Travel through a Kid's Eye

Pack Llama Trips: Family Fun on the Trail

Pack trips give families the luxury of being able to experience the pleasure of wilderness backpacking without having to carry heavy loads up steep trails. Moreover, the added carrying capacity of pack animals lets you bring along all those special items needed to keep your kids happy and healthy—medications, coloring books, even teddy bears. Novel and comfortable, Llama treks are particularly appealing to families with young children because llamas have gentle dispositions and can be handled easily by small fry, unlike pack horses and mules. Kids love the animals. The "user-friendly" nature of llamas makes it easy for children to lead and care for the animals throughout the trek. On many a backcountry llama trek, youngsters will tell you that making friends with their llama was the highlight of their holiday. Combine hiking with a petting zoo and you understand the appeal.
For one of the best llama trips, head into the Pecos Wilderness on the southern boundary of the Rocky Mountains in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The mild climate in this area supports lush aspen forests and wildflower meadows—and a long four-month pack season that makes scheduling easier than in northern destinations. A trained naturalist guide will help you track wildlife (bighorn sheep, elk, and wild turkeys), identify wildflowers, and fly-fish in mountain trout streams.

In July and August, there are several special combo mountain-and-lake trips especially for families. The first three days are spent on a llama trek along the Wild River into the White Mountain National Forest. Each child guides his or her own llama. Trekkers sleep in base camps for two nights, returning on the third night to the 100-year old deluxe lodge. The remaining three days are spent canoeing on the Richardson Lakes.
Yellowstone National Park also has some outstanding llama trips that cruise through backcountry and nearby Montana mountain ranges. Along the way children can fish, identify animal tracks, look for mountain goats, and watch eagles.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness Area of northeast Oregon is another favorite destination for the llama-bound. Family trips use a base camp format with day treks into the backcountry, so you don't have to set up camp every day. This makes it easier to spend more quality time with your kids while enjoying the staggering scenery of the surrounding countryside.
Practically Speaking
Trips in New Mexico run around $700 per adult, or $650 for kids age 10-16. The combo mountain and lake trip through the White Mountains in Montana last for six days for $900 for adults, $750 for kids under 12. A three-day llama trip costs $500 for adults, $450 for children.
Most Yellowstone trips operate on a daily rate, around $175 per adult and $150 per day for children 12 and under. These trips are suitable for families whose children, five years or older, can handle hikes at least three miles at a stretch.
For those anxious for a little respite before and after the vacation, the Eagle Cap llama trip offers the opportunity to arrange for an overnight stay at a local bed and breakfast. Customized trips can also be arranged for families as long as children can hike four to eight miles of easy to moderate terrain. Six-day trips run around $7000 for adults, $6000 for kids 6-18.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 16 Mar 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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