Riding a horse through the beautiful Colorado wilderness is an exciting way to get in touch with nature. There are so many options for horseback riding in Colorado! It’s overwhelming! I decided the best way to introduce the subject and to familiarize you with the wide range of options available would be to describe 4 hypothetical situations of people who want to go horseback riding. This way, perhaps, you will find some similarities between your situation and one of the four that I have described below. Either way, after reading this article, you will be very familiar with the options available to someone who wants to take a ride on one of Colorado’s Horseback riding trails.
In my first article about Horse Trails in Colorado, I went over the general guidelines, options and necessary preparation involved before deciding to go on a horse trail. These preliminary measures must be taken in ALL instances, whether or not you are experienced or ‘green’ and for all rides you are going to take, whether they are short or long trips. So I will concentrate more on the SPECIFICS of the trails I have researched and I will match the appropriate type of Trail with the needs and experience of the people in that particular group.
Our first group is a young couple on their honeymoon. They want to see the countryside, but they also want to enjoy the romantic atmosphere that a honeymoon entails! They have their own horses, so they want a place where they can stay that is comfortable, and they want their horses to be nearby as well. They don’t want to be too rustic, though. They do want some luxuries on their special getaway. Also, they would prefer a Guided tour with an experienced ranger who can give them some stories about the area as they ride. Since they are on their honeymoon, they want some pictures taken of them on the horses with the Colorado Rockies in the background (if possible!)
What I found for the Newlyweds:
For the special couple #1, I found a resort that celebrates the beauty of Colorado, and has the hotel accommodations of a luxurious resort! Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch is a perfect option for this couple. There is a classy on-site restaurant and accommodations close by for their horses. Also, the Resort offers short trails, long trails, guided trips, and self-guided trips. The Resort resides adjacent to the Red Feather Lakes of Colorado and is offers breathtaking scenery. It is a very peaceful place and perfect for a couple who wants to appreciate the country side and enjoy nature. This resort will fulfill all of their needs and wishes to have a memorable and romantic honeymoon.
Because the Resort is in the middle of the National Forest, the couple will have many trails to choose from. I would highly recommend that they invest in a Colorado State Trail Guide, so they can plan out their trip before they venture out. There is plenty of room for the couple to relax and enjoy their time together in the resort, as well as comfortable accommodations nearby for their horses.
Because the resort is within the National Park, the couple can arrange for a guided horseback trail ride. They may prefer a guided ride so they can concentrate more on the scenery and focus on the moment, rather than worry about where they are and hoping not to get lost or anything.
I chose this particular resort over many other options, because it has a special option that most of the other places I researched do NOT have, sleigh rides! If they decide to get married during the winter time, they have the option to take a romantic sleigh ride! The address for this resort is 100 Marmot Drive, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, 80545. Their website is as follows: http://beavermeadowsstables.com.
Group 2 consists of a family that resides in Colorado, but they want some rugged and guided ‘family time’ with their horses. They live in the city and their 2 young children want to practice their equestrian skills and learn. This family will benefit from going on the horse trails with an experienced guide. The kids are very excited about their trail experience! They want to learn and have plenty of picture-taking opportunities.
What I found for Group #2
After searching, I found a great option for this adventurous family. For Group #2, I found a kind of ‘horseback riding boot camp.’ It sounds like a tremendous opportunity that the whole family can share together! There is a professional trail guide in Cortez, Colorado (located in the Southwest corner of Colorado). He is a professional horseman and can guide the family through the breathtaking canyon lands and mountains of the Colorado National Forest. This rancher has a horse trail program called Green Horse Adventures. The experienced guides in this program prepare you for an unforgettable equestrian experience. They teach you the basics of trip planning and also help you prepare physically for your ride.
The adventure begins by taking riders into the forest on ‘light’ rides (short rides where pack animals aren’t needed to carry supplies). Before the actual riding begins, your guide will teach you how to physically train yourself for horseback riding with a low impact class. He will also teach you the important steps to plan and prepare for your ride.
After you have learned the basics and been on a ‘light’ ride, then the family is ready to go on an overnight trip (the family won’t have to bring the pack animal or the food, the guide includes that as part of the ‘Green Horse Adventure’ package. However, the guide does request that you bring your own bedding for your horses. He also mentions that he does have accommodations for overnight guests, which would be perfect for this family! Green Horse Adventures is run by Nihla McCabe and the address is 15257 Hwy 145 Dolores, Colorado, 81321.
Group 3 is a group of young, healthy brothers who are natives to Colorado and could officially be called experienced ‘ranchers’ and ‘cowboys.’ They have their own horses and they are very familiar with the terrain in Colorado. Every fall, they saddle up and take the rugged Colorado Trail. This is a 2 week trek, traveling 500 miles from Durango to Denver! They look forward to their trip each year, and they are well-experienced outdoorsmen, so they know what to expect from the country, the terrain, the wildlife and they know what weather changes to expect. Since these men have taken this 500 mile trip before, they pretty much know what to expect, but it’s a challenging and beautiful venture nonetheless.
In order to prep their horses, they found the guide written specifically for the Colorado Trail to have priceless information. One set of instructions (at www.coloradotrail.org) written by Rich Johnson gives particularly pertinent information on what your horse’s needs are before and during the trip.
During long trips, Rich recommends that you stop at least 2 or 3 times a day for about 15 or 20 minutes to give your horse a chance to rest and graze. Also, he says it is a good idea to ride a horse one day, then the next day, use it as a pack horse. He also recommends to travel light, such as carrying no more than 75 pounds of food and equipment, because there is a lot of grass along the trail so the horses can graze. In this guide, Rich also describes that water can usually be found in the lower elevations (where he recommends you make camp for the night). Rich’s riding strategy includes ‘riding high’ and ‘camp low,’ basically meaning, traverse the higher elevations during the day, then when you find an appropriate ‘low’ spot, like a campsite or valley, set up camp there. Rich has taken this route several times and says a good pace to keep is to ride no more than 20 miles per day. Because of his experience on this trail, I highly recommend Rich’s checklist, which can be found on the website I mentioned above. His experience can definitely benefit you if this is a trail you decide to make!
Group 4 consists of an elderly couple who is living with family. They have lived in Colorado most of their lives and so has their family. The older couple do not have their own horses, but when they go riding with family, they just ‘borrow’ one of theirs! The family, including Grandma and Grandpa, are planning a horse camping trip for a long weekend. The family wants to find a trail and a campsite that offers trails that wouldn’t be too strenuous for the grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa, despite their age, can ride for a few hours on a trail with an easy terrain, as long as their family goes with them. They are looking for a campsite that can accommodate their horses as well as their camping gear. They won’t need a guide because their family will be with them, and they don’t need to rent horses because their sons brought along 2 gentle horses for them to ride. The whole family is looking forward to their ride with Grandma and Grandpa!
For Group #4, I found that the Hall Ranch trails in Lyons, Colorado would best suit their needs for this outing. Here, the family would bring their camping gear and their horse trailers and head for the parking areas. There is a good place here to set up for a picnic, and there is a perfect 2 hour horse trail to follow. It has been described as an ‘easy’ ride, so it should be perfect for Grandpa and Grandma (they should be able to keep up with the rest of the family, even their grandchildren!) It has been described that there are some rocky parts of the trail, but nothing impossible! After the 2 hour trail ride, they reach the homestead cabin which is considered the halfway point. When they reach the homestead cabin, they can replenish their water supply from the water tank situated there.
I would recommend this trail because it is open year-round and the trail is well-maintained. The people who posted this particular horse trail mentioned that the trail is also open to hikers and mountain bikers, but they also reassured us that everyone was courteous on the trail! For more information about the Hall Ranch trails in Lyons, Colorado, I again emphasize the importance of investing in a Colorado State Trails Guide.
As you can see, the options of horseback riding trails in Colorado are vast! However, after reading this article, you can see that there are easy trails and challenging trails, short trails and long trails, and of course guided and self-guided trails! The more time you spend on the horse trails, the more experienced you will become, and the choices you have for your next trip will continue to increase as you become more experienced! Have fun and be sure to bring your camera! Saddle up!