Day 1: Met on arrival at Calgary airport and transfer across Alberta’s rolling countryside to Rafter Six Guest Ranch Resort, where we will spend eight nights while enjoying our western adventure. For your peace of mind, the rooms have no televisions or phones. Bears, deer, coyotes, elk and other wildlife are frequently seen in and around this area. Pass the time before dinner settling in, taking a trail ride in the area, relaxing on the deck, or taking a hike in this wilderness wonderland. Then it’s time to enjoy the very best of western hospitality, including our welcome dinner, before spending a restful night in this western hideaway.
Day 2: After a wholesome western breakfast, we head out across rich, rolling farmlands that suddenly break away to reveal an astonishing, twisting, turning canyon, walled with multi-colored layers of sandstone, mud stone and coal alternating with shale sequences. The rock layers date back to the late Cretaceous Period, just before the demise of the dinosaurs. We are now in the Drumheller Badlands, one of the few areas in the world where sedimentary layers from earlier time periods have been scraped off by natural processes, exposing a rich cache of fossils and even complete dinosaur skeletons. The exposed rock of Alberta’s Badlands creates a mysterious moon-like landscape that reveals more than 70 million years of geological history.
Day 3: After breakfast, we meet at the stables to get acquainted with our wranglers and horses. We then transfer by road to the departure point of our horseback riding adventure. We ride through pristine wilderness in the Rocky Mountain backcountry for about an hour and a half before stopping for lunch on the trail. After a picnic lunch, we then saddle up again for another hour and a half ride to Meadow Creek. We ride along the pack trail, through meadows, along cliffs and up and down slopes. Our horses are very familiar with the trails and this is a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery as we mosey along. For those who prefer not to ride the horses, a 4 x 4 vehicle is available. Upon arrival, we can relax or take a short hike before gathering for dinner. After dinner, we spend some time around a cozy campfire underneath the big mountain sky. Our accommodation this evening is in simple log cabins, which are co-ed and sleep 4 people. The toilet facilities are a shared outhouse.
Day 4: The fresh mountain air will surely have left us with an appetite for our pack camp breakfast, after which we enjoy the trail ride homeward, with a stop along the way for another of those flavorful picnic style trail lunches. We wrap up the day with memories of our journey shared over a hearty dinner.
Day 5: Today’s post breakfast activities feature a choice. You can choose between a “Gentle Float” morning canoe trip, or an optional heli-hiking experience. The float canoes travel the Bow River, down stream of Canmore, winding their way through the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies. This scenic float trip employs historic style canoes to safely and comfortably transport groups — depending on the group size; we will travel in one or two of these large canoes. The canoe trip provides wonderful photographic opportunities and wildlife viewing.
You travel approximately 9 km along the river and the round trip time is about 2 1/2 hours. The hike, led by qualified guides who are chosen for their local knowledge and particularly for their ability to communicate effectively with their guests, explores scenic alpine ridges and meadows. The difficulty of the hike depends entirely on the ability of the group and will last 3 to 4 hours. The afternoon is free to pass your time as you wish; be that taking a trail ride in this mountain paradise, experiencing the adventure of going white water rafting, relaxing in the sun on the deck of Rafter Six, or exploring a new hiking trail in this wilderness wonderland.
Day 6: Today we travel through the majestic Canadian Rockies on a route that is considered one of the most scenic mountain routes on Earth. The trip begins at Rafter Six, travels past Banff and Lake Louise and then north along the snow-capped Ice fields Parkway to Jasper National Park. Countless lakes and over 100 glaciers line the route. And, at 2,068 m (6,785 ft.) above sea level, Bow Summit is the highest point on the Parkway and offers one of the best mountain panoramas in the world at Peyto Lake viewpoint. On the way to Jasper we join a scenic 20-minute helicopter flight which explores the 6 glaciers of Mount Resolute, Mount Cline and the Whitegoat Peaks. We will also see a 900-foot waterfall, spectacular aqua-green high alpine lakes and cross a 9,000-foot mountain pass. Then we are set down in a mountain meadow where our guide will take us on a 3 to 3 1/2 hour tour during which they will interpret all that is seen including flora, fauna, and geology.
After our heli-hike we continue our journey along the Ice fields Parkway. Look for bighorn sheep and goats as we view the picturesque glaciers and valleys along the remainder of the Parkway to Jasper. This is a mountain retreat with all the modern amenities of a city surrounded by breathtaking scenery and an abundance of wildlife. Tonight’s accommodation, Jasper House Bungalows, is located on the banks of the Athabasca River and features cozy cabins in a Pinewood forest setting. The cabins provide quiet, comfortable, fully modern secluded accommodation with the river just outside your door.
Day 7: After breakfast we start off our day of adventure with a visit to Maligne Canyon. The Maligne Valley is riddled by the most extensive “karsts” system in the world. Our experienced guides will introduce you to Alberta’s flora and fauna caves above and below ground level. In the case of the Maligne Valley, no one knows just where water from Maligne Lake goes.This is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies, sheer limestone walls plunge to depths of over 50 m (165 ft.). An interpretive trail winds its way from the picnic area across six bridges where you can catch the spray from the thundering Maligne River, or peer into the mossy depths. Nearby, between the Fifth and Sixth bridges, are the Rock Gardens and the Boulder Gardens, Jasper’s foremost climbing areas. Most people stop at the “Third Bridge” where the most easily seen waterfalls is located. However, the trail offers several more wonderful views between here and the “Forth Bridge”. From the “Forth Bridge” to the “Fifth Bridge” the canyon settles down in terms of depth but not beauty.
To enjoy a real Rocky Mountain experience, our guide will turn back at the “Forth Bridge” and drive down the Maligne Road to the “Fifth Bridge” parking lot. This will allow us to hike the full length of the Maligne Canyon on the downhill grade. And this is only the first half of our day in Jasper! We then head off to the renowned Jasper Tramway. The experience of riding Canada’s longest and highest aerial tramway tour into Jasper National Park’s alpine tundra is captivating. Discover views unsurpassed in the Canadian Rockies. Gaze over six mountain ranges, glacial-fed lakes, meandering rivers and the scenic Jasper Townsite.
Day 8: Our first stop for today will be where the breathtaking Athabasca Falls thunder through a narrow gorge, shaping the rocks with the relentless force of rushing water. Broad shouldered Mount Kerkeslin provides a scenic background for this popular view of the falls. Among the most breathtaking and powerful falls in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Athabasca River thunders through a narrow gorge where the walls have been smoothed and potholed by the sheer force of the rushing waters that carry sand and rocks. A bridge and a platform give us views of the thundering falls. From here we continue down the Parkway to the Columbia Icefields, an area of glacial ice covering some 390 sq. km with a maximum depth of 365 m (1210 ft).
Then we journey along the Icefields Parkway to the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge where we stop for coffee and to stretch our legs. We will be left with no doubt as to why this is known as the “Jewel of the Rockies”. Lake Louise, with its blue-green water set against the stark backdrop of Victoria Glacier, is probably the most beloved and most photographed scene in the Canadian Rockies. If you like, you can also stroll along the gentle pathway that takes you half way around the lake to the base of the glacier field. Then it’s back to Rafter Six for our overnight.
Day 9: After a hearty breakfast, the morning is at leisure. This afternoon you will spend some time exploring the Johnston Canyon, named after a prospector who struck gold while panning in the creek. The Lower Falls are arguably the most famous in Banff National Park. The rushing water of the creek and the interesting rock formations along the recently upgraded hiking trail offer an exhilarating experience for the avid hiker or relaxing ambiance for a leisurely stroll. Then venture on to the breath-taking Upper Falls. The beauty, serenity and splendor of this wilderness retreat continues to inspire many photographers, nature lovers, birdwatchers and sightseers. All this is yours on today’s escorted, guided hike. Overnight at Rafter Six.
Day 10: Get up early for a satisfying breakfast, then get ready to head off to a Native American PowWow & Rodeo. For those who are not familiar with the Native American culture, powwows are celebrations, social gatherings and friendly competitions of traditional dancing, drumming, singing, ceremonies and feasting, and the bringing of many nations of people together. Everyone is welcome regardless of race, creed, religion, or color. At the rodeo, we will experience the adrenaline rush of the competitors’ eternal battle to overcome the raw power of the untamed animals of the west. Overnight at Rafter Six.
Day 11: Today’s travels begin with a trip through Kananaskis Country. This is an unspoiled paradise of towering mountains, pristine lakes, evergreen valleys, and glacial streams. The name Kananaskis is rich with history. Captain John Palliser, an early explorer of the valley, identified the area by taking the name of a local Indian. Palliser wrote that he had heard of an Indian named Kananaskis, "giving an account of a most wonderful recovery from the blow of an axe to the head - which stunned, but failed to kill him."
This picturesque route delivers us to the Cowboy Trail. Along the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains is a narrow band of mixed forests and grasslands known for its moderate climate, a wide variety of wildlife species and broad ecological diversity. Alberta ranching families first settled the territory in the 1880s and transformed the rolling grasslands into cattle country. Today, communities along this corridor are linked together by The Cowboy Trail, a ribbon of pavement extending from Cardston to Mayerthorpe. The Old West is still evident in the art, history, food, hospitality and culture of the foothills residents. Along the way, you may see cowboys out herding cattle, sometimes right along the highway, and families out for a horseback ride.
After lunch, it's off to Heritage Park. You will receive a guided tour of this real frontier town. And the people are as real as their town. From the baker to the blacksmith, they're lovers of the true West. Travel back in time and discover the treasures of Western Canada's past. All the sights and sounds of pre-1914 life are recreated at Canada's largest living historical village. You can cruise the lake aboard the S.S. Moyie steam wheeler, or tour the town by steam train, horse-drawn wagon, carriage or old-fashioned bus. Or just take a stroll down Main Street. Then it's back to the guest ranch. Where, after a leisurely dinner, you can settle into your comfortable accommodations, and enjoy a good night's rest in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures.
Day 12: After another wonderful breakfast, we’re off to the town of Banff. Once there, we will take an eight-minute ride in a glass enclosed gondola to the 2288 m (7500 ft) summit of Sulphur Mountain, where three levels of outdoor observation decks offer a panoramic 360-degree view of Banff and the surrounding area. We will see the majestic Banff Springs Hotel. A unique blend of opulence and seclusion, it has been a symbol of Rocky Mountain magnificence for more than a century. Then we will stop at the hot springs. Overnight in Calgary.
Day 13: Transfer to Calgary airport for your departure flight today.
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