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Overnight Colorado Horse Trips

Fall is one of the most beautiful times to ride in Colorado with the changing leaves, cool weather and minimal tourism traffic.  In the last couple of years, we have explored a few Colorado places to camp with our horses and trail ride.  Here are some of the places offered in our beautiful state that provide overnight facilities for people and horses.  For more information, details and additional ideas see Margi Evans’ book:  Riding Colorado III:  Day and Overnight Trips with your horse.

Make reservations as far ahead as you can, but often in the late fall there are openings for spontaneous trips.  Make sure you have all of the health papers you need ready specific to the facility.  You may need a current negative Coggins test, possibly a vaccination record and/or a health certificate within the last 30 days.  If travelling over 75 miles from home, you will need a brand inspection.   Some places require certified weed-free hay.

Beaver Meadows Resort, Red Feather Lakes, CO, beavermeadow.com, 970-881-2450

Beautiful common area with beaver ponds, general store and restaurant.  A great place for non-horse folks too!  Many, many well marked trails for different loop options every day.  Several small stream crossings.  Horses:  Pens at the horse stable area or large pens at campsites with nearby water.  People:  Many options including cabins, condos, hotel rooms and horse camp sites.  There are no hook ups at the horse camping area, but it is along a beautiful stream in a private setting.

Mill Creek Ranch (formally known as Old Cow Town Colorado), Saguache, CO, millcreekcolorado.com, 719-655-2224

No expense was spared designing and building this recently built cow town.  There is a restaurant, saloon, general store, museum, social club and more.  Bring more that your horse friends and family, there is something here for everyone.  Surrounded by National Forest, there are many trail riding options to explore like Hoaglund Mountain and the Hodding Creek Area.  Horses:  Very nice stall barn to outdoor pens.  People: Many options of cabins, the Social Club or a nice RV area near the barn and pens with hookups.

Homestead Meadows from Hermit Park Campground, Estes Park, CO, 800-397-7795

Ride to Homestead Meadows from Campground.  The trail tours through a registered National Historic District.  The area was first settled in the 1800’s and the last resident in 1952.  Each homestead is labeled telling about each homesteader family.  Two days recommended to really explore.  Horses:  One or two pens per site, but keep in mind they are too small to really put two horses in one.  Nice pens with good ground and shade.  People:  Tent camping or living quarters trailers, but no hook ups. Restrooms available and water down near pavilion or entry.  Bring water for you and your horse.

Indian Creek Campground, Sedalia, CO, fs.usda.gov/activity/psicc/recreation/horseriding-camping, 877-444-6777

Several options for trailing riding in the area including the Indian Creek Equestrian Trail, a segment of the Colorado Trail, and the Ringtail Trail.  Horses:  Hitching posts, water spigots and pens at sites, some shaded.  People:  Nice campground with restrooms in the loop, picnic tables, fire pits and tent sites.  There are a couple sites that would work well for living quarters trailers, but there are no hook ups.

M Lazy C Ranch, Lake George, CO, mlazyc.com, 719-148-3398

Meals available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some nights there is a chuckwagon dinner with hay rides, reservations required.  Surrounded by National Forest, there are many trails to explore.  On the 4WD roads you may encounter ATV’s that were always very respectful of the horses.  There are plenty of single track trails to explore with no ATV’s.  Beautiful open areas and distant mountain views.  You can camp here and trailer to Dome Rock as well.  Horses:  Two pens at each campsite and the ability to add more.  Some of the pens have roofs. Water at each site.  People:  There are some cabins and rooms available near the main area with pen options for horses as well as a round pen and outdoor arena.  Great camping area with different configurations.  Water, electric, fire pits and picnic tables at sites.  Also, a round pen and several trail obstacles in camping area.

Mill Creek Ranch (formally known as Old Cow Town Colorado), Saguache, CO, millcreekcolorado.com, 719-655-2224

No expense was spared designing and building this recently built cow town.  There is a restaurant, saloon, general store, museum, social club and more.  Bring more than your horse friends and family, there is something here for everyone.  Surrounded by National Forest, there are many trail riding options to explore like Hoaglund Mountain and the Hodding Creek Area.  Horses:  Very nice stall barn to outdoor pens.  People: Many options of cabins, the Social Club or a nice RV area near the barn and pens with hookups.

Mueller State Park, Teller County, CO, cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Mueller/Pages/Activities.aspx, 800-678-2267

Extensive trails for riding, plus you can connect to the Dome Rock area with additional trails.  Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in this area as well.  There are a few areas where horses are not allowed which are marked.  Horses:  Stalls/pens available at the stable area.  There are only two horse camping spots with pens that are a little ways from the main area.  No hookups here.  People:  Lodging available at the main area or there are the two horse camping sites.

Oleo Ranch, Lake City, CO, oleoranch.com, 281-728-0267

10,500 feet elevation.  There is an old 1800’s stagecoach road bed, local trails and the Colorado Trail and Continental Trail both come through here.  Horses:  free horse corrals, water available.  People:  Seven different cabins to rent with refrigerators and hot water.  No internet or wifi.

Sun Canyon Ranch, Dove Creek, CO, suncanyonranch.com, 970-677-3377

Great riding from the ranch as well as fishing, nearby historic Indian Ruins, Cowboy Supper and Show, and more!  Horses:  Stalls, paddocks, panel pens, pasture and round pen.  People:  Beautiful lodge as well as 12 RV sites with water and electric and 5 tent sites.

Tutor Rose Bed & Breakfast, Salida, CO, thetudorrose.com, 800-379-0889

The Tutor Rose property adjoins BLM land through which you access the Lost Trail, to the new Little Rainbow Trail, to the Rainbow Trail.  Head north or south from here.  Beautiful trail along the east side of the Sangre De Cristo mountains.  Old roads, lakes, mines, and stream crossings over decent footing with some exposed roots and rocks.  Horses:  Various horse accommodations from stalls to paddocks.  People:  Main house with rooms as well as Chalets that sleep up to six.

The Wilderness Cabin, Gunnison County, CO, coloradowildernesscabin.com, 970-527-3010

Trails like Little Robinson Trail #850 and Kaufman Creek Trail #852 are highly rated for beauty and views.  There are some full day rides as well.  Horses:  Metal sectional pens that the owners will reconfigure for you with water near pens.  People:  Large, beautiful three-story lodge with a hot tub plus an additional cabin.

Winding River Resort, Grand Lake, CO, windingriverresort.com, 970-627-3215 or 303-623-1121

Trail ride into Rocky Mountain National Park and there is also forest service land that adjoins one side of the resort that ATV’s can access – bring ATV’s and horses to ride in different areas.  The check in for horses was a bit stringent.  We saw moose every day.  Recommended trails are the River Trail, Green Mountain Trailhead to the Big Meadows Loop, and Onahu Trail all in RMNP.  Pancake breakfast on Sundays.  We went to Grand Lake Lodge that was about 5 minutes away for breakfast one day and a couple dinners in Grand Lake at night.  Horses:  Nice panels pens which can be made larger or smaller with water close by.  We did not see any flies and noticed the wranglers using Fly Predators.  There is a general pen area if you are in a cabin or lodge or pens at your site if you are camping.  People:  Lodge rooms, separate cabins and many campsites available.

Time for Trail Riding!

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”  Winston Churchill

As mountain residents, we enjoy some of the most beautiful trails in the nation to ride our horses on.  Not just a few, but several right in our backyards, not to mention the amazing places all over our state.  Riders down the hill go to a lot of effort just to come to our local trails.  While many local horse people are very comfortable riding local trails, others may need people to ride with or the fear of the unknown keeps them from venturing out.  Some friends moving here from the west coast noted that in California, horse riders are more concentrated into communities, but here we are spread out and it can be difficult to connect.

Margi Evans, author of Riding Colorado I, II & III spoke at the March Intermountain Horse Association meeting.  Not only is she a lovely person, she is a trail blazing dynamo with her large Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods that she also shows in 4th level Dressage.  Trail riders come from all disciplines and use trail riding as a break from the arena or a horses usual job.  Of course it is also a great way to socialize, enjoy riding and Colorado with friends and family.

As trail riders, we hold quite a bit of responsibility in our hands.  Our most important job (other than staying alive) is as horse riding ambassadors to keep the trails and parking lots accessible to our horses and rigs.  It is no secret that the majority of the local trail users are bikers and hikers.  We are the minority, but pedestrians and bikers must yield to us, because plainly, we could be killed if something goes awry.  Hold that privilege and responsibility with appreciation and respect.

Be kind, be aware of your surroundings.  Most bikers and hikers encountered are aware of our frailty and predicament.  As prey animals, horses get a little nervous when encountering fast moving people on wheels and people hiding in bushes ready to pounce on them, not to mention the dog that has been waiting for the chance for a good sniff of a horse.  The majority pull off the trail, stand in a conspicuous place and talk to the horses.  Avoid being rude or bossy.  We need to get along with our fellow trail users.  Start a pleasant conversation with them to get them talking.  Let them know that your horse needs to see and hear them.

Be proactive and aware of your surroundings.  If possible, put the more trail savvy horses at the front and back of your party.  That way if a bike comes up quickly, the horse is less likely to fear it is a mountain lion.  Of course, stay on the trail (unless muddy) and walk while passing other trail users.  If you are on a young horse or one with little trail experience, keep your eyes open and as soon as you see a bike or person, talk to your horse and the person.  If the trail allows, turn your horse toward the person/bike as soon as you notice them so your horse can get a good look at them.  If possible, pony young horses initially off of more experienced horses to get them used to the trails and other users.

Venturing first on more open trails is wise.  Open trails give your horse a chance to see someone coming from a distance.  You can step off the trail and let your horse see the bike coming.  Some open trails under an hour from our area are Bear Creek Lake Park, Chatfield Park, parts of Elk Meadow and Mount Falcon.

Take care of each other and ride to the level of the least experienced horse or rider in your party.  If you want to go on a fitness ride, go out with others with the same goal.  If you are meeting various friends and friends of friends, consider it more social and be flexible.  Although in our mountains, no matter the speed, you and your horse will get a work out.    Get a feel for the other riders and their horses.  If you think you might want to trot, ask everyone in the party if they would be comfortable first.  Then, let them know when you are transitioning back to a walk.  A big no-no in trail riding is to take off at a canter/gallop without warning.  This is very unkind to your fellow riders.  Many a person has been bucked off or taken off with because of such idiocy.

Some of our best local horse trails include Alderfer Three Sisters, Kenosha Pass, Pine Valley Ranch, Elk Meadow Park, Flying J, Beaver Brook Watershed, Mount Evans Wilderness, Gashouse Gulch, Little Scraggy Peak and Miller Gulch.  I recommend going early or later in the day, even after dinner is a great time during our long daylight hours in the summer.  In addition, weekdays can be wonderfully quiet at local parks.

To meet more horse people to ride with, become a member of local groups like Intermountain Horse Association, Jefferson County Horse Council and the Buffalo Bill Saddle Club that has recently been reformed.  Riding horses is one of the most natural ways to experience the beauty and peacefulness of the mountains.  Wildlife are more comfortable with our horses than people on their own and horses can take us places we would struggle to go without them.  Stay safe and enjoy your summer riding around our beautiful state with your horses and friends!

Resources:

Margi Evans’ Riding Colorado I – II and III books are a must have for Colorado trail riders.

ridingcolorado.equineexplorer.com

mtnhomes4horses.com/category/trail_guide

jeffco.us/open-space/parks/

horsechannel.com/horse-news/2013/09/13-trail-etiquette.aspx

Heather McWilliams © 2017

The Heritage Ride comes to Evergreen June 12th!

The Heritage Ride was started in 2013 by the Colorado Horse Council – CHC.  For the first three years it has been held solely at Greenland Open Space in Douglas County with well over 100 riders and spectators in attendance.  This year there will be five Heritage Rides over 2 weekends in Colorado!

If you are new to our area, the Colorado Horse Council was established in 1972 and has been responsible for protecting and promoting the interests of horse enthusiasts throughout the state and nation.  Based on a study done by the American Horse Council in 2005, the horse industry accounts for $1.6 billion of our state economy.  Much of the work done by CHC is on the government level protecting the interests of the equine industry regarding decision making and the passing of laws and regulations.  The role of the CHC is to educate and inform individuals about the equine community, the equine industry and its heritage in the State of Colorado.

Stemming from that heritage is The Heritage Ride.  The three main purposes of the ride are:

  • To PROMOTE the Heritage of the Horse. Rich and meaningful in Colorado, promoting the equine industry requires continual education in the areas of welfare, training, legal responsibility and cultural understanding.
  • To PROTECT the Heritage of the Horse. This encompasses the rights of individuals to enjoy, own and actively use the natural resources and the manmade infrastructure our state has to offer for equestrian activities.
  • To DEVELOP the future Heritage of the Horse. This has a meaningful human and financial impact on our state which includes quality of life components that is inherent in the reasons why people choose to live work, work and play in Colorado.

This year the Colorado Horse Council has set the financial goal for The Heritage Ride at $14,000.  On two different dates and in 5 locations (so far!)  there will be five rides.  The $35 / rider entry fee will directly impact the equine industry in Colorado.  Lunch is included.  There will be vendor booths for perusing and great fellowship with other horse enthusiasts.

The Evergreen Rodeo Association stepped up to host the Jefferson County Heritage Ride in Evergreen the weekend before the Evergreen Rodeo comes to town.  The ride will be starting at the Evergreen Rodeo Grounds and take a “trail boss” guided loop through Elk Meadow Open Space Park.  Vendors and lunch will be back at the rodeo grounds.

The 5 scheduled Heritage Rides are:

  1. Sunday, June 12 at 9am 2-3 hour loop through Elk Meadow. $35 per rider (includes lunch).  Evergreen Rodeo Grounds – 29830 Stagecoach Blvd, Evergreen, Colorado.

The other 4 scheduled rides are the following weekend on Saturday June 18th at 4 locations:

  1. Greenland Open Space – Douglas County, CO
  2. Arapahoe Park – Arapahoe County, CO
  3. Fort Collins
  4. Bennett

 

In addition to riding, there are other ways to support The Heritage Ride.

  • Send a representative from your club to ride along with pledges from the clubs members.
  • Organizations – Reserve a booth and recruit members to provide educational materials.
  • Volunteer to help, even if you are riding!
  • Organize a group of your friends to come out to ride together.
  • Make this your family ride and enjoy networking with other horse folks.
  • Just get out and ride to get your horses ready for the rest of the summer!

 

For more information, registration forms, directions and pledge forms, go to:  ColoradoHorseCouncil.com or text “horses” to “70000”.  Colorado Horse Council, 22 S. 4th Ave #106 Brighton, CO  80601.  303-292-4981.

The following weekend (Father’s Day Weekend!), please join us for the 50th Evergreen Rodeo and Weekend Events! 

Rodeo Weekend Schedule:

Friday Family Fun Night to benefit Tri-County Elks Little Britches- June 17th 3 PM to 10 PM Adults $10, Children 6-12 years $5, Children under 5 Free!

Saturday Parade – 10AM in Downtown Evergreen

Rodeo Performances Saturday & Sunday – June 18th & June 19th 11 AM – Gates Open, 1PM Pre-Show, 2 PM – Rodeo Start, Online ticket prices are $16 for adults, $8 for kids age 6-12, kids 5 and under are free.  Admission is good for either performance.  Online ticket sales close on Thursday, June 16th.  For more information and tickets, go to evergreenrodeo.com.  Volunteers still needed for rodeo weekend – all kinds of fun positions open!  Every 2 hour shift receives a free rodeo ticket.  Please call or email Marty Unger at 303-204-6442 or [email protected]

Heather McWilliams © 2016.

Dawson’s Butte Open Space Trail

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http://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/trails/open-space-trails/dawson-butte-open-space-trail/

This trail ride was a beautiful two hour loop around the base of Dawson’s Butte in the Castle Rock – Sedalia area, 1923 Tomah Road, Castle Rock. You can get there from I-25 or Perry Park Road if you prefer a little more horse country scenery. The footing is good and the ups and downs are gradual. There are over 60 jumps along the trail and in a play area that you come by. Great parking lot for horse trailers & picnic tables at the trailhead.

Chatfield State Park

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Instead of going into the park, we went south from C470 on Wadsworth to park at the Audubon Nature Center on the east side of the Wadsworth. It is just past the turn in to Lockheed Martin. Follow the parking lot to the left and to the back. There is a trail head there as well as a restroom and a decent amount of parking. No fee was required from this entrance.

The footing was very good and the setting gorgeous. We went right at the start and looped back around to the parking lot for about a 2 hour ride.  Several water crossings including part of the Platte River.  Rivers, streams and small lakes.  A whole different view of Chatfield!  Not the part of the park you are probably thinking of.  Gorgeous ride!

Gorgeous Fall Color Ride, September 2014

We took an amazing ride up York Gulch which is off of Fall River Road in Idaho Springs.  The colors were the most amazing I can remember and the fiery reds were stunning.  We went with a local resident who knew the roads and could cut through some private property, but if you look on a map of the area, there are marked roads over to Black Hawk and Central City.  This is not the place to go on the weekend with horses we heard because it is very popular for dirt bikes and ATV’s.  Enjoy the leaves!

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Mount Falcon State Park, Indian Hills

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Trail Ride:  Mount Falcon State Park

Near:  Evergreen, Indian Hills, Morrison

Website:  Parking, map and more – http://jeffco.us/parks/parks-and-trails/mount-falcon-park/

Notes:  For our first planned ride this season we met at Hilltop Stable in Indian Hills and rode the 10 minutes up to Mount Falcon. The footing is very good for most of the trail and the views of the front range, red rocks and everything else you can see from this vantage point were AMAZING! A few bikes, but mostly hikers. The horses were excellent ambassadors. Restrooms along the way. There are several loop combinations you could do here.

 

Staunton State Park, Pine

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Trail Ride:  Staunton State Park

Near:  Pine, Conifer, not far off of Hwy 285

Website:http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Staunton

Notes:  Riding in the new Staunton State Park. We took the Staunton Ranch Trail to Bugling Elk to Lions Back. Once you get to the Elk Falls Overlook, you need to tie your horse and hike the last 250 feet to see the falls, which are a ways off, but very beautiful. Just over 10 miles round trip. It is not a loop. The footing is excellent for the most part and the trails are 2-3 horse wide. The horse trailer parking is just by the overflow parking. The flowers here were amazing and it seems to be a fairly lush area for our climate.

 

Old Cow Town Colorado in Saguache

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We took the horses for a long weekend to Old Cow Town Colorado in Saguache, Colorado. We had 3 friends that shared a cabin, we stayed in the hotel and 4 stayed in campers. They have several options for the horses from indoor stalls and outdoor pens to large outdoor paddocks. The outdoor arena had nice footing as well. This place is ~340 acres and surrounded by National Forest so you can ride about anywhere for as long as you like. The views are expansive and beautiful. Footing on the trails varies with the trail.

Cell reception is not good, but the wifi at the hotel works well. The town of Saguache is about a 15-20 minute drive if you need to make some business calls.

The original owner put 6-8 million into the place in the early-mid 2000’s so it is fairly new. He also put a lot of nice detail into it like copper ceilings, detailed trim, a boardwalk, woodwork and more. There is a great carriage museum, a dance hall, livery stable, barn, social club/hotel, outdoor amphitheatre, saloon/restaurant and general store, just like an old west town. They offer putt putt golf, Stagecoach or pony wagon rides and have a few horses you can rent out. The owners, Dave and his wife Joanne are some of the hardest working people you have seen and keep the place looking great. They can accommodate weddings, as well as small or large parties.

The social club/hotel is great for a group with all of the rooms surrounding a general area with a TV and pool table. They offer continental breakfast and have a coffee maker and refrigerator in the rooms.

We ate at the saloon every night, which was pretty good considering it is hard to run a restaurant when you never know who will be there. They also had a great local band on Saturday night.

We had an amazing time riding trails during the day, messing around in the arena at night, meeting great new people and sitting around the fire looking at the stars. We met other riders that travel the northern parts during the summer to escape the southern heat. It is 3.5-4 hours from our area.   I would recommend getting topo maps and getting a sense of where you might want to go ride.  We could not find the trails using the map provided by the facility, but we still enjoyed wandering around and being surrounded by the gorgeous scenery.  Highly recommended horsey destination!!!
www.oldcowtowncolorado.com

Bear Creek Lake Park

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Trail Ride:  Bear Creek Lake Park

Near:  Downtown Morrison.  Enter park at the southeast corner of Morrison Road and c-470 (Hwy 74 coming down from Evergreen through Kittredge and Ideldale) – considered to be in Lakewood.

Website:  www.lakewood.org/bclp/

Address & Map Link:  15600 W. Morrison Rd.  Lakewood, CO 80465

Notes:  A lot of flat area to ride, some hills if you choose, many options for loops and routes, some water crossings if you choose, but alternative routes to avoid.