Riding out from this guest ranch, one enters the picturesque Sandhills Wildland Provincial Park. The park has a diverse landscape including steep valley walls and river flats, rolling hills and low wetlands, and a mixture of pine, white spruce and aspen forests.
Throughout the park are kilometres of equestrian trails. Sandy trails mean your horse does not need shoes and after a rain the trails dry quickly and are never slippery. And – no OHVs will ever destroy the peaceful solitude and beauty of this wilderness.
The Klondike Trail Staging Area is located in the southwest end of the park. You can ride on part of the historic Klondike Trail, originally established as a portage between the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers for the Hudson Bay Company’s trade route.
Later this trail was used again as part of an overland route to the Klondike during the gold rush of 1897-99. Today, you can see the marked grave site of a young Klondike-era girl and an old trapper’s cabin.
The marked trails have names like Wolf, Mule Deer, Moose, Beaver, Lynx and Migration. I’m surprised there is not one marked ‘Bear’ since we have had a few encounters with black bears. Yes, this is definitely a wild land park, but there are excellent maps to pack with you, as well as maps on posts at all the major trail junctions. Wagons and snowmobiles are permitted on designated routes only.
Every May long weekend the Cooking Lake Saddle Club (www.cookinglakesaddleclub.org) and their friends from Alberta Trail Riding Association (www.atra.ca) book Horse Creek Ranch for a camping, trail riding weekend.
Most of our members camp with their RVs, some using the electrical hook-ups. A few opt for booking one of the six rustic cabins, two luxury and four standard. Everyone enjoys the hot showers and flush toilets! This weekend is so popular that we have a waiting list each year.
Individuals keep their horses in separate pens (40 in all) and a large group turns their herd out in a pasture. Water taps are conveniently located along the pens. All you have to do is fill your bucket, supply food for your mount, and later use the wheelbarrows to clean the manure and excess feed from the pens you use. If desired, you can work your horse in the round pen or outdoor arena.
This year my husband and I, complete with camper (no power requested) and two horses, paid $30/day plus GST.
Where else can you find such a great deal? And just a two-hour drive from Edmonton!
Horse Creek Ranch is the result of years of hard work by Siebe Brouwer. Year by year, Siebe has added improvements until HCR is the super guest ranch we enjoy today.
Our accommodating host opens up his workshop for our club to enjoy evening entertainment, complete with a toasty iron stove if the evening happens to be chilly.
Endurance Riders, 4H Clubs and other groups have enjoyed HCR’s hospitality, too.
It’s also a great place to visit on your own for a quieter get-away. HCR is open from May to October. We’ve ridden there in the spring and summer, but imagine riding in the splendour of autumn colours!
You may also call 1-888-699-6099 (toll free in U.S. and Canada) or 780-584-2535.