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Pemberton is a small mountain town packed with tons of year-round activities, so you might not be too surprised to see horseback riding tours added to that list. But once you arrive, you’ll discover that horseback riding isn’t just another activity – it’s part of the history and culture!
With more horses per capita than any other spot in BC, Pemberton has the bragging rights for being a horse-lovers dream destination!
Though Indigenous groups had long-established trade routes from the coast to the interior, Pemberton’s equine history didn’t come into play until non-Indigenous settlers arrived in the early 1800s looking for gold. Access to Pemberton was difficult, and horses became an important mode of transportation when the Pemberton Trail opened up as a passage to what is now Squamish, BC, and surrounding gold fields.
The need for workhorses dwindled in the 1900s, following the construction of the railway and eventual road – though that wasn’t paved until the 1960s! Despite all the changes, people still embraced the cowboy life in Pemberton.
Not only is horseback riding a part of the culture, but it’s also an awesome activity to partake in while you’re here. To help you plan your own horseback riding trip, here’s everything you need to know and the best tours to try!
1. Where is Pemberton?
Well-known for its farmland and produce (especially the famous seed potatoes!), Pemberton sits in a lush valley along the Sea to Sky Highway just 33 km (21 miles) north of Whistler and 154 km (96 miles) northwest of Vancouver.
With a population of just around 2,500 people, the village of Pemberton is a little quieter than the neighboring town of Whistler to the south. We think it’s worth an itinerary all on its own, but it also makes for an awesome add-on if you’re already planning on visiting Whistler.
Guarded by the iconic Mount Currie towering more than 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) high to the south of the village, the scenery in Pemberton is nothing short of amazing. With multiple rivers, lakes, peaks, and provincial parks surrounding it, it’s also one of the go-to spots in BC for nature lovers and adventurers.
No matter the season, Pemberton has a little bit to offer everyone: the beautiful Lillooet and Ryan Rivers for fishing and rafting, waterfalls to hike to, bike trails, and tons of ways to explore Mount Currie. The winter is just as epic, with fantastic terrain for skiing and snowmobiling and lots of opportunities for ice fishing! If that isn’t enough, you’ll also find farm-fresh foods, local brews, and cozy cafes to relax in on those quiet days.
2. How long are Pemberton horseback riding tours?
Most people opt for the 1- or 2-hour tours, but there are a few options depending on what kind of adventure you’re looking for!
Copper Cayuse Outfitters is the company we went with and they have lots of variety, starting with 1-hour tours at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, and 1:30 pm along the river. If you want to get in on some flat forest trails and take in some more scenery, jump on the 2-hour tour you can book online as we did – they run daily at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.
If 2 hours still doesn’t cut it for you and you want to include some low-level mountain terrain into your experience, you can opt-in on a half-day tour that runs for around 4.5 hours or a full-day tour that runs for 7.5 hours and takes you into the beautiful backcountry! Or you can go all out on an overnight tour so you can experience the backcountry on horseback and camp out for the night under the stars.
For another option, Adventures on Horseback keep it simple with their 2-hour tours at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, as well as private tours tailored to your group. For either option, you’ll need to contact them to arrange a booking.
3. What companies operate horseback riding tours in Pemberton?
You’ll probably come across a few stables, breeders, and trainers in the Pemberton area, but two main companies offer visitors tours.
The first is Copper Cayuse Outfitters, which is the one we ended up going on a tour with. It’s about a 5-minute or so drive north on Pemberton Meadows Road to get to their location, which offers up some amazing views of Pemberton and Mount Currie!
We opted for this 2-hour tour that took us along the calm river and into the forest, with those epic mountains towering in the background. Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and we lucked out with an awesome group to share the experience.
The other company is Adventures on Horseback, located on the north side of Pemberton, with tours that take you along the riverside into the forest. It’s run by cowboy and breeder Bob Menzel and his wife, Susan, who is a competitive rider. Needless to say, they have tons of experience between them and are known to be super friendly and patient with new riders.
4. How much does it cost to go horseback riding in Pemberton?
It depends on what tour you’re signing up for, but you’ve got a few options! Copper Cayuse Outfitters run 1-hour tours starting from $98 CAD per rider and 2-hour tours from $198 CAD per rider, both of which you can easily book online here. For younger kids, they also offer 10-minute pony rides around the ranch for $25 CAD, which is an awesome way to introduce them to riding!
The folks at Adventures on Horseback offer 2-hour tours for $120 per rider and private tours for families or groups. Those rates will depend on your group size, so it’s best to contact them for accurate pricing.
We really like that you can book horseback riding tours with Copper Cayuse online through Viator. It has the ease of seeing what dates are available, lets you book now and pay later, and you can cancel 24 hours in advance if plans or weather changes.
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.
- 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!
5. Do you need experience to go horseback riding in Pemberton?
Nope! The beauty of horseback riding here is that everyone is welcome, no matter your experience.
It might seem a little daunting initially, but we promise you it’s a beginner-friendly activity catered to each person’s needs! Guides will match you up with a horse that suits your needs and ensure that beginners are comfy and confident before heading off.
The 1- or 2-hour tours take you through gentle, flat terrain, and your trusty steed will follow the guide’s commands to keep it at a speed that matches your experience level.
6. How old do you have to be to go horseback riding in Pemberton?
The minimum age for horseback riding can vary between companies, so it’s worth checking beforehand! Copper Cayuse takes kids 7 years old and up and offers pony rides for younger kids, but Adventures on Horseback takes kids of all ages and experiences.
With that said, there can be exceptions, such as if your child has lots of experience etc. So, just reach out after booking.
Related Read: For adventure-loving kids (and adults!), check out the best ziplining tours in nearby Whistler!
7. When can you go horseback riding in Pemberton?
Tours generally open up around mid-April and run until the beginning of October.
Summer months are a pretty popular time, but spring and fall in the Whistler area also offer beautiful scenery and slightly cooler weather for riding.
8. Is it safe to go horseback riding in Pemberton?
Yes! Tour operators Copper Cayuse and Adventures on Horseback have excellent reputations for their experienced, knowledgeable guides that keep you safe on the trail.
Of course, you’ll want to play your part by ensuring you pay attention during the briefing and follow their instructions along the way!
Aside from that, make sure to take other basic precautions like wearing closed-toed shoes and keeping your helmet on at all times (don’t worry – they’re provided for you!). Sunscreen and bug spray aren’t a bad idea either, and long pants are recommended to keep you comfy.
9. What will you see on the tour?
Our horseback riding experience on this 2-hour tour allowed us to take in so much of Pemberton’s natural beauty! You’ll pass through lush forest trails into open wildflower fields with breathtaking views of Mount Currie and surrounding ranges.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – we lucked out and saw a mama black bear with her cubs (from a safe distance, of course!). It was such an amazing experience, and I won’t ever forget it. Unfortunately, we never got a photo as the horses and bears tend to try and avoid each other.
Related Read: For more incredible scenery around this area, we LOVE the hike to Joffre Lakes. Seriously it’s breathtaking!
10. What is the best horseback riding tour in Pemberton?
We hopped on this 2-hour horseback ride operated by Copper Cayuse Outfitters through Viator and would definitely recommend it as a great way to spend a few hours immersed in nature.
They keep tours to 6 people or fewer, which we liked for this adventure as it’s a little bit more peaceful and relaxed. There were a few folks in our group with varied experience, but our guide was great at tending to everyone’s skill level, keeping us comfy, and giving us information about the area along the way.
Viator has the bonus of having a great cancelation policy for these tours, which we love because flexibility is everything when you’re traveling! As long as you cancel 24 hours before your tour, you’ll get a full refund, no questions asked. We lucked out with sunshine and blue skies on our tour, but they’ll also rebook or refund you if the weather isn’t cooperating on the day of your tour. You can’t go wrong with that!
11. Is horseback riding in Pemberton worth it?
Absolutely! We thought it was a really fun experience and loved that it’s family-friendly and accessible to riders of all experience levels. Trust us; you’ll have no problem fitting in whether you’ve never been on a horse before or you’re an experienced rider!
I also think this just might be the most scenic place in Canada to go horseback riding, and I would recommend it based on that alone! Trotting alongside calm rivers leading to cool, lush forest trails, wide-open fields, and snow-capped Mount Currie looming in the distance? I can’t name a better combo!
Where to Stay in Pemberton
Now that you know how much Pemberton has to offer, you might already be planning a trip here, so you’ll need a place to stay. While there are a ton of great campgrounds, if indoor plumbing and a comfy bed are more your style, not to worry!
With Pemberton being a small town, there isn’t a huge variety of hotels. If needed, you can always check out our guide to the best areas and hotels in Whistler and just plan to drive to Pemberton. If you want to stay closer to town though, here are our top picks!
Pemberton Valley Lodge – $$$
An all-suite hotel in the Pemberton Valley, the rooms at the Pemberton Valley Lodge have stunning views of the mountains. There are rooms with fireplaces and kitchens too for an extra homey feel. The lodge has mountain bikes available in the summer and snowshoes in the winter. Plus there’s a hot tub which feels amazing after a long day of hiking!
Some of our fav spots like Nairn Falls Provincial Park and One Mile Lake are only a few minutes away from the property too. Check availability and book your suite at the Pemberton Valley Lodge.
The Log House Inn – $$
For a rustic, comfortable place to stay right in Pemberton, The Log House Inn is the way to go. It’s like you’re staying in a giant log cabin! The rooms are cozy and comfortable and if you can opt for the booking that includes breakfast – it’s a delicious gourmet spread! Rooms can be booked online here.
The Hitching Post Motel – $
The Hitching Post Motel is a good budget-friendly option to stay while you explore the area. The rooms are simple but include nice extras like kitchens with a fridge and stove along with satellite TV. It’s only a 5 minute drive from Pemberton City Center. Book a stay with Booking.com.
Things to do While You’re in the Area
While you’re in the area, be sure not to miss out on some of the best activities! Below, I have just listed a glimpse of my favorite things to do in Whistler to add to your Whistler/Pemberton itinerary!
- Go ziplining – There are many epic ziplining tours in Whistler with the most incredible mountain and forest views! The Sasquatch is just as mighty as it sounds. Not only is it the longest zipline in North America but it also descends 2,133 (7,000 feet). It is only one line though so if you’d rather ride several lines or go for something less intense there is also the Eagle which departs from the same location! The tour features five different ziplines, including a 732 m (2,400 ft ) zipline with a 30-story descent – still a thrilling time!
- Brandywine Falls – The nature all around Whistler is stunning and the 70 meters (230 feet) Brandywine Falls surrounded by rough cliffs is not one to miss! This is a really short hike – only about 15 minutes one-way starting from the parking lot. It’s accessible from April to October and you’ll cross a wooden footbridge, some train tracks and head through the forest until you make it to the first viewing platform.
- Ride an ATV/buggy – One of our very favorite tours in Whistler was a buggy tour! In our small 4-wheel utility vehicle, we zoomed the mountain tops and admired all of the panoramic views (when we weren’t splashing in the puddles, that is!) If you prefer to ride an ATV, that is possible too with the same company. The buggy tour is $325 CAD whereas the ATV tour costs $169 CAD.
- Scenic flight – Although fun, scenic flights around Whistler are not cheap but are 100% bucket worthy! There are a few different options here but the most unique options are the scenic helicopter flight with a mountain landing and a seaplane flight that departs and lands from the water! The helicopter tour includes a 20-minute flight and a 15-minute glacier landing on Rainbow Mountain for the cost of $325 CAD. On the seaplane flight, you’ll be in the sky for 30 minutes and it costs $199 CAD. Whichever you choose both options have mindblowing views of mountains, glaciers, and lakes!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
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!
Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, riding a horse through the breathtaking landscape around Pemberton is an amazing experience! We so enjoyed our ride and you can book the exact tour we took here.
If you’re planning on traveling around BC, make sure to check out our other blogs about British Columbia. We have plenty of guides full of activity ideas so you can have an amazing trip! Here are a few popular ones to get you started: