Experience a once-in-a-lifetime guided horseback journey with a Canadian Geographic host through the Banff wilderness.
2024 Exclusive Backcountry Vacations in partnership with Banff Trail Riders and Canadian Geographic
Join us for the ultimate trip in partnership with Banff Trail Riders and Canadian Geographic. Few folks will experience this opportunity; traveling in the Banff backcountry and doing it with a special host—a Canadian Geographic Ambassador.
Sky-piercing mountains stretch out across the landscape, their peaks crusted with ice and snow. The air is cool and fresh. And best of all, there’s an almost zen-like quiet out here. This is just another day on the trail when you go on our 6-day Halfway Lodge horseback adventure. You’ll pass by the shimmering waters of the Bow River, travel along a historic pack trail, and then ride up Allenby Pass, where jagged rock formations line the route.
You climb to an elevation of 8,100 feet on this trip; however, the terrain is gentle for the entire way. And for all the rugged scenery you’ll get to gaze at on this trek, the adventure itself is far from ‘roughing it.’
Unwind in rustic luxury at the spacious Sundance Lodge and later at the cozy Halfway Lodge are quintessential mountain cabins. Comfortable beds, a crackling fire, and some of the most delicious backcountry cuisine you’ll ever try can be found at these lodges.
Dates & Hosts
Departing June 27 or July 4, 2024
Travel with Brian Hodgson
A native Albertan, Brian Hodgson was an Intelligence Officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for six years serving in the Service’s Counter Espionage, Counter Terrorism and Security Screening Branches. He left CSIS in 1992 to become the Sergeant-at-Arms and Director of Visitor, Ceremonial and Security Services at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hodgson commanded his regiment from 1996 to 2000. In 2004 he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan. In 2008 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and in 2009 as an elected Governor (board member). In 2020, he was awarded the Society’s Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal. He now sits on the RCGS Nominating Committee. Brian also has received the Canada 125 Medal, Queen Elizabeth’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, and the Alberta Centennial Medal.
His interests are varied and include polo, cycling, travel, skiing, fly-fishing, bagpipes, reading and anything to do with horses and the family ranch. He holds a skeleton sled competitors’ licence and has raced at the Calgary Olympic Park, at the Cresta Run, St. Moritz in Switzerland, and has represented his regiment in international show jumping competitions in the U.K. on many occasions. Brian is also a freelance writer having written numerous articles and book reviews published in the National Post, the Edmonton Journal, and the Calgary Herald.
Interested in booking this trip with Brian Hodgson as host? Scroll to the June 2024 dates on the booking calendar to find your date
Departing August 22 or August 29,2024
Travel with Myrna Pearman
Myrna Pearman was raised on a farm northeast of Rimbey, Alberta. She became interested in photography while in high school and her love of nature was inspired by a local self-taught naturalist, Fred Schutz.
Myrna graduated with a BSc Honours in Geography from the University of Alberta in 1979, and became the Assistant Waskasoo Park Naturalist, Red Deer AB, in 1986. In 1987, she started a dream career as Biologist and Site Services Manager at Ellis Bird Farm (EBF). Under her leadership, EBF became an internationally recognized conservation, education and research centre. She retired in 2020. She is now the Resident Naturalist for Chin Ridge Seeds, Taber, AB and Coordinator of the Nature Central program for the Red Deer River Naturalists (RDRN).
Myrna has received recognition for her conservation and education work from the Red Deer River Naturalists, Nature Alberta, the North American Bluebird Society, the Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2019. As a Geography graduate, she is keenly interested in the work of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) and has been a long-time subscriber to Canadian Geographic. Her extensive writing and public speaking experience, management expertise, and her long-term efforts to showcase and promote the Indigenous, cultural, and natural history of Central Alberta emulates the RCGS’s core goal of “making Canada better known to Canadians.” She published her first article on backyard bird feeding for Canadian Geographic online in February 2021. She recently submitted a Fellow’s article about her love of Mountain Bluebirds and her most recent bluebird book.
Myrna writes a monthly photo essay in the Red Deer Advocate and is a columnist for Nature Alberta and The Gardener. She has authored/co-authored several scientific publications and has written several books.
Myrna has traveled extensively (always with her cameras) and is especially interested in photographing — and sharing her love for — Alberta wildlife and wild places. She is in demand as a speaker and enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, and spending time at her cabin.
Interested in booking this trip with Myrna Pearman as host? Scroll to the August 2024 dates on the booking calendar to find your date.
Backcountry ride to Sundance Lodge
The adventure starts by meeting at 9:30am at Banff Trail Riders Stables, where you can park your vehicle for free for the duration of the trip. You’ll meet your personable expert guides, fellow riders and the horse we have specifically chosen for you. Your horse will know just where to step even on the most precarious of trails, so you can trust them to get you where you are going.
This 6-day expedition gives you a chance to really unwind and relax into the rhythms of the Rockies. Leave your phone behind and escape from the constant ping of emails – it’s the perfect opportunity to clear and reset your mind.
Don’t worry if you are a complete greenhorn, our trusty horses, knowledgeable staff and talented cooks will ensure you are comfortable every step of the way. Things happen on “Western Time” here so we may not leave right on the dot and you’ll have time to get to know your horse and ask any questions.
Once we have organised the gear and saddled up, we will begin the 10-mile journey to Sundance Lodge – following the rushing waters of the Bow River and Healy and Brewster Creeks. On the way we’ll stop for a cowboy cook-out along the banks of the river – the perfect fuel to give you energy for a day on the trail.
You’ll saunter into Sundance Lodge at around 4:30pm, where you will be greeted by the friendly lodge host and shown to your room, where you can freshen up with a warm shower and settle in. Your lodge host will cater to your every need and make you feel welcome at the lodge like you are a guest in their home.
This is no simple, basic lodge – you’ll be pampered in backcountry luxury, sleeping in a comfortable bed and dining on gourmet cuisine whipped up by your talented host in the professional kitchen. You’ll be surrounded by the beautiful backcountry of Banff, yet you’ll still enjoy the luxuries of life.
Ride the Erling Strom Trail to Halfway Lodge
The adventure continues as you journey 9 miles southward to Halfway Lodge. The rugged peaks of the Sundance Range loom over the eastern horizon as you follow the winding historic Erling Strom Trail. You’ll be following in the footsteps that the early explorers of the Canadian Rockies took nearly a century ago. We’ll stop along the way for a picnic in the fresh air of an open mountain meadow.
Tonight we’ll stay at Halfway Lodge, located at the midway point between Banff and Assiniboine Mountain where weary riders have been stopping to rest since the 1920s. As you approach you’ll notice the trees start to thin out and the mountains peeking up above the treeline all around you. It is tucked into a postcard-perfect setting, with a striking cauldron of mountains all around it.
This lodge was constructed by Erling Strom in the 1920s as a stopover spot for the guests he lead on trips from Banff to Mount Assiniboine. With propane lanterns and candles providing lighting and a woodstove providing warmth, it hasn’t changed much in the last 80 years. (The only big change occurred in 1967 when a second story was added, due to a bear making a surprise entrance through the roof!)
Ride time: Approx 5-6 hours including lunch
Ride distance: Approx 9 miles
Climb Allenby Pass on horseback to 8,100 feet
After a hearty breakfast you can leave your belongings at the lodge and set off on another adventure.
Today you’ll make the thrilling climb up Allenby Pass on horseback, an elevation of 8,100 feet. For many this is the highlight of the trip, as you’ll get a breathtaking view of the jagged rock formations, the enormous amphitheatre of mountains stretching out all around you.
It’s mind-boggling to imagine that Allenby Pass was a seafloor millions of years ago. If you look closely, you can still spot fossils of sea creatures visible among the rocks.
At the end of the day, you’ll return to your familiar room at Halfway Lodge, where you already feel comfortable and at home. As the sun sets behind the mountains, you can sit back and relax, drink wine and share stories and photos with your fellow adventurers.
Ride time: Approx 4-6 hours plus leisurely lunch
Ride distance: Approx 3-5 miles pending time of year and trail conditions
Rest time to enjoy the backcountry
Today is a rest day at Halfway Lodge. An optional hike is available today to a shimmering glacial fed lake at the end of the valley, where you can enjoy views of the valley below.
But if you’d rather relax, there’s no pressure. This lodge is a lovely place to find some quiet time, far away from the pinging of notifications and the pressure of your endless to-do list.
It’s a chance to take a breather, perhaps by sitting on the deck while getting lost in the pages of a good book. You may even take some time to groom your horse, who has no doubt become your best friend by this point.
Follow Brewster Creek to Sundance Lodge
Say goodbye to the lovely staff at Halfway Lodge, it’s time to hit the winding trail along Brewster Creek back to Sundance Lodge. Be warned: you won’t want to leave Halfway Lodge once you have experienced this gorgeous retreat in the Rockies.
Your guide will lead you through the backcountry on a scenic and exciting trail, criss-crossing the valley in the historic footsteps of the early pioneers and stopping for lunch along the way.
You’ll arrive back at Sundance Lodge again, a luxurious retreat you will have fallen deeply in love with. Pamper yourself after your ride with a warm shower and a glass of wine, then enjoy another delicious meal prepared by your professional chef lodge host.
Return to Banff Trail Riders Stables
It’s your last morning at Sundance Lodge, which by now will feel like home due to the warm hospitality of your host. Wake up in your comfortable bed one last time, gather around for a delicious breakfast and wave goodbye as you begin the journey back to Banff.
It’s your final day on the trail – a gentle 9 mile ride from Sundance back to Banff Trail Riders Stables. Your guide will lead you through the backcountry along winding river trails and through the thick pine forests, with the jagged peaks of the Rockies always standing proudly on the horizon. You’ll stop along the banks of Healy Creek for a lunch of fresh sandwiches, baked goods and fruit.
You’ll return at approximately 4:30 pm, with plenty of great tales from the backcountry to tell your family and friends.
Sundance Lodge is a rustic 10-room log cabin that was built in 1991. Set against the looming Sundance Mountain Range and surrounded by thick woods, Sundance Lodge feels remote and secluded despite being just 16 kilometres (10 miles) from town. The lodge is powered by solar and heated by burning wood and there are indoor washrooms and heated showers onsite.
Set at the base of Allenby Pass, Halfway Lodge is a rustic cabin with propane lanterns, candles, and a woodstove to heat the cozy kitchen, dining and living areas. There are two shared outhouses and an outdoor shower onsite (please note that there are no indoor washroom facilities).
Please note that there is no cell service or internet/wifi available during the trip. Prices are based on two guests per room, but the rooms have a variety of configurations. A single room supplement is available for an additional fee.
For the trips in August, the host will be Canadian Geographic’s Robin Esrock, a bestselling author, journalist, TV host and public speaker. Having travelled to over 110 countries on 7 continents, his stories and photography have appeared in major publications on five continents, including National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, South China Morning Post and Sydney Morning Herald. A former travel columnist for The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, Outpost and MSN, Robin has been profiled as a travel expert by 60 Minutes, CBC, MSNBC, ABC, CTV, Global, Travel and Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, many others.
- Rates are based on double occupancy and a single room supplement is available for an additional fee.
- Riders must be at least 9 years old.
- Riders aged 17 and under must be accompanied on the ride by a legal guardian.
- Riders must weigh less than 230lbs / 104kg, fully dressed (your weight may need to be verified on our scales).
- Riders must wear fully enclosed shoes (no heels).
- Each rider must be able to speak and understand fluent English.
- Riders must be in good physical condition.
- Helmets are mandatory and to be worn by all riders under 18 years. Helmets are optional but recommended for riders aged 18 years and over.
- All adult riders must sign a waiver prior to the tour. A waiver must also be completed by the parent or legal guardian of any rider under the age of 18 (documentation may be required to confirm the signatory’s authority).
- Photo ID may be required for identity verification.
- COVID-19: Guests should not attend our tour if showing any signs or symptoms of illness.
Refunds are not issued if guests are disqualified from riding due to not meeting these requirements.