When you think of Colorado, your thoughts might stray to the Old West — cowboys riding along mountain ridges, over valleys and through dense forests. When visiting the region, you can live that Western dream by saddling up with a commercial outfitter for any level of riding experience.
For those already owning gentle giants with swooshing tails, there are plenty of panoramic trails to canter down. The Salida Horse Hotel at Quarter Circle 9K is the perfect place to board while you explore. Many bed-and-breakfasts are home to stables ideal for boarding as well.
Book your trip in any season — summer brings all shades of green while the area is ablaze in golden hues each fall, and winter makes the region look like it has been coated in royal icing, kind of like a wilderness gingerbread scene.
As always, don’t forget to use routes responsibly. Utilize resources like The Wilderness Society, Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly to learn how you can leave the environment around you better than you found it create a better environment — and be sure to take the Adventure by Nature Pledge to recreate responsibly while enjoying the outdoors.
For the Less-Experienced Rider: Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Riding Stable
Colorado Trail Rides has many choices, from sunset wagon trips to wedding carriages. Those gaining their hoofing around horses should start with the Guided Rocky Mountain Horse Ride. It’s a one-hour journey for people 5 and up. You’ll cross Chalk Creek and ride up John Wayne Hill while asking the wranglers all the questions you may have. The stables also do a Full Day Browns Creek Trail Ride recommended for ages 8 and up, where you can trot by a gushing waterfall and up to a sapphire lake.
For the Undisturbed-Nature Lover: Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
The backcountry trails throughout AHRA have possibilities for all — from long rides to short jaunts and difficult footing to easy trots. Use the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app to find the one most suited for your needs. BLM 6034 (Fistful of Dollars) near Buena Vista is a 1.6-mile winding track that begins at the Collegiate Peaks Overlook. As you lope, look out across the valley to see fourteeners (mountains more than 14,000 feet tall) in the distance. Down in Salida, North Backbone Trail is 3 miles of scrubby beauty. It’s open year-round, but it’s extra pretty when there’s a light dusting of snow on the dirt path.
Even More Backcountry Options
- Triad Ridge ATV Trail, Buena Vista — Narrow, curving pathway surrounded by massive boulders, 4.6 miles
- Colorado Trail: Segment 13, Buena Vista — Incredible peak-peppered views, alpine lakes enveloped in verdant trees, 21.3 miles (point to point)
- Hunt Lake Trail, Salida — Ideal for overnight pack trip, shimmering lake with purple wildflowers in summer, 7 miles (out and back)
- Harvard Lakes Trail, Buena Vista — Meandering 5.4 miles (out and back), breathtaking in winter when the lake is dusted in snow
- Rainbow Trail, Salida — 29 miles (point to point) in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, surrounded by vistas of Colorado’s tallest summits
Bonus: Llama Pack Trips
If equines aren’t necessarily your cup of tea, but you still want to experience what it’s like to frolic in the backcountry, Spruce Ridge Llamas has you covered. Go on a summer day trek where you’ll be served a picnic lunch and meet the fuzzy creatures. Or do a wee bit of thrill-seeking via whitewater rafting and llama trekking — this Salida company works with Noah’s Ark to bring you a vacation you’ll never forget.