I’m in constant amazement by how much there is to see and experience in Alberta. I’ve lived here my entire life and haven’t even come close to scratching the surface of discovery.
When Highlight Adventure Tours reached out to me and asked if I’d like to join them for an afternoon of adventure exploring Alberta’s Wild West, I jumped at the chance. It’s nice to let someone else do all the planning sometimes. I often default to hiking in Kananaskis or Banff and was craving a change of scenery and pace.
Highlight Adventure Tour’s signature West Country Tour is great for people who are looking for a relaxing ‘more than the mountains’ type of excursion, who love animals and wine tasting! I’ll preface this by saying it’s a full day tour and about half the time is spent driving, so as long as you don’t mind being in the car for extended periods, you’ll have the best time. Based out of Banff and Canmore, they pick you up and drop you off directly from your hotel. (I love it when tour companies offer pick ups!) We opted to meet them at the first tour destination near Cochrane as we were coming from Calgary and it didn’t make sense to drive all the way to Canmore. All admissions, lunch and snacks are included in the cost and driver gratuities are your discretion.
Our first stop of the day was Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary for a self-guided tour of their facility. They currently have one coyote dog and seventeen wolfdogs, all with varying degrees of wolf content – the higher the wolf content, the wilder the dog. They all come to Yamnuska as rescues – either from illegal puppy mill situations or surrendered from owners who couldn’t manage them.
The low wolf content dogs are all up for adoption – when they find the right human companions, of course. Wolfdogs are kind of like having a Husky on speed. Some of them are master escape artists and well, you never know if they’re going to mess up your house while you’re at work.
Have I mentioned they have rescue goats too? Oh yes!
After an hour of petting goats and meandering around the sanctuary, it was time to return to the shuttle for our next destination: lunch at Water Valley Saloon. You can choose between a burger, veggie wrap and wings – the driver pre orders everything for you, allowing extra time to check out the shops in Water Valley.
While our food was being prepared, we checked out this cute little gothic shop, Insomniac’s Attic. They sell clothing, home decor, crystals, essential oils, sage and these neat Full Moon Medicine kits which I thought were so creative – they contain a roll on essential oil, tea, a candle, smudge stick and crystal! So fun, hey?
Say hi to Brie! I’m glad she was able to join us. 😀
For lunch, we ate burgers (there were two patties and I legit wanted to die from indigestion + meat sweats after)
Once we finished eating, we headed off to a wild horse sanctuary near Sundre. I didn’t know there were wild horses left in Alberta, but they estimate there’s around 2000.
‘The Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS) was formed as a nonprofit society in 2002 after public outcry over the destruction of several wild horses that lived in the foothills and mountains of the Eastern slopes of Alberta. For the past 13 years WHOAS has been working on solutions for wild horse population management and has always felt that the Alberta wild horses require proper management and protection.
The wild horses only protection now is under the Stray Animal Act which at the minimum gives them some protection as it is against the law to shoot or hunt them or to snare them to capture them. WHOAS has always believed there is a better way to manage the wild horse populations in a more humane and civilized manner. WHOAS is part of the government’s Feral Horse Advisory Committee (FHAC) and is the only nonprofit, volunteer member advocating on behalf of the wild horses who have no voice’ -WHOAS website
We toured the property in a little wagon where we encountered a small herd of wild horses in the forest. Most of them had very little interest in us, except for a mare and her foal. The baby was so curious! She kept trying to venture away from the herd to visit us.
Highlight Adventure Tours is the only tour company who provides service to the horse sanctuary. If you join them, make sure you stop by Dexter’s pen to say hello. He LOVES people. He kept banging his hoof on the bars to get our attention and when we’d turn our backs to him and walk away, he’d get upset. What a guy.
Our last stop of the afternoon was family owned and operated Fallen Timber Meadery. This was my favorite part of the entire tour! Not only did we get to sample mead and craft mead beverages, we received a tour of their bee and mead operation (seriously – learning about bees was crazy cool.) Have you tried mead? (It’s honey wine!) It’s not really my thing – way too syrupy sweet, but their meadjito – a sparkling mead with mint and lime? OMG. Amazing.
I wished we would’ve had more time to sit back and relax on the deck with a drink afterwards. Brie and I had about five minutes to chug our Meadjito.
What a fun day exploring Alberta’s backyard – it felt like a truly authentic experience and I liked that we were far away from the crowds in Banff.
I hope you enjoyed following along on my adventure! 🙂
Over to you:
Do you book tours when you travel? Or do you prefer to research and do everything yourself?