10 Great Ski Resorts for Horseback Riding
Whether on the mountain or near it, summer or winter, these ski resorts were also made for horseback riding.
Photo By: Brian Schott
Photo By: Park City Chamber / Bureau
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Photo By: Breckenridge Tourism Office / Vail Resorts
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Big Sky Resort, Montana
Find all of your horse needs at Cache Creek Outfitters near Big Sky Resort, offering everything from two-hour to multiday rides. Choose rides through Yellowstone National Park, combine horseback riding with fly fishing, or take a backcountry sleigh ride to a hearty cowboy cookout. Canyon Adventures takes enthusiasts on two-hour rides through the base of the Rocky Mountains, covering the rivers and hills in Gallatin Canyon. There’s also the aptly named paddle and saddle option, combining the ride with whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River. Or opt for week-long pack rides and year-round trail rides at Jake’s Horses. At the very least, work up an appetite on a two-hour dinner ride through the woods, culminating in steak, baked beans, corn on the cob and a marshmallow campfire. If that's not enough, Lone Mountain Ranch (pictured) is another great way to experience Montana’s backcountry by horse. Summer rides venture through Gallatin National Forest and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, while dinner sleigh rides bring guests to a cabin for prime rib and live music, cowboy style.
Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
Choose from multiple outfitters at the sprawling Park City Mountain Resort. Rocky Mountain Outfitters leads trail rides through aspen groves and into the mountains; weather permitting, it even offers winter horseback riding along cross-country trails once used in the Olympics. Or opt for the popular horse-drawn sleigh rides. Shuttle service is offered from Park City, Sundance and Heber Valley. Red Pine Adventures is conveniently located next to Canyon Village and is ideal for summer riding through wildflower meadows and past alpine lakes. Rocky Mountain Recreation of Utah is a good bet for overnight trail rides in the summer, as well as sleigh rides through the woods to dinner in the winter. Snowed Inn Sleigh Company is another contender for a sleigh ride to dinner (with entertainment to boot), and is actually on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort. Wind In Your Hair Riding is best for experienced riders, who can ride year-round on Paso Finos. Not least, Lodge at Blue Sky is just 15 minutes outside of town, and noteworthy because The Horse Whisperer movie was based on its training method.
This winter, dash through the snowy San Juan Mountains to Aldasoro Ranch with Telluride Sleighs and Wagons. Two daily dinner rides leave from town, where you’re treated to a Basque sheepherder dinner. (The family originated from the Basque region of Spain, and the later dinner also serves tapas.) New this year, horses from Telluride Wranglers will pull the sleigh rides. Speaking of which, Telluride Wranglers also leads trail rides in the warmer weather, as does Telluride Horseback Adventures. The latter is about 45 minutes from Telluride, and specializes in one- and two-hour rides on private ranch grounds. But Circle K Ranch is the ultimate for horse enthusiasts, offering about 10 trail ride options. Choices include a picnic at 9,500 feet, where you might spot elk and black bears; a switchback ride along Calico Ridge through aspens; and a five-hour trek from the Dolores River to peaceful meadows.
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
In summer, Rio Grande Stables offers horseback riding every Sunday at Taos Ski Valley, or head about 40 minutes to its stable for more options in the Taos Mountains. One-hour rides head through Juniper forests, while half-day rides traverse the Rio Grande Gorge and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Other trail highlights are sunset rides, all-day rides to Wheeler Peak, and saddle then paddle on the Rio Grande. Los Rios River Runners also runs paddle and saddle trips on the Rio Grande. Trail ride options include Taos Ski Valley, as well as the Taos Pueblo reservation and the Taos Indian Horse Ranch.
Steamboat Resort, Colorado
Saddleback Ranch is a working cattle ranch that offers it all: summer riding, winter riding and yes, sleigh rides. There are also dinner rides that might involve salmon, baked beans and brownies, with the post-dinner twist of learning how to rope a calf. Dinner sleigh rides also include a wool blanket and hot chocolate or cider, while regular winter rides last up to two hours. Oh, and summer brings the chance to join a cattle drive. Del's Triangle 3 Ranch is a half hour outside of Steamboat Resort, where you can ride through the Routt National Forest. Summer and winter riding is available, with both following deer and elk trails. As with much of the West, summer brings verdant wildflower meadows. Short and full-day rides are available, depending on the season. A bit further out is the upscale Vista Verde Ranch (pictured), where you can catch a shuttle to Steamboat Resort. But staying on property means partaking in its robust year-round horse program, from clinics to trail rides. Fall brings the annual cattle roundup, while winter brings sleigh rides, plus the ability to trek through freshly falling snow.
Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
There’s little excuse not to ride when Sun Valley Stables are within walking distance of Sun Valley Resort. Summer trail rides last up to an hour and a half on Dollar Mountain, and no experience is required. Although those who want to improve their skills can take lessons. Winter brings sleigh rides with wool blankets, along with the option to enjoy dinner at Trail Creek Cabin. There’s also Sun Valley Outfitters for half-day rides (with lunch) through untouched public landscapes. Further afield, White Cloud Outfitters is a must for multiday pack trips and unparalleled White Cloud Mountain vistas. It’s also the best way to spot wildlife, including a protected wild horse herd.
Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado
Breckenridge Ski Resort is made for horseback riding, thanks to extensive mountain trails. Breckenridge Stables are a popular option in the summer, taking riders through the mountains above the resort. The 1.5-hour trail ride crosses rivers and passes beaver ponds, but just wait for the Continental Divide mountain views. Although it’s an hour from Breckenridge, the remote Rusty Spurr Ranch is the perfect place for a multi-hour ride through the rugged Rockies, largely unchanged from the days when horses were the main form of transportation. It only operates in summer, which is the ideal time to also take advantage of the saddle and paddle on the Upper Colorado River. You can even partake in cattle drives.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
Horse-drawn sleighs are commonplace at many a mountain town, but Jackson Hole Mountain Resort does one better by operating sleigh rides in the National Elk Refuge (pictured). How better to watch thousands of elk milling about? Spring Creek Ranch, the most accessible horseback riding option from the resort, offers the elk sleigh rides in winter, as well as horseback riding in the summer. A half hour away, Willow Creek Horseback Rides provides riders of all levels the opportunity to cross streams and more on rides lasting from one hour to the entire day. A bit further, Swift Creek Outfitters and Teton Horseback Adventures provides the chance to ride near the majestic Grand Tetons. Choose from one- to three-hour rides, with the ultimate being the three-hour Big Pulpit ride to 8,300 feet. The journey wends through forests and over creeks before peaking with front-row Teton vistas.
Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts, California and Nevada
Zephyr Cove Stables runs daily trail rides around Lake Tahoe from spring through fall, and even breakfast, lunch and dinner rides. It’s also a short drive from Heavenly Ski Resort. Alpine Meadows Stables is just minutes from Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, where rides meander through Tahoe National Forest. One-hour rides are available for novices, while the more experienced can embark on a half-day excursion up Juniper Mountain, revealing Squaw Valley below.
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Daisy Field Farm in White Haven is near Jack Frost Big Boulder, and tempts winter riders with snow-covered trail rides. It also offers sleigh rides, and can add a bonfire or hot dog roast upon request. Deer Path Stable is also in White Haven, and specializes in year-round riding for beginners. Those craving unlimited riding through the Pocono Mountains (albeit an hour at a time), can find it at Malibu Dude Ranch, home to 800 acres of trails. The ranch can also arrange ski packages. Pocono Manor Resort and Spa is about 20 minutes from Camelback Mountain Resort, and its ranch is a great option for year-round trail rides on 3,000 acres. It’s geared toward riders of all levels, and, unlike many operations, doesn’t restrict participants to riding single file.