Saddle Up: The Top Riding Destinations
Colorado is among the premier places in North America for a horsepacking adventure. Here you will find abundant wildlife, beautiful alpine scenery, and trails that are less heavily traveled than those in the Sierra, the Tetons, or in some other well-known areas of the country.
One of the best solutions is the Rapp Guide Service (3635 Country Road, Durango, CO 81301. 877.600.2656 or 970.375.1250 or 247.8923. www.rappguides.com). Owner and cheeif guide Jerry Rapp take small groups (typically six riders) to a number of less-traveled destinations in the San Juan National Forest. The loop through Silver Mesa and the Needle Mountain Range is a six-day journey in which you travel over rugged and dramatic mountains, cross two 11,000-foot passes, and spend 80 percent of the time above timberline. Cost is about $1,300.
The Rapps' premier pack trip is a five- to six-day Continental Divide tour. From the trailhead east of Silverton, you ride along the Continental Divide to a remote alpine valley, home to large herds of elk. Five days are spent at two different high camps before the group returns by rail to Durango. The $1,200 cost is substantial, but people rave about the scenery, the wildlife, and the well-trained horses. For gourmet pack trips make reservations early because those trips fill up quickly.
Another recommended operation is the Bear Basin Ranch in south-central Colorado. Guides Amy Finger and Gary Ziegler, trained naturalists and former Outward Bound instructors, lead three- and five-day pack trips into the rugged Sangre de Cristo range. Behind these razor-edged peaks lies a little-visited world of alpine meadows, shimmering lakes and countless miles of trails ideal for horsepacking. Finger and Ziegler specialize in custom trips on seldom-used routes. Their Ultimate Pack Trip follows game trails into incredibly remote areas. On all trips, they teach wilderness skills, saddling technique, and orienteering. To make reservations, contact American Wilderness Experience (P.O. Box 1486, Boulder, CO 80306, 800.444.0099 or 303.444.2622. www.awetrips.com).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication