Off the Beaten Track: Travelling the Lodge Circuit in the Northwest Rockies

Off the Beaten Track
Travelling the Lodge Circuit in the Northwest Rockies

Jan Lee's Travellin' News

A half day's trail ride at Wild Rose Guest Ranch.
Photo courtesy of Jan Lee

Notwithstanding my love for the open road, I decided recently that it was time for me to visit a few of those unique and out of the way places where cars, RVs and 2-lane highways are not needed: the guest ranches and back country lodges of the Canadian Rockies.

After all, I reasoned, it had been 32 years since I had last visited the back of a horse, much less experienced the wonder of how to climb up on one. It had not been nearly that long since I had hiked and enjoyed back country trails, but I was ready. I craved the experience and change of pace; staying for 3 days in a remote mountain lodge 7200 feet above sea level, far from cars and cities would do me good.

So, kissing my husband, dogs and my best-friend-mother-in-law good bye, I climbed into the car and headed east towards the Rockies. The trunk was filled with an exquisite selection of muchies for the more remote sections of the trip, a wise decision I later discovered.

"Watering the Horses" at Wild Rose Guest Ranch.
Photo courtesy of Jan Lee

I followed Highway 3 east through the arid landscape of Osoyoos, Canada's desert paradise and the checkerboard pastures of Rossland and Creston that were reminiscent of the beauty of the British Isles. I arrived at my first stop, Wild Rose Guest Ranch, on the afternoon of the second day. An inveterate rambler, I have never seen the sense of rushing one's travels or one's photo opportunities - especially in an area that is filled with beauty.

Wild Rose is nestled at the base of the Rocky mountain range next to Wasa Lake Provincial Park, approximately 10 km/6 miles off of Highway 93/95. Surrounded by pastureland and forest, Wild Rose enjoys all of the benefits of country living. Its owners, Barry Rogers and Shannon Langley, provide an intimate setting for one of the region's smaller guest ranches. The lodge and guest house accommodate up to 10 guests.

During my stay the guests included a musician from London, 2 return visitors from California and a family from Southern England. According to Shannon, the ranch has enjoyed visits from travellers from all over the globe, some whom are experienced horseback riders, and many such as myself, who aren't.

Top of the World Ranch near historic Ft. Steele.
Photo courtesy of Jan Lee

A wide variety of activities were available to the guests, including horseback riding, river rafting, fishing and guided hikes. There was also the old favourite for those who consider a holiday to be designed for rest: reading in a quiet lodge overlooking a panoramic expanse of the Rocky Mountains.

Approximately 16 km/10 miles south of Wasa on Highway 93/95 is Top of the World Guest Ranch, a larger ranch with the same personalized attention. Top of the World owes its name to its spacious setting, enticing view of the surrounding area and famous sunsets. It is also "spittin' distance" from Ft. Steele, the area's 1890's gold rush town.

Top of the World operates a full cattle ranch, which provides additional opportunities for riders who want to try their hand at moving cattle. Don't be mistaken though: this isn't a modern version of City Slickers, where the novice riders are left to herd the cattle by their own ingenuity and grit. Both Top of the World and Wild Rose take a personal hand in ensuring that riders are trained and experienced before the horse is turned over to them.

Three Bars Guest Ranch.
Photo courtesy of Three Bars Guest Ranch

Both ranches are in the process of designing some unique programs for the Y2K. Top of the World has already begun a multi-sports program for energetic adventurers. Wild Rose is coordinating outings with several well-known wildlife conservatories.

Three Bars Ranch sits 18 km/11 miles north of Cranbrook, just off of Highway 95a. 10 guest cabins are situated in a spacious park-like setting that offers both privacy and easy access to the ranch's many activities. A board posted in front of the lodge lists the scheduled activities of the day, which include cattle penning, fly fishing in St. Mary's River and a variety of children's activities. When I arrived the staff was in the process of preparing a barbecue on the patio. It was a perfect setting for the end of a perfect summer's day.

My travels then took me approximately 258 km/161 miles north to the city of Golden and a small heliport in the shadow of the Purcell Mountains. In the words of one of Purcell Lodge's owners, Paul Leeson, the 12 minute flight over the snow capped range was a "magic carpet ride". It was also one of the most spectacular trips I have ever taken.

The beauty of the Purcell Mountains.
Photo courtesy of Jan Lee

The 3-day stay (without phone, email or computers) was spent in the majesty of some of BC's most incredible scenery. It is tremendously humbling to walk out the door and realize you are surrounded by splendor on every side. We spent most of our stay hiking about the 20-some kilometres (13 miles) of trails that the owners Paul and Ann have built in the immediate vicinity of the lodge. Every possible effort has been taken to protect and preserve the ecology of the area, from building an environmentally-safe hydroelectric system to flying in their winter firewood from Golden. I am not sure whether I was more impressed with the spectacular beauty of my surroundings or the owner's successful efforts to preserve the natural beauty of this area.

Please contact the ranch or lodge for specific directions to their location.
Wild Rose Guest Ranch and Resort
Wasa Lake area
Prints from Wild Rose Guest Ranch
Canoeing on Lazy Lake | Lazy Lake Recreation Area
Top of the World Guest Ranch
Ft. Steele area
Three Bars Guest Ranch
Kimberley area
Purcell Lodge
Golden area
Prints from Purcell Lodge
View From Helicopter | Hiking | Purcell Mountains

Tourism Rockies
Tourism BC

During our stay, we were visited by the Northern Lights. Fingers of light rippled across the clear summer sky, filling our vista with a soft glow that pulsated and gradually faded in the moonlight. It seemed as if the dance of lights lasted for hours - in truth, they were only a few minutes long. That's the magic of this place I thought: Its beauty seems timeless. So had been this short but unforgettable visit to the Rockies.

To reach the Rockies region from Vancouver: Take Highway 1 east to Hope (139 km/87 miles) and follow Highway 3 east, the connector for Highways 93/95 and 95a.

From Calgary and points east: Take Highway 1 west to either Banff, Alberta (128 km/80 miles from Calgary), or Golden, BC (262 km/164 miles). At Banff Highway 93 will take you south to Radium Hot Springs (132 km/83 miles from Banff) and the ranch of your choice. There are also regular flights from Calgary to Cranbrook area if you prefer to fly.

Copyright Jan Lee

Jan Lee

Be sure to read other articles by Jan Lee in the BC Adventure Network

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Off the Beaten Track: Travelling the Lodge Circuit in the Northwest Rockies