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  • Writer's pictureErin Boukall

Cowboy Cookout

As a part of our exploration to discover what it is to eat like an Albertan, our quest wouldn’t be complete without a cowboy horseback ride. Banff Trail Riders offers a unique “Cowboy Cookout” experience by horseback or wagon ride…

The Tour Even if you have never been on a horse before, the Banff Trail Riders professional staff made this tour welcoming and comfortable. It starts off at their stables, where they will set you up with a helmet, and you get to meet your horse companion. They ask that guests wear long pants and sturdy footwear (like runners). The guides were all highly knowledgeable and shared lots of stories as we meandered along the trails. In fact, these are the same trails that horseback tours have travelled along for almost a century. One thing to note is that no bags are permitted on the horses (including purses, backpacks, or waist pouches), so make sure you wear something with pockets! You will definitely want your phone handy to capture the experience. The tour wanders alongside the Bow River and hosts scenic views of the Bow Valley. We even encountered a large group of majestic elk. This is the ultimate outdoor experience for tourists and locals alike.

The Horses Our horses were very friendly and calm. One of the best things about the Albertan company is that their horses are mostly rescues! The horses even have their own bios on their website, which shows how much the company truly cares about their equine friends. Horses are an integral part of the province’s history. They were an indispensable source of support for the pioneers when they ventured west in the 1800’s.

The Food

Lunch or dinner is held at their newly renovated “3 Mile Cabin”, which is a beautiful open-air and covered dining venue complete with a central roaring fire. The original cabin on this site was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Banff Trail Riders offers several rides that include food. In addition to the cookouts (which are accessible by horseback or horse-drawn wagon), there are multi-day overnight rides that include meals and stays at their backcountry lodges. For our “Cowboy Cookout”, we were treated to some traditional cowboy grub. Upon arriving at the venue, we disembarked from our horses and were asked how we would like our steaks cooked (they also offer a vegetarian menu). An impressive spread was already set up and waiting for the tour. Alongside a perfectly cooked AAA Alberta steak (accompanied with incredible “cowboy butter”*) were a selection of sides like beans, coleslaw, crispy roasted baby potatoes, homemade cornbread, and more. There was a good selection of drinks available, including hot beverages, and even something sweet for dessert.

The “Cowboy Cookout” experience with Banff Trail Riders was a beautiful day outdoors with plenty of stunning scenery. The company was very professional and made the tour seamless, even for those who had never ridden a horse before. The “3 Mile Cabin” made for the ultimate pit-stop, offering a luxurious cowboy spread. Our day was the perfect blend of outdoor adventure with a cowboy comfort food lunch. It doesn’t get much more Albertan than that!

*You might be asking what the heck “cowboy butter” is. It is a flavoured “compound butter” made by incorporating ingredients (like spices, garlic, and herbs) into room temperature butter. This can then be formed into a cylinder in saran wrap, kept in the fridge, and sliced to top anything you want covered in melted flavoured butter. “Cowboy butter” recipes vary, but they generally include things like fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme), garlic, spices (paprika, pepper, cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes), plenty of salt, and even a bit of lemon juice and Dijon mustard too. I’ve also seen recipes that add shallots and horseradish. Compound butters are a great make ahead product that are totally customizable. And they don’t just belong on steak! Slather over chicken, seafood, vegetables, potatoes, and pretty much whatever you like. This article was made possible thanks to Travel Alberta.

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