Ready, Set, Go! – Ideas and Destinations for Trail Riders

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It’s time to dream and plan again. Summer will soon be here and it’s our chance to get out in beautiful country on horseback. We need to see the stars, sit around the campfire, tell stories, and roast marshmallows. Let’s get saddle sore, make new friends, and see the best the West has to offer from the back of a special equine. For our Lifestyle & Getaways issue we offer a list of just a few of the best riding opportunities the West has to offer.


Photo by Catherine Madera

The Red Rock Ride

This popular week-long adventure takes you through some of the most beautiful canyon country in the United States: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon, Paria, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The experience takes plenty of pre-planning. Bookings open each year in March for the year following the current year, so book 2022 in March of 2021. On the week-long ride all your needs are provided for including a horse or mule, accommodations (complete with showers) and meals. Evenings include campfires and entertainment.

The business has been owned and run by the Mangum family for over 45 years. They have 300 horses and mules they use on these rides. Their wranglers are experienced and capable and love the canyon country. This ride is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Former Northwest Horse Source Editor Catherine Madera had the opportunity to do the Red Rock Ride in 2016. This is what she has to say about it:

It’s rare to have an experience exceed your expectations, but this was the case with the Red Rock Ride. During our final dinner at a steak house in Utah all I could think was, “That was worth every penny!” My spirit was full, even if other parts ached from 7 days of intense riding in Zion, Bryce, Paria and the Grand Canyon. Every detail of the ride, from initial pick up in Las Vegas, to the horses and mules, to the food is top-notch.

RRR is on the pricier end at around $2,600 (flights to Vegas not included) and is best for intermediate riders with decent fitness. And, if heights are an issue for you, the switchbacks of Bryce Canyon will make it impossible to enjoy the spectacular views. That said, there were less experienced/fit riders in our group who simply opted out of some of the rides.

Chief Joseph Trail Ride

Do you own (or have access to) a registered Appaloosa? If it’s a competent trail horse, the Chief Joseph Trail Ride August 1–6, 2021 might be the ride of a lifetime for you and your horse.

This group ride, hosted and organized by the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC), has been happening since 1965. The ride covers approximately 100 miles each year of the 1300-mile route Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce took while fleeing from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Every year riders travel 100 miles over a 5-day period, riding about 20 miles per day. This means it takes a total of thirteen years to complete the entire trail from start to finish.

The trail travels through portions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Camping is primitive but hosts move camp with vehicles from one camp to the next while riders are on the trail. ApHC also provides meals and evening programs.

Riders must be members of ApHC. For more information visit


Lisa Oostema and friends enjoy a trip to the Bob Marshall wilderness. Photo by Lisa Oostema

Hire an Outfitter 

Another easy option for seeing the backcountry on horseback without having to haul your own horses, tents, food, and gear is to hire an outfitter/packer. Many outfitters provide trips that range from hauling you and your stuff into the backcountry and dropping you off, to trips that cater to your every whim.

Whatcom County, WA resident and Back Country Horsemen of Washington member Lisa Oostema and friends hired Mills Wilderness Adventures (a Montana outfitter) for a once-in-a-lifetime trip into the rugged and scenic Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.

Mills’ wranglers have extensive knowledge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, provide for all meals and other accommodations in the back country, and have strong, calm, well-cared for stock to ride. This allows you to have a much more relaxing and carefree trip.

Lisa’s group rode deep into the area on the first day and were set up in a base camp of semi-permanent camps. From there, they rode out to new country each day, returning to comfortable beds and good food in the evenings. Visit for more information about Mills Wilderness Adventures.

Photo by Lisa Oostema

To find an outfitter in an area you want to explore, ask people you know who’ve had good experiences with outfitters for recommendations. Join Back Country Horsemen in your state to become part of a community of avid trail riders. For an extensive list of outfitters and guides in the West click the links below for the state you’re interested in visiting.

Washington Outfitters and Guides Association

Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association

Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association:

Montana Outfitters and Guides Association:


View of Mt. Adams from trails out of the Keenes Horse Camp. Photo by Susan Sebastian

Do it Yourself!

Finally, the most labor-intensive (but independent) way to adventure on horseback is to do it yourself! If you have the knowledge, gear, and a good trail horse, planning and exploring the backcountry on your own with your horses or mules and some good friends can be one the most rewarding experiences you’ll have. It offers extraordinary bonding with both your horses and your friends and/or family and gives you the freedom to do it the way you like.

The Northwest has some of the most spectacular riding country you can find anywhere. Join Back Country Horsemen of America ( and your state and

Photo by Susan Sebastian

local chapters. They can help you find resources and information to plan the perfect trip. Also, visit Northwest Horse Source contributor Robert “TrailMeister” Eversole’s website for extensive information about camping and riding areas throughout the west.

And of course, the Northwest Horse Source itself has many articles about good places to ride and visit, from beaches to high mountains.




See this article in the 2021 February online edition:

February 2021

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