Saddle up for a sensory-rich experience of Utah’s natural wonders
There’s something about seeing Utah’s famed geography and breathtaking vistas framed between two fuzzy ears that makes the views all-the-more extraordinary. Soaking up Utah’s varied terrains from horseback is a sensory experience that heightens the state’s already stunning views.
You’ll hear the rhythmic squeaking of leather and aspen leaves whispering in the wind. You’ll feel your body swaying in cadence with cautious hoofbeats as you descend steep canyon walls. You’ll inhale the perfume-like scent of horse sweat paired with fresh mountain air and taste the red dirt kicked up from the horse in front of you. This combination that makes horseback riding in Utah such an engagingly rich experience.
Whether you’re looking for an easy day trip, an immersive weeklong adventure or an add-on to a pre-planned vacation, Utah’s outfitter services and guest ranches offers a variety of ways to mount up, hit the trail and enjoy an elevated experience with the state’s natural wonders. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Rocky Mountain Outfitters: Northern Trails
For the valley-dweller looking to head for the hills and break up the urban routine
Working out of two locations on the east slopes of the Wasatch Range, Rocky Mountain Outfitters bases their trail rides out of Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley and the stables of Sundance Resort at the foot of Mount Timpanogos. Their guides buck the single-file, nose-to-tail riding trend of most outfitters, and they customize routes based on guest requests. Early risers, sunset enthusiasts and those who don’t fare well in the midday heat can also take advantage of signature sunrise and sundown rides.
Rides from their Soldier Hollow location range from two to four hours and include excursions to the wildflower-filled Crow’s Nest and the terraced waters of the Alpine Loop’s Cascade Springs.
From their Sundance location, rides range from one to two hours and include tours through old-growth aspen groves and the plush pastures of Elk Meadows as well as their most sought-after ride offering breathtaking views of the 200-foot Stewart Falls at the base of Mount Timpanogos.
Looking to add to your adventure once you’ve reached the end of the trail? Rocky Mountain Outfitters also combines riding with rafting, fly fishing and even yoga, as well as offering a traditional chuckwagon dinner on Saturdays.
633 W. Soldier Hollow Drive, Midway, 435-654-1655, RockyMountainOutfitters.com
Canyon Trail Rides: Horse Haven
For the traveler looking to tack on an extra experience at a famed national park
As one of the state’s few authorized concessioners of the National Park Service, Canyon Trail Ride’s three locations serve guests at Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.
Rides from their Bryce Canyon location are two to three hours long, leading riders through ancient bristlecone pine groves and along the park’s iconic hoodoos, including up-close views of the Wall of Windows, Silent City and The Chessmen formations. From their outpost beneath the towering cliffs of Zion Canyon, riders can choose a one-hour ride along the Virgin River to the feet of the peaks of The Patriarchs or opt for an adventurous three-hour tour along the cactus gardens of Sandbench Trail that culminates with a breathtaking view of the south end of the park. At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, rides atop surefooted mules range from a leisurely one-hour ride along the rim to a three-hour descent through the naturally built Supai Tunnel to 2,300 feet deep into the canyon itself.
Looking to beat the crowds and secure yourself a spot in the saddle? Book online upward of seven days in advance for any of the three locations.
Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, 435-679-8665, CanyonRides.com
Sorrel River Ranch: Red Rock Rides
For the R&R-oriented traveler wanting a full-service resort experience with a Western twist
Situated on the banks of the Colorado River northeast of Moab, the Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa offers full-service resort amenities in the heart of rugged red-rock country. Guests can enjoy views of iconic mesas from horseback in the morning, return to the ranch to indulge saddle-sore muscles with spa treatments and then cap off the day with a gourmet farm-to-table dinner from the restaurant’s seasonal menu.
Before hitting the trail, guests can take a 30-minute lesson to learn the basics or brush up on old skills. Rides through the 10,000-acre ranch range from one to one-and-a-half hours and offer trails and terrain through the secluded Ida Gulch, along the towering Parriott Mesa and on to views of Convent Butte with the snowy peaks of the La Sal Mountains in the distance.
Want to ensure you’ve earned your keep for ranch’s luxurious experiences? Head down to their stables, where wranglers will hand you a pitchfork and let you go to work feeding horses.
Highway 128, Mile 17, Moab, 435-259-4642, SorrelRiver.com
No matter where the trail may take you, keep in mind the following tips to help make the most if it for you and your mount.
Listen to your wrangler. If he or she offers advice for navigating a certain portion of the trail or working with the personality of a certain horse in their string, gladly accept it. Feel free to ask questions of your wrangler, too.
Don’t be shy about tipping your guides. For most wranglers, this is a seasonal job that’s part of the service industry.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SADDLING UP FOR
Ask questions about your ride prior to booking. If you’re expecting to gallop off into the sunset or enjoy a more private ride without a group, it might require a specially planned trip that can be arranged when booked in advance.