For Mother’s Day last year, my family gifted me with a trail ride. About the only thing that might equal hiking in my favorite national park, would be riding horses in Rocky Mountain National Park. They chose the six-hour trail ride for me, as it was billed to pass rapids, waterfalls and give me the opportunity to lunch at Fern Lake. The adventure did not disappoint. We picked a perfect day for our ride–couldn’t have asked for better weather.
We reserved our ride through Hi Country Stables (the official horse provider for the park) for Memorial Day weekend. It’s about a two-hour drive to the park for us, but it’s a beautiful drive so we headed out early to give ourselves time to enjoy the scenery on our first trip this year to Rocky Mountain.
The staff at Hi Country were great and we were able to get saddled up and going right away. They provide saddlebags so you don’t have to ride with a backpack. Be sure and bring water–we each brought a couple of bottles and drank it all–and if it’s a longer ride, don’t forget your lunch. They also provided us with a smaller bag that went over the saddle horn that we could put a smaller camera into.
Our guide Rachel was great. she was new to the park, so she got to see some of the scenery for the first time, along with us.
The Fern Lake trail is beautiful. It’s about 7 miles round trip to Fern Lake. On the way, you pass through “The Pool” and the trail gets much less crowded after that. Yes, we did share the trail with hikers. There aren’t separate horse trails, but horses also aren’t able to go on all the trails. Our horses were very mild mannered, not easily spooked, or prone to hi-jinks. My husband had a horse named Maddie. I rode Pinkerton, who was apparently much larger than I realized because people kept telling me how large he was. While I am not an inexperienced rider, it has been several years since I’ve been on a horse, and I definitely felt it the next day.
He definitely had a personality. It turned out he apparently wasn’t fond of stepping down off the rock cuts (think stairs only they’re rocks). As we got to each “step” he would stop, and then he would hop off the rock. My guide thought it was cute, and I’m sure it was. My backside felt differently about it after about a dozen hops. Other than that and a desire to graze, we got along great.
The scenery was, of course, spectacular, and Fern Falls did not disappoint. It was the one place that was a little crowded, so we didn’t really stop there, but that’s ok; now I have an excuse to go hike it again. We got a few snowbanks up at Fern Lake, but at 9500 feet that’s not really a surprise. Another hiker told us that the lake had just thawed, and that there was still ice on it the week before. I guess we timed our trip well.
By the end of the day, I was ready to get off the horse. After a couple days of saddle soreness, I am ready for another adventure.
If you’re looking for a fun and different way to experience Rocky Mountain National Park, I highly recommend a trail ride with Hi Country Stables. They have two stables in the park and offer rides from 30 minutes to all day. Riding horses in Rocky Mountain National Park was a great way to spend my Memorial Day weekend, and a fun way to see a part of the park I hadn’t yet visited.