Experience the Mountains on Horseback at Thanksgiving Ranch

Located approximately 20 minutes north of Waterton Lakes National Park, Thanksgiving Ranch is a working cattle ranch that officially opened to the public in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Thanksgiving Ranch.

If you’re looking to experience the mountains in a whole new way this summer, then consider taking in the view from the back of a horse. Thanksgiving Ranch, located approximately 20 minutes north of Waterton Lakes National Park, is a working cattle ranch that officially opened to the public in 2019. Brad and Christi Bustard are the second-generation ranch owners. Christi’s parents bought the land in 1979.

In 2017, the Bustards decided to renovate one of the ranch’s buildings, called The Lodge, to accommodate guests. While guests can explore the grounds through activities like hiking and mountain biking, the ultimate Thanksgiving Ranch activity is horseback riding. “There’s definitely a romanticism to being on a horse, on a ranch, with cattle and mountains,” says Brad.

If you’re new to riding or a little nervous, you needn’t be. Thanksgiving Ranch caters to riders of all levels, from beginners to experienced cowboys. Rides take place within the ranch’s 3,600 acres and range from 90-minute introduction (or reintroduction) rides for $145, to three-hour, explorative rides for $290.

With so much ranch land to explore, every trail ride offers a unique experience. “The Rocky Mountains dominate the skyline to the west. If you’re up on higher ground, you can see all the way into the Crowsnest Pass and south into Montana; on clear days, to the east, you can see the windmills by Fort Macleod,” says Brad.

Public rides are offered on a limited basis, with ranch guests given priority. So, consider booking a stay at The Lodge to get the full experience. As well as rides, guests can partake in a cattle move, joining the Bustards in moving their 1,600 cattle to a new grazing space. Brad also cooks for his guests. (He’s famous for his homemade waffles.)

Sure, you might feel a bit sore after a long ride, but the slight discomfort is worth the incredible experience of trying something new in a place with an incredible view.



Super Fresh Idea: Yeehaw! Mix Horses and Camping

To really embrace the Wild West lifestyle, try riding by day and camping under the stars by night. McKenzie’s Trails West in Cline River, Alta., about three-and-a-half hours northeast of Calgary, has a 50-year history of guiding overnight horse riding trips. Do a single-night excursion or level up to an eight-day adventure through areas like the Coral Creek Valley.


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This article appears in the May 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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