Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours and Boundary Ranch launched the coolest new experience in Kananaskis this summer: The Woof & Hoof (dog carting and trail riding) Tour!
For an all-new adventure in Kananaskis, head to Boundary Ranch for dryland dog carting and trail riding. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours is offering this unique experience, the first of its kind in Alberta, in partnership with Boundary Ranch. It’s the only place in Alberta where you can enjoy dog carting, trail riding, and a BBQ lunch on the same day!
Partnership Disclosure: Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours & Boundary Ranch hosted us on this awesome adventure, but all words and opinions are my own.
What is Dryland Dog Carting?
Dryland dog carting is just what it sounds like: a team of sled dogs pulling a wheeled cart down dirt trails! Snowy Owl’s custom-made carts are constructed of tubular steel and outfitted with steering, suspension, disc brakes and off-road tires. At 400 pounds, the cart is almost nine times heavier than a dogsled, so a much bigger team is used to pull it. This means there are more dogs to cuddle before and after the ride! In fact, meeting and cuddling the dogs is a huge part of the experience (the best according to my kids) so don’t be late!
Caleb Huizinga, Senior Guide and Photographer at Snowy Owl, “did a lot of dryland training like this in the summer” at a racing kennel in Maine. It’s a great way to keep high-energy huskies fit, and get the younger ones used to working as a team. To ensure the dogs aren’t overworked, the summer course is shorter than winter dogsledding routes, there’s a temperature cut-off of 25 degrees Celsius, and dogs only run once per day.
Snowy Owl’s Adventure Dog Carting tours run every morning at 8:30 am provided it isn’t too warm. Expect doggy kisses, a wild ride through the forest, and stop at the bison paddock. This adventure is paired with a 1.5 hour scenic trail ride from Boundary Ranch and followed by a BBQ lunch in the Woof & Hoof Tour.
Our Experience on the Woof & Hoof Tour
The morning mist is burning off as we pull up at Boundary Ranch bright and early in the morning. There’s a nip in the air, and frost on the trees, so we’re glad we’re wearing down jackets. This is the weather that huskies love, and we hear their excitement as soon as we open our doors.
After checking us in, Snowy Owl guide Caleb introduces us to the dogs. “They have no manners; they’ll jump on you and lick you,” he warns, but we expect it (having been dogsledding before) and welcome it. We greet and pet each dog while Caleb tells us about them; their names, where they’re from, and how old they are. “A lot of the dogs were in Togo [Disney movie filmed in Kananaskis],” Caleb shares.
14 eager huskies will be pulling us today. While they have unique personalities, they share a common desire to run. Their barking crescendos as we get closer to take off, and many are jumping up and down like they’re on a trampoline. I double-check the girls have buckled their seatbelts and ask “How fast can they go?” “Over 30 kilometres per hour,” Caleb replies (though we don’t go at top speed due to twists and turns in the trail).
As we hit a bumpy section, my kids raise their arms in the air like they’re riding a roller coaster. “I like the bumps!” my youngest says with a huge smile. Thanks to the cart’s suspension, however, the ride is smoother than I expected. Along the way, we stop at a tipi, then at the bison paddock. It’s a chance for the dogs to catch their breath, and for us to get out and pet them again.
“If you tried to do this corner on a sled, you’d crash,” Caleb says as we come to a tight turn. “How do you turn?” I wonder. “It’s like a bike,” Caleb explains showing us the handlebars I didn’t notice earlier (it’s hard not to be captivated by the dogs). Since the cart is so big, and the trail is winding, guests can’t drive their own carts in summer, but come winter, Snowy Owl guests can drive their own sleds at West Spray Lakes.
Back at the ranch, we help hand out bowls of electrolyte solution to the dogs, give them treats, and tell them “Good job!” They’ve earned it! Next, we check out the Guinn Family Wildlife Museum that features a large taxidermy collection including bears, wild cats, and wild sheep from around the world.
Before we know it, it’s time for the trail ride. Our guide Courtney picks out the perfect horses for us: Nugget for me, Stanley for Miya, and Dunney for Emi. Emi jokes that Nugget is the color of a chicken nugget and Courtney says that’s exactly why he’s named that. “Now pet him and tell him he’s beautiful,” she smiles. Once we’re all in the saddles, we get some riding instructions and are reminded not to let the horses stop and eat. “They’re very well fed!”
Boundary Ranch’s new Valley Vista Trail Ride takes us through aspens, up to a beautiful viewpoint of Mount Kidd, through lodgepole pine forest, and past the buffalo paddock. Matt leads the way and Courtney is the caboose making sure everyone sticks together. When I ask about claw marks on a tree, Courtney shares that bears have been seen in the area several times, but they give the horses a wide berth.
The terrain is rolling, but the horses navigate it with ease. At one pitchy section, the trail splits and we’re told to let the horses choose their way down. While most of the horses go to the right, Nugget goes left then resumes his place behind his best friend. Since the horses are used to following each other closely, no experience is necessary, but there are a few things you can do to help your horse like lean forward on the uphill or lean back on the downhill sections.
As infrequent riders, 1.5 hours on a horse is perfect. It’s long enough to trick my fitness tracker into thinking I did 10,000 steps, but not long enough to get uncomfortable. Plus, by the time we’re back, it’s lunchtime! Delicious burgers, beans, caesar salad and brownies and ice cream for dessert hit the spot after a fun morning with huskies, horses, and bison.
After lunch, we are fortunate to meet Haylie Guinn, Ranch Manager. Her parents own Boundary Ranch, and yes Guinn’s Pass is named after her grandpa, Alvin Guinn who “took 27 packhorses over the pass in the dark” (from Galatea to Ribbon Lake). If you’ve ever hiked around there, you’ll know what a feat that must’ve been because it’s steep! Her grandfather ran Rafter 6 Ranch until the mid 70s, and her family started Boundary Ranch in 1987 when she was 5. They started with 15 horses and lived in trapper’s tents the first year, and now have 100 horses.
Boundary Ranch’s history is amazing. From the barn which “was converted to a dance hall for a movie,” to famous guests, and owner Rick Guinn’s “Guy on a Buffalo” movie (more info here), it’s a cool place to learn about local history and celebrate a special occasion. Many a wedding has been held at the ranch. With a gorgeous mountain backdrop, and several beautiful lodges to choose from, I can see why! We will definitely be back!
The Woof & Hoof Tour at Boundary Ranch is a wonderful way to enjoy two amazing experiences in one day – dog carting & trail riding – and a delicious lunch with mountain views.playoutsideguide.com
Know Before You Go
- The 5-hour Woof & Hoof Tour is suitable for ages 6 & up.
- Kids 3 & up can go Adventure Dog Carting (allow 1.5 hours).
- Check in 15-30 minutes early so you have lots of time to visit the dogs.
- Check in 30 minutes early for the trail ride.
- Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, and bring a jacket as mornings are cool in the mountains.
- Keep keys/wallet in a zippered jacket pocket (not in your back pockets – they can fall out during the trail ride); no backpacks or bags are permitted on the dog cart or trail ride.
- Selfie sticks are not permitted on the trail ride, but a camera around your neck is ok.
For More Information / Book Now
To book your Woof & Hoof Tour now, or get more information, visit Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours or Boundary Ranch. Both companies are family-owned and operated, have been in business since the ’80s, and take great care of their animals.
Where to Stay
Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge in Kananaskis Village is the closest hotel and has luxurious rooms with mountain views. If you are camping, try Mount Kidd RV Park or Eau Claire Campground (first come, first served).
Boundary Ranch is located 100 kilometres from Calgary on Highway 40 South, just three minutes south of the Kananaskis Village turnoff. Click here for Google Map directions.