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Getting a Taste of the Old West at a Guest Ranch

Alberta has been ranch country for well over a century, and the Old West lifestyle is deeply ingrained in its culture. Indulge in a cowboy fantasy and spend a few days at one of the province's many historic guest ranches.

At Seebe, in the Kananaskis Country near the entrance to Banff National Park, are a couple of the oldest and most famous guest ranches. Rafter Six Ranch (tel. 888/267-2624 or 403/673-3622; www.raftersix.com), with its beautiful log lodge, can accommodate up to 60. The original Brewster homestead was transformed in 1923 into the Brewster's Kananaskis Guest Ranch (tel. 800/691-5085 or 403/673-3737; www.kananaskisguestranch.com). Once a winter horse camp, the Black Cat Guest Ranch (tel. 800/859-6840 or 780/865-3084; www.blackcatguestranch.ca) near Hinton is another long-established guest ranch in beautiful surroundings.

At all these historic ranches, horseback riding and trail rides are the main focus, but other western activities, such as rodeos, barbecues, and country dancing, are usually on the docket. Gentler pursuits, such as fishing, hiking, and lolling by the hot tub, are equally possible. Meals are usually served family-style in the central lodge, while accommodations are either in cabins or in the main lodge. A night at a guest ranch usually ranges from C$110 to C$200 and includes a ranch breakfast. Full bed-and-board packages are available for longer stays. There's usually an additional hourly fee for horseback riding.

Homestays at smaller working ranches are also possible. Here you can pitch in and help your ranch-family hosts with their work or simply relax. For a stay on a real mom-and-pop farm or ranch, obtain a list of members from Alberta Country Vacations Association (tel. 403/722-3053; www.albertacountryvacation.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.