BC’s Guest Ranches: How to Choose the Right One for You

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Across BC, from the ranchlands of the Cariboo Chilcotin to the valleys in the northern Rocky Mountains, you’ll find remote lodges and luxury escapes, guided horseback expeditions and ranches fit for a winter trip. Not sure if guest-ranch life is right for you? Here are some tips to set you on the right trail.

Go Remote

Bear Claw Lodge Kispiox River

Bear Claw Lodge on the banks of the Kispiox River.

Bear Claw Lodge on the banks of the Kispiox River. Photo: Bear Claw Lodge

In the language of the Gitxsan First Nation, Kispiox means “hiding place,” and the remote Bear Claw Lodge in northwest BC is the perfect place to do just that. On the banks of the Kispiox River, where steelhead are abundant and grizzly bears fish for salmon, the 15,000-square-foot post-and-beam lodge is a quiet haven. More than 30 kilometres (18 miles) of trails wind past meadows, canyons, and hills for horse riders of all abilities. Non-riders are spoiled for choice, too. A summer camp for adults, a chance to snorkel with salmon, fall fly-fishing weeks, and winter heli-skiing trips are a few experiences you’ll find here.

Open: Summer: June – August
Steelhead Season: September – November
Heli-Ski Season: January – April

Tsylos Park Lodge & Adventures

This rustic lodge accommodates just 16 people, so peace and quiet comes easy. On Chilko Lake, surrounded by the Coast Mountains, Tsylos Park Lodge & Adventures is owned and operated by the McLean family, who have been in the area for more than 50 years. You’ll feel right at home while the experienced staff guide you into the wilderness on a one-week riding excursion along the Chilko River, up the peak of Mount Tullin, and past ancient First Nations sites.

Open: June – October 15

Bring the Kids

Sundance Guest Ranch

View from the saddle at Sundance Ranch.

View from the saddle at Sundance Guest Ranch. Photo: @brettbeadle via Instagram @brettbeadle via Instagram

The whole family is welcome at this home on the range. Children eight and older can ride the trails on horseback while little ones join supervised children’s day programs—games, crafts, and activities for kiddies three to seven. The rest of the family can ride the trails on one of the 100 trained horses, who will be matched to your skill level. Travelling without kids? Sundance offers themed experiences for the older crowd including gourmet weekends and fall cowgirl getaways.

Open: April – October 23

Backcountry Expeditions

Muskwa-Kechika Expeditions

Riding horses in Northern BC's Rocky Mountains.

Unsaddling horses in the Northern Rockies. Photo: @wildnorthphotos via Instagram

Wayne Sawchuk has been leading horseback expeditions into the northern Rocky Mountain backcountry for decades. The Muskwa-Keckika, encompassing 6.4 million hectares (15 million acres) of wilderness, is named for the two great rivers that flow through it. Wayne leads trips from 15-day expeditions to the more grounded Mayfield Lake Base Camp Experience. Either way, making your way through the bush on horseback to Heaven’s Pass or the Zoo Valley will be pure adventure.

Open: June – August (six expeditions per year)

Luxury on the Ranch

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort 

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort near 70 Mile House in BC's Cariboo country.

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort in BC’s Cariboo country. Photo: @derekbendig via Instagram

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort—one of 50 National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World—is an all-inclusive, eco-friendly retreat in the Cariboo. In a grassy, ruggedly mountainous setting, riders can master horsemanship with the help of skilled guides, or opt to fly-fish, hike, and mountain bike. After a day exploring unforgettable terrain, you can soothe sore muscles at Siwash’s spa, dine on a five-star meal boasting local ingredients, and overnight in a lavish safari-style canvas cabin—the perfect replenishment for the next day’s adventure.

Open: June – September 30

Echo Valley Ranch & Spa

BC’s Cariboo country was made for in-the-saddle adventure. At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, natural wonders include open skies, grasslands, and endless lakes. Guided horseback trips, hiking, and fly-fishing excursions share the spotlight with the ranch’s Royal Baan Thai spa, where western treatments meld with authentic Asian therapies. In the evening, home cooking elevates old west favourites before guests tuck in for the night at the main house or in one of the ranch’s cabins.

Open: April – October

Skip the Saddle

Three Bars Ranch

Three Bars Guest Ranch near Cranbrook.

A group takes a whitewater rafting trip while staying at Three Bars Guest Ranch. Photo: Three Bars Guest Ranch

Further east, in the Rocky Mountains, Three Bars Ranch is a 14,163-hectare (35,000-acre) expanse made for life in the saddle. Here, multi-sport adventures will keep you busy, with a variety of personalized activities for every age group and interest. Dedicated riders can stay focused with twice-daily horseback rides customized for all levels of riders, while guided hikes, mountain biking, rafting trips, fly-fishing, ATV tours, gold panning, and archery prove equally rewarding.

Open: June – September

Free Rein Guest Ranch

The name—Free Rein—says it all. Get involved with daily ranch operations or relax on the balcony of a lakeside log cabin. This 115-hectare (285-acre) ranch, just off BC’s “Fishing Highway,” hosts 12 guests at time for an intimate experience. Learn natural horsemanship, horse handling and riding skills, search for wildlife along the banks of the lake by canoe or kayak, or take a day trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Open: May – October

Winter on the Ranch

The Flying U Ranch 

Winter on the ranch is calm and quiet at Flying U in 70 Mile House.

Winter on the ranch is calm and quiet at Flying U. Photo: The Flying U Ranch

Imagine a log cabin in the woods warmed by a crackling fire, fresh snow falling beyond the frosty window. If this sounds relaxing to you, then a winter ranch experience at Flying U is right up your alley. North of Kamloops, on the banks of Green Lake, guests can cross-country ski, snowshoe, play hockey, or hop on a horse for a winter trail ride.

Open: April – January 1

Big Bar Guest Ranch

A dusting of snow makes for a crunchy trail ride. At Big Bar, the whole family can saddle up and shake off winter hibernation. If you’d rather keep your feet planted, you can snowshoe, ice-fish, and skate. Between the Marble Mountains and the Fraser River, in BC’s Cariboo region, Big Bar is the perfect place for a winter family holiday.

Open: April 1 – October 15, December 15 – February 15

Saddle up, partner.