We know you love to trail ride on your own beloved trail mount. But for a change of pace, consider a vacation where an attentive staff takes you riding all day, then pampers you at night. Such places cater to all your needs, plus offer a wide range of activities for you and/or your traveling companions.
Here, we give you the lowdown on 10 incredible riding vacations from coast-to-coast, plus Canada and Mexico. We looked for top-notch trail horses and riding programs, plus luxury accommodations and gourmet dining.
Plus, each destination also has one particular bonus offering that sets it apart from the rest. A few even allow you to bring your own horse, if you just can't bear to part with your equine buddy.
Along the way, you'll find information on Equitrekking's new travel service, plus a handy resource guide to riding-vacation resources.?
Alisal Guest Ranch?
Location: Solvang, California, in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara wine country.?
Overview: The Alisal has been a working cattle ranch since 1810 and has been a guest ranch since 1946. Raimundo Carrillo owned the ranch as part of a Spanish Land Grant in 1843.
What sets it apart: The Round-Up Vacation Package, offered from early September to early June. Riding, unlimited golf, access to the fitness center/spa, tennis, and fishing are included in the regular price of the room. This package applies to only two people per room and is nontransferable.?
Your hosts: Joan and Palmer Jackson.?
The horses: The ranch herd is made up of Quarter Horses that are purchased by head wrangler Tony Thompson. All horse care is done on-site at Alisal, from shoeing to veterinary needs.
The trails/scenery: You'll ride on more than 50 miles of scenic Southern California trails, much of it on untouched natural land. Advanced riders can go on longer rides through the ranch's 10,000 acres. Wildlife includes bald eagles and deer.?
Accommodations: Seventy-three ranch-style accommodations, all with outdoor patios and working fireplaces. No telephones or televisions are provided, but you'll have access to free wi-fi throughout the ranch.??
Season: Open all year. Best times to go are April/May and September/October.?
Horses for sale? No.
Contact: Alisal Guest Ranch, 1054 Alisal Rd., Solvang, CA 93463; (800) 4-ALISAL [425-4725] or (805) 688-6411; www.alisal.com.??
Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch?
Location: Sasabe, Arizona, in the high Sonoran Desert near Tucson.?
Overview: The ranch was first settled in the late 1600s.? A mission outpost was built on the ranch to service the horses of the Spanish missionaries.?In about 1917, Poncho Villa attempted to take over the ranch; you can still see several cannonballs that were imbedded in the Hacienda from the skirmish.
What sets it apart: The ranch is surrounded by 130,000 acres of wildlife refuge.??
Your hosts: Veronica and Richard Schultz.
The horses: Quarter Horses; a few draft horses.
The trails/scenery: Mountain and grassland riding through the Sonoran Desert.?
Accommodations: Eight guests rooms built from 1880 to 1929.?All have modern amenities, private baths, and fireplaces.
Season: October to June.
Horses for sale? Yes, as long as they stay in the Southwest.
Contact: Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, P.O. Box 1, Sasabe, AZ 85633; (800)
872-6240 or(520) 823-4257; www.rancho delaosa.com.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION
Devil's Thumb Ranch
Location: Tabernash, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains about 65 miles from Denver.?
Overview: This 5,000-acre ranch was first established in 1938, and is self-sustainable, with less than two percent of the land in use for buildings and facilities. The remaining acreage is tucked away in a land trust.
What sets it apart: The ranch is surrounded by 5,000-plus acres of privately owned wilderness.
Your hosts: Garth and Jill Eichler, the managers of Cabin Creek Stables.??
The horses: Forty-plus, from ponies to draft horses. Each horse is individually selected and trained by the staff at Cabin Creek Stables, the on-site horse facility. Rides are tailored for all ability levels (ages 7 on up), with particular emphasis on horsemanship and riding skills.
The trails/scenery: More than 65 miles of trails on 5,000-plus acres of privately owned wilderness, offering a range of wide open meadows to mountain climbs that provide scenic vistas of the Fraser Valley and Continental Divide.
Accommodations: A52-room main lodge at the base area offers oversized guest rooms with balcony and fireplace options, as well as suites. Sixteen ridgetop log cabins, all with kitchens and living/dining areas, provide added privacy; the cabins are close to Cabin Creek Stables. The main lodge walls are made from beetle-kill pine, with recycled-spruce for flooring. Scandinavian, European, and Western antiques adorn the lodge and cabins.?
Season: Open year-round. Trail riding is available May to October, weather permitting.
Horses for sale? On occasion.??
Contact: Devil's Thumb Ranch, 3530 County Rd. 83, Tabernash, CO 80478;
(800) 933-4339 or (970) 726-5632; www.devilsthumbranch.com.
Triple Creek Ranch?
Location: Darby, Montana, in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by national forest.
Overview: A member of the prestigious Relais & Ch?teaux, Triple Creek Ranch offers rustic elegance in a mountain retreat featuring?private log cabins and a comfortable lodge. Here, adult travelers enjoy incomparable scenery, wildlife, outdoor activities, and a collection of Western-inspired art.
What sets it apart: A world-class restaurant and paramount wine cellar.
Your hosts: General managers Bill and Leslie McConnell
The horses: The ranch has more than 30 head of riding horses geared to any riding level. Horse and rider are paired according to personality, the rider's experience, and the activity in which the guest is participating.?Or, you can bring your own horse.
The trails/scenery: You may choose between riding the mountainous trails on the ranch guided by a Triple Creek Ranch wrangler or off-ranch guided cattle drives. Trails feature mountain vistas. Wildlife includes elk, deer, bald eagles, golden eagles, waterfowl, and an occasional rare glimpse of a wolf, mountain lion, or coyote. For the extreme in backcountry riding, sign up for the one-day trip into the untouched Selway Wilderness valley.??
Accommodations: The ranch offers 23 luxurious log cabins, most with private outdoor hot tubs. All feature wood-burning fireplaces, king beds, a fully stocked wet bar, fresh homemade cookies and trail mix, air conditioning, refrigerator, telephones, wi-fi, and flat-screen televisions. Season: May 1 through October 31; December 15 through February 28.?Closed November, March, and April
Horses for sale? No.
Contact: Triple Creek Ranch, 5551 West Fork Rd., Darby, MT 59829; (800) 654-2943 or (406) 821-4600; www.triplecreekranch.com.
Bar W Guest Ranch?
Location: Just outside of Whitefish, Montana, about 14 miles from Kalispell.
Overview: Situated at the base of Spencer Mountain, tucked against the peaks of Glacier National Park, the ranch offers beautiful vistas and rolling ridges.? The ranch consists of a 6,200-square-foot lodge, cabin suites, indoor and outdoor horseback-riding arenas, stables, a barn, play meadow, an entertainment area, and a gazebo on the lake. The ranch's riding program is the main attraction. There are 3,000 acres available for trail riding.?
What sets it apart: Cattle drives with the Blackfeet Indians.
Your hosts: General managers Ashley Arment and Andrew Weaver, and owners Dave and Janet Leishman.
The horses: Fifty-five head of horses for all levels of riding. You can also bring your own horse.
The trails/scenery: You're permitted to ride on a million acres, so you'll find a wide variety of terrain, from prairies and wide open spaces to mountain trails.?
Accommodations: The ranch offers a blended elegance with Old West authenticity to create an atmosphere that truly comforts. Can sleep up to 44 guests at the ranch - most weeks there are 25 to 30 guests.
Season: Open year-round. Sleigh rides offered in winter.
Horses for sale? No.
Contact: Bar W Guest Ranch, 2875 Highway 93 West, Whitefish, MT 59937; (866) 828-2900 or (406)
863-9099; www.the barw.com.?
Heartland Country Resort?
Location: Located in the rolling countryside of eastern Morrow County, Ohio, an hour north of Columbus, Ohio.?
Overview: This resort is a luxury bed & breakfast located in the heart of nature. It has received an A+ rating from the American Bed and Breakfast Association and has been named the Best Horse Lover's Inn.?
What sets it apart: The resort recognizes the importance of the green movement and protecting the environment. All buildings are equipped with geothermal heating and cooling units to conserve energy. Fresh produce and eggs are grown and served onsite.?
Your hosts: Dorene Henschen, proprietor; Shelly Mrozik, stables manager; and Angela Wild, bed & breakfast manager.
The horses: Primarily Quarter Horses. Resort horses are used for trail riding, Western and English riding lessons, and local horse shows. Or, you can bring your own horse.
The trails/scenery: You'll find wooded trails with stream crossings. Spring wildflowers and tall, late-summer wildflowers add color against the green trees. You can ride on ranch property, and take day rides to Mohican State Park and Malabar Farm State Park.
Accommodations: Luxury log home suites with living rooms, log walls and beams, cathedral ceilings, a spa for two, fireplaces, private porches with comfortable swings, kitchens or kitchenettes, and soft robes.?
Season: Open year round.
Horses for sale? Yes, in the fall.
Contact: Heartland Country Resort, 3020 Township Rd. 190, Fredericktown, OH 43019; (800) 230-7030; www.heartland? countryresort.com?
?Asheville, North Carolina, on the estate once owned by railroad magnate George Vanderbilt.
Overview: Built in 1895, the 8,000-acre Biltmore estate is surrounded by mountains and gardens, and is still family-owned. A 250-room French chateau and historic farm are among the attractions.
What sets it apart: Antler Village and Winery, featuring shopping and wine-tasting.
Your hosts: The Deerpark Trail and Carriage Barn, and the Biltmore Equestrian Center.
The horses: Quarter Horses and draft crosses. The carriage horses are Belgians. The ranch also offers a 12-seat coach for group rides and private trail rides. At the Equestrian Center, private or group English lessons are available. You can also bring your own horse.
The trails/scenery: You can ride on more than 80 miles of estate trails. These are the same paths used by the Vanderbilts and their guests at the turn of the century. Enjoy wide, well-marked trails through pristine forests, green pastures, and along the banks of the French Broad River. You'll also glimpse stunning views of Biltmore House.
Accommodations: The luxurious Inn on Biltmore Estate, or primitive camping in your trailer. Paddocks and stalls are available for your horse.
Horses for sale? Yes.
Contact: Biltmore, 1 Approach Rd., Asheville, NC 28803; (800) 411-3812 or 828-225-1333; http://www.biltmore.com/.??
The Mountaintop Inn & Resort
Location: Chittenden, in the Green Mountains of central Vermont.
Overview: This resort offers a riding program unique to the Northeast because of its location in the Green Mountains. This location lends itself to spectacular rides with breathtaking views and vistas overlooking the sparkling lake and mountains.
What sets it apart: Brilliant foliage from June through October.?
Your hosts: Louise Bienieki, stable manager, and her skilled staff.
The horses: Primarily Quarter Horse and Quarter Horse crosses with a few drafts and draft crosses.?You can also bring your own horse.?
The trails/scenery: Situated on the resort's 350 acres and adjacent to the vast acres of the Green Mountain National Forest, the inn enables you to access miles of trails.?Approximately 40 miles of scenic riding trails traverse the mountains.?In late fall, you can view remains of the original settlement of Chittenden, while riding in the Green Mountain National Forest.?
Accommodations: The Lodge offers 30 guest rooms overlooking the lake and mountains. The resort also has five pet-friendly cabins and a selection of private chalet homes that can accommodate from 2 to 18 guests.
Season: The resort is open year-round; the equestrian program operates June through October.
Horses for sale? No.
Contact: The Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Rd., Chittenden, VT 05737; (802) 483-2311; www.mountaintop inn.com.
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa
Location: In the mountains, near Jesmond, British Columbia.
Overview: This 160-acre working cattle ranch is surrounded by desert canyons, glaciers, rugged mountains, and lush, green valleys. The area has a rich Native American and gold-rush heritage.??
What sets it apart: This ranch is set amid four distinctly different geographic regions known as biomes, enabling guests to experience diverse terrain.
Your hosts: Norm and Nan Dove, owners.
The horses: A variety of breeds, including Quarter Horses and Tennessee Walking Horses. You can also bring your own horse, but make sure you have all your papers in order if you'll be traveling across the border, both into Canada and back to the United States.
The trails/scenery: Trail terrain is diverse, ranging from mountains, forests, and open grasslands to desert canyons with sagebrush and cactus.
Accommodations: Echo Valley offers a range of options, from standard to premium rooms (some with lofts), deluxe cabins (some with lofts and one two-bedroom cabin), and the luxurious Baan Thai Suite.
Season: ?April 1 to November 1, and during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period.
Horses for sale? No.
Contact: Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, P.O. Box 916, Clinton, Jesmond, B.C. V0K 1K0
Canada; (800) 253-8831 or (604) 988-3230; www.evranch.com.
Rancho Las Cascadas
Location: 7,500 feet above sea level on a mountain plateau just 90 minutes north of Mexico City.
Overview: Bordered by three waterfalls (cascadas), this resort is made up of several buildings, all in Mexican style, set in beautifully tended gardens. Facilities include a lounge and library, a conservatory, bar, billiard table, and the heart of any Mexican home, an open kitchen. Overlooking the waterfalls is the sun terrace, decked with loungers, surrounding a hot tub.??
What sets it apart: A spa room offering massage, and other health and beauty treatments.
Your host: Uschi Wiprachtiger Schreyer. Swiss-born, he's lived and worked in Mexico for more than 20 years.
The horses: The ranch has 27 horses, including Criollos, Aztecas, and Quarter Horses. Horses are trained and shod to provide a perfect, surefooted ride for every level of rider and terrain. The tack is charro style. You can bring your own horse, but make sure you have all your papers in order if you'll be traveling across the border, both into Mexico and back to the United States.
The trails/scenery: The countryside is varied, offering mountains, hills, lakes, canals, rivers, canyons, fields, and more. Rides can be between two to eight hours long.
Accommodations: Rooms are decorated in a traditional Mexican style, with colorful furnishings and locally crafted tiles and furniture. There are standard and deluxe rooms available and rooms can be single, twin, or king size, as requested. You'll have access to an infinity pool with spa, sun terrace, bar, and lounge.
Season: Year-round. Special times of year ? such as Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, the Day of the Dead, and Valentine's Day ? offer a truly memorable stay.
Horses for sale? Occasionally.
Contact: Rancho Las Cascadas, San Francisco Soyaniquilpan de Juarez, San Agustin Buenavista, C.P. 54280, Mexico; +52 155 1070 2080 or +52 155 3069 6670; www.ranchomex.com.