, the horses will make their way to Marsh Loop Trail for another ride beside the beautiful Bow River.

Horseback riding beside the Bow River
Group on a horseback riding tour in Banff

The last section of the Marsh Loop Trail, heading away from the river, is one of the most scenic parts of this trail ride. As the horses slowly pass through an area of thick marshes you’ll be able to see mountains all around. It’s especially pretty in fall when the grasses, bushes, and tree leaves start to turn golden yellow.

Scenery on Marsh Loop Trail in Banff
Scenery on Marsh Loop Trail in Banff

Your Banff horseback tour ends upon return to Warner Stables. Before being helped off your horse, don’t forget to give him a pat on the back as thanks for an enjoyable trail ride in Banff.

Review of Banff Trail Riders and Horseback Riding in Banff

Horseback riding in Banff is a unique way to experience the area and learn a bit about its history.

During the ride the guides share some interesting facts about the park and point out notable landmarks. They can be a little hard to hear if you’re in the middle of the group, so hopefully you get lucky and are riding close to the lead or tail guide.

Group on a Banff trail ride

The horses were very responsive, easy to manage, and appeared to be well cared for. Throughout the ride the guides will make sure you’re positioned properly in the saddle, especially when going up and down hills, to make things easier for the horse.

Group on a Banff trail ride on Sulphur Mountain

Since the horses followed so well in a line, even someone who has never been on a horse before would be able to participate in this activity. A horseback ride is also a good choice for people who aren’t into hiking but still want to explore the scenic trails around Banff.

Bow River in Banff
Bow River

Overall, horse riding in Banff is a relaxing, easy-going activity that will allow you to see the park the same way that pioneers and early travellers did.

Tips for Going Horseback Riding in Banff

Location: Banff Trail Riders have two locations a short drive from downtown Banff- Warner Stables at 1 Sundance Road and Banff Springs Corrals at 407 Spray Avenue. The booking office can be found at 138 Banff Ave.

  • Only two horseback tours depart from the Banff Springs Corrals and the rest leave from Warner Stables.

Getting There: To get to Warner Stables from downtown Banff, go south on Banff Ave then turn right onto Cave Ave. At Sundance Road turn right and the stables will be straight ahead.

  • To get to the Banff Springs Corrals from downtown Banff, go south on Banff Ave then turn left onto Spray Ave. Follow that to the Banff Spring Hotel and the corrals will be by the first driveway to the hotel.

Operating Hours: Banff horse riding tours operate from May to October. There are several departures throughout the day for hourly trail rides and the multi-day trips leave once or twice a week (depending on the tour).

Gear/What to Bring: You are required to wear closed toe shoes enclosed to the ankle (no sandals or high heels). 

  • Long pants are most comfortable for riding.
  • A helmet will be provided and wearing it is mandatory.

Facilities: At Warner Stables there is a vending machine, washroom, and plenty of free parking.

Visitor Guidelines and Safety: Guests are required to be 8 years old and up and a maximum of 230 lbs. The minimum age and maximum weight requirements are strictly enforced to protect the health of the horses and safety of the riders. You may be asked to show proof of age and step on a scale at check in.

  • Anyone under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian on the ride with them. Children must ride their own horse.
  • You are not allowed to bring a backpack on the horse. Even camera vests/chest harnesses for large DSLR cameras are not allowed. If you bring a camera you’ll have to keep it hanging off your neck the whole ride and be able to take pictures with one hand, since you always need to keep hold of the reins.
  • All riders must sign a waiver before the tour.
  • Guests are required to have an understanding of basic English so they can comprehend instructions from the guides.
Horses at Warner Stables in Banff

Banff Horseback Riding Tours

Here is a trusted site where you can book Banff horse riding tours and other Banff activities. Here is a selection of available Banff trail rides:

Accommodations in Banff

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Banff. Please consider booking your Banff accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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Adventure Alberta was hosted by Banff Trail Riders in order to bring you this story. Hosts have no editorial influence on articles and our opinions are strictly our own.

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