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4 BEST Horseback Riding Tours in Banff + Pros and Cons of Each Tour

4 BEST Horseback Riding Tours in Banff + Pros and Cons of Each Tour

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Banff is one of the most popular summer vacation spots in Alberta and there’s no doubt why! It is full of incredible scenery, whether you’re taking a hike or wandering through the cute downtown area. With so many outdoor activities available, you’ll never be bored!

One of the most unique ways to explore Banff is by going horseback riding! Obviously, few people have their own horses to do this with (including us), so booking a tour is a great way to horseback ride in Banff. We especially like these tours as a fantastic way to see the scenery, without having to do the work of a big hike. 

Horseback riding is a great family-friendly activity, and it’s super fun! We have been horseback riding throughout Alberta, and I can honestly say it’s just a little bit more magical exploring the backcountry areas on a horse! These beautiful creatures offer a truly unique way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. 

There are a few different horseback riding tours available from 1-hour introductory rides to an overnight multi-day trip. To make picking the right experience easier, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 BEST horseback riding tours in Banff for you to choose from.

So saddle up and let’s get to it!  

Our TOP Horseback Riding Tour in Banff

Bailey horseback riding in Pemberton BC
The perfect weather for horseback riding!

This one-hour Bow Valley ride is my top choice for horseback riding in Banff! Not only do you get to see some of the most beautiful sights of the Banff wilderness, but you also get the thrill of riding a horse through the terrain. The trial will follow the Bow River, pass natural sulfur hot springs, and a marsh filled with wildlife. One hour is a great amount of time if you’re not a regular horseback rider, so you can enjoy the experience without getting too tired! You can book this tour in advance for $99 CAD.

What are the Best Horseback Riding Tours in Banff?

Horses at a stable before our tour in Banff National Park
What a beautiful place to go horseback riding!

When you’re choosing your horseback riding tour through Banff, there are a few things to consider. We have found tours suitable for all ages, those who have never been on a horse before, and those looking for a pretty epic adventure.

Regardless of which tour you end up on, it’s sure to be a memorable experience. Here is an overview of the best horseback riding tours in Banff!

1-hour Spray River ride

Horseback riding in Banff with Banff Trail Riders
Photo credit: Banff Trail Riders
Bailey and Daniel ride horses along a gravel road in Banff

The Spray River Ride might be the best tour for beginners. Horseback riding can seem a little daunting if you’ve never done it before! What we love about this tour is that it’s only an hour long, so you have enough time to get comfortable without having to commit your full day to the experience. It’s a great introductory ride!

You’ll meet at the Banff Springs Corral, right behind the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. These stables are right outside of the city center, so it’s super convenient if you’re staying in one of Banff’s many downtown hotels. The trail guides will spend some time getting you acquainted with your horse, giving instructions, and fitting you with a helmet before you take off.

You’ll then have an hour to explore the beautiful area around the Spray River. You’ll get to experience more of Banff National Park than if you just took an hour-long hike, and you get to be on a horse– how fun! This tour allows up to 12 people, so you’ll have a nice small group and be able to learn about the horses and the vast Banff wilderness.

I appreciate that this tour travels at a relaxed pace, so it’s suitable for families and kids. Children 8 and up are welcome on the tour and even get their own horse. Honestly, I’ve been shown up by young kids on horses, they can hold their own!

This tour is offered from mid-May to early October. Included in your tour are the guide, the horse, riding instructions, and a helmet. This is a great afternoon activity to add to your summer Banff itinerary, so be sure to book it online for $107 CAD before spots fill up!

2-day Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge trip by horseback

two day horseback riding tour in Banff with Banff Trail Riders
Get deep into the mountains! Photo credit: Banff Trail Riders

The Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge tour is one of my favorites because it’s such a unique experience. You’ll spend two full days with your horse and get an overnight out in the Banff wilderness! If you’re looking for an adventure, this might be one of the best tours in Banff for you.

Your tour meets at 9:30 am at Banff Trail Riders Stables (just look for the sign on the barn), located 5 minutes from downtown. Before you depart, the guides take the time to get to know your riding abilities and match you with a horse. We appreciate their attention to detail and working to make this a great experience for us, and the horses! You can tell that they keep safety as the main priority.

The first day consists of a 16-km (10-mile) trail ride through the gorgeous Banff National Park wilderness. You’ll travel by glacier-fed creeks, through forests, and hopefully see lots of the wildlife around Banff! The guides do a fantastic job of making you feel confident as you cross rivers and navigate the rocky trails. Midway through the day, you’ll stop for a cowboy-style hot lunch on the banks of the river. 

Eventually, you’ll make your way to the Sundance Lodge. You won’t actually be staying outside in the Banff wilderness, this cozy cabin will feel much more luxurious than roughing it out in the woods! You’ll have private rooms and the team will cook a hearty dinner for you. You can simply relax around the fire, enjoy some wine, and reminisce on all the fun of day one.

The next day, you’ll enjoy a slow wake-up and hit the trail in the late morning. It will be another day of scenic views along glacial-fed streams, alpine trees, and mountain views. Oh, and the thrill of the horseback ride, of course! You will arrive back at the stables around 4:30 pm. 

This tour accommodates up to 12 travelers and children 9 years and older can join. You’ll be able to park your vehicle for free at the stables during the trip. Be sure to check the weather beforehand so you’re well prepared! 

This tour operates only on Saturdays from mid-May to early October. This $914 CAD tour includes your guide, one night of accommodation, four meals, the horse, and helmets! Alcoholic drinks are available for an extra cost. These limited spots fill up fast, so if you want to get in on this incredible experience, be sure to book your trip soon!

4-hour Sulphur Mountain horseback ride

A lady and her horse- what a pair!

If two days sounds like a bit too much horseback riding for you, and one hour isn’t quite enough, this 4-hour Sulphur Mountain ride will be just right. As you can guess from the name, this ride will lead you on the scenic Sulphur Mountain trail. Prepare to see a lot of scenic viewpoints here, it is certainly a picturesque area!

This tour meets up at Banff Trail Riders Stables, the premier horseback tour provider in Banff, located just a few minutes from downtown. It’s best if you have some prior horseback riding experience for this tour, as it’s a little technical at parts. Plus, 4 hours on a horse will probably give you a sore bum if you’re not used to riding that long! 

Once you’re paired with a horse and given safety instructions, it’s time to hit the trail. One thing I love about horseback riding is that you can move much quicker than hiking, so you end up seeing a lot more. Throughout your 4-hour ride, you’ll pass by the gorgeous Rimrock Resort Hotel, ride along the Spray River, and by Mount Rundle. 

The most thrilling part, though, is crossing the river to catch a glimpse of Bow Falls. I am always amazed at how strong the horses are, even if it was a bit scary as we were crossing! But the payout was worth it as the falls were beautiful, and now I feel much more confident as a horseback rider. 

This tour is limited to 6 riders, so you never feel too rushed or like the group is too large. It includes the guide, a helmet, a snack, and your horse, of course! Kids 8 years and up can join this tour as long as they have prior horseback riding experience. You can reserve this experience from mid-June through the beginning of October, otherwise, it’s a bit too cold to be out horseback riding. This tour is $300 CAD per person.

You can book this half-day horseback riding tour in advance, here!

If you’re looking to come back and explore Sulphur Mountain even more, you can ride the Banff Gondola to the top! You’ll ascend 698 meters (2,292 feet) in 8 minutes and see completely different views than you did horseback riding. At the top, you can explore the scenic boardwalk, observation decks, and even a theater!

1-hour Bow River ride

Riding a horse in the Bow River in Banff National Park
Riding a horse in the Bow River in Banff National Park

This is another great tour for beginner riders! This one-hour horseback riding tour gets you outside to see the beautiful Banff landscape. On this tour, you have the option of choosing to ride along the Spray River or the Bow River. Both are gorgeous areas, so it’s really a win either way!

You’ll meet at Banff Trail Riders Stables, as many of the other tours do (they truly are the best!). Multiple trail rides go out daily, so you can plan your tour for a time that fits your schedule accordingly. The guides will give you a helmet and riding instructions, then you can meet your horse and get on the trail. 

Choosing to ride along the Bow River makes this tour unique from the other one-hour tour options. The Bow River area leads you to the natural sulfur hot springs and loops around a deep marsh. From this trail, you’ll catch glimpses of Mt. Norquay and the Cascade Mountains. There is so much wildlife in this area, so you’ll likely spot some as well!

These tours run from mid-April to mid-October. You’re able to book this tour if you’re traveling to Banff in the spring, whereas most of the other tours only operate in the summer. This relaxed tour is great for first-time riders and children ages 8 and older are welcome to ride! This tour can be booked online with Viator for only $99 CAD

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

What Does it Cost to go Horseback Riding in Banff?

A horseback riding tour in Banff
Explore the wilderness!

Overall the horseback riding tours around Banff are reasonably priced for the experience you get. Obviously, the one-hour rides will be cheaper (around $100 CAD) than the overnight trip. I’ll break down all the specific costs below so you can find one that fits your budget!

Spray River Ride

The Spray River Ride is a one-hour tour that includes trail guides, detailed safety instructions, a helmet, and your horse! This tour is $107 CAD for both adults and children. 

Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge Trip 

The Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge Trip is a 2-day, 1-night excursion. You’ll have everything provided, so it is your chance to kick back and enjoy your ride through nature. The guides will provide four meals and the lodge is included in this price. This whole adventure is $914 CAD per rider. 

Half-day Sulphur Mountain horseback ride

This 4-hour Sulphur Mountain trail ride is a small group tour and provides the horse, your trail guide, safety equipment, and a snack for $300 CAD for adults and children.

Bow River Ride

This one-hour outdoor adventure takes you along the beautiful Bow River. Included in this tour are your guides, the horse, safety instructions, and a helmet. This tour is $99 CAD for both adults and children. 

Related Read: Another of our favorite spots for a trail ride is going horseback riding in Pemberton, BC!

Which Horseback Riding Tour in Banff is Best for Families?

Banff Trail Riders horseback riding tour
The shorter rides are best. Photo credit: Banff Trail Riders

While either one-hour ride is suitable for families, I think that the Bow River ride is the best option! From my past horseback riding experience, some kid’s attention span starts to fade after about an hour, so these short but sweet trail rides are the perfect length of time. This is especially ideal if your family has never been horseback riding before. It gives a sample of what a longer trail ride could be like, without having to drag the whole family on an all-day excursion.

I also prefer the Bow River ride because it’s a slightly cheaper option at $99 CAD per person. For a family, saving a few bucks here and there can add up! On this route, you’ll pass by natural sulfur hot springs (which will surely make the kids yell “pee-ew” because it smells so bad!).

Overall, this is a fun route, family-friendly, and a great horseback riding option in Banff! Book it for the whole family here.

Which Horseback Riding Tour in Banff is Best in Winter?

A sleigh ride in Banff
A sleigh ride in Banff

While horseback riding is a great way to explore Banff during the summer, all of those tours are closed during the winter. However, there are still some great tours geared specifically for winter! I personally prefer visiting Banff in the winter as there are fewer tourists and the area turns into a winter wonderland!

Instead of riding the horse in the snow, bundle up in and enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride! You will be amazed by the scenery during the wintertime, it’s even more breathtaking (and that’s not just because of the cold!). The driver will provide hot drinks and wool blankets to keep you warm, as well as stories to keep you entertained as you enjoy this 40-minute sleigh ride. You’ll likely spot wildlife, just be sure to look closely, they know how to blend into the snow!

After your sleigh ride, you’ll be welcomed back with a warm toasty fire- how cozy! This tour departs from the Banff Trail Riders Stables, so you won’t have to drive too far. You can book this sleigh ride for $47 CAD per adult and $37 CAD per child.

If you happen to make your way to Lake Louise during winter, you’ll be amazed by its snow-covered beauty! It is probably the most scenic winter spot in all of Banff National Park.

Here, you can ride the Lake Louise Gondola and snow tube down the hill or even strap on your skis and hit the Lake Louise Ski Resort, which offers stunning views of the Rockies. Better yet, hike through Marble Canyon, which is an iconic hike in the Lake Louise area. You can spend some time admiring the snowy wilderness that leads to a frozen waterfall, another beautiful sight!

While at Lake Louise, you can take the famous horse-drawn sleigh ride along the frozen shores. You can book these tickets in advance for a fun family outing, or even as a romantic afternoon on your honeymoon in Banff! While on your Lake Louise sleigh ride, take in the views of the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, as well as the breathtaking snow-covered Rocky Mountains and the frozen Lake Louise!

Related Read: For more hassle-free tours that include transportation, these are our picks for the best bus tours in Banff!

Which Horseback Riding Tour in Banff is Best for Thrill-Seekers?

Horseback riding in Banff Banff Trail Riders
Get the most out of your tour by going deep into the mountains! Photo credit: Trail Riders Banff

If you’re looking for an adventure in Banff, I highly recommend booking the Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge Trip. This is a once-in-a-lifetime excursion (unless you love it so much you book it again)!

There is something quite thrilling about packing all of your supplies for a couple of days on your horse and disconnecting from the world by getting into the wilderness. You’ll spend two days and one night in the glorious backcountry of Banff National Park, which guarantees some incredible views no matter where you’re exploring. 

I think this would be especially fun for those who have never done an overnight horseback riding trip. What a unique experience in an incredibly beautiful area!

Which Horseback Riding Tour is Best for Couples?

Entering the Bow River on a horseback riding tour in Banff

Booking a horseback riding tour is a fun activity to do as a couple. It’s not every day you can ride through the majestic Banff wilderness, so it makes for a unique date! 

The best tour for couples is the 1-hour Spray River Ride. The Spray River area is simply beautiful, and this ride takes you by Bow Falls and to stunning viewpoints, it’s a lovely experience to share with your partner.

This tour is conveniently located just outside of downtown Banff, so it is an easy afternoon activity to add to your itinerary. This ride is also one of the more affordable tours at $107 CAD, so it won’t break your budget while still giving you a memorable outing!

Do You Need to Book a Horseback Riding Tour in Banff in Advance?

Bailey pets a horse in Banff National Park on a horseback riding tour (2)
The horses are so friendly!

It is usually a good idea to book your horseback riding tour in advance. These tours are only offered during the summer, so availability can be limited. 

Some tours offer multiple time slots every day, such as the Spray River Ride or the Bow River Ride, so it is easier to book with little notice. However, for bigger excursions such as the Sundance Overnight Backcountry Lodge Trip or the Sulphur Mountain trail ride, it is best to book in advance. 

What Should You Wear for Horseback Riding in Banff? 

Daniel takes a selfie while riding a horse in Banff National Park, Canada
Don’t wear your best clothes!

You should plan on wearing clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Your horse will be tromping through mud and streams, and they aren’t always the cleanest! Most tours require you to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and long pants. Sandals are not permitted on any tours.

I recommend checking the weather before your tour, as it can be cold and rainy even during the summer! To have the best horseback riding experience, it’s always helpful to be well-prepared.

Related Read: If you do run into some not-great weather, make sure to check out our list of the top rainy-day activities in Banff. There’s still lots to do even if the sun doesn’t cooperate!

Is Horseback Riding in Banff Worth it?

Daniel rides a horse through the forest on a horseback riding tour in Banff
Daniel rides a horse through the forest on a horseback riding tour in Banff

Absolutely yes! Horseback riding in Banff is an awesome experience that you certainly won’t get every day.

Riding a horse through the incredible Banff wilderness gets you to places faster than hiking, which allows you to experience more of the great outdoors. It’s also just a fun experience! 

These tours make it easy whether you’ve never been on a horse before or are a veteran rider. They provide all the instruction and gear you’d need and make it an easy way for you to get outside and experience Banff in a new way. Be sure to add a horseback riding excursion to your next Banff vacation!

Other Things to do While You’re in Banff

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake tours are a must!

Going horseback riding in Banff is just one of the many awesome things you can do in Alberta! If you’re staying in Banff, there’s lots to explore. To give you an idea, here are some of the other things you can do while you’re in Banff:

  • Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
  • Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.

Where to Stay in Banff

the hot tub at Banff Inn
Relaxing in this hot tub is perfect after a day out exploring Banff. Photo Credit: Banff Inn

Along with booking a horseback riding tour in Banff, finding a place to stay is one of the most important parts of your trip. The selection can be overwhelming and expensive!

There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. The Samesun Banff Hostel is perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Important info: Because of how popular Banff is, I suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in the Spay River in Banff National Park, Canada
Thanks for reading!

Whether you’ve never gotten on a horse before or are a seasoned pro, a horseback riding tour is a great addition to your Banff itinerary. Not only do you get to enjoy the scenery, but it also feels like a mini adventure – with a new buddy!

I hope our blog about the best horseback riding tours in Banff helped you find the experience that’s the right fit for you. If you need more ideas for your next trip to the Rockies, make sure to visit our other Banff blogs or check out these recommendations below!

4 BEST Whitewater Rafting Tours in Banff + Pros and Cons of Each Tour

15 Things to KNOW Before Driving the Bow Valley Parkway

19 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola