Horseback Riding in the Rockies

Ben and Annette horseback riding

One of the highlights of the trip to Colorado was our horseback riding adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Jackson Stables at YMCA Camp

We'd been talking about taking a horseback ride all summer. We made the decision to go and once again chose the Jackson Stables at the YMCA of the Rockies down the road from our RV park. They have 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-hour and all-day trail rides. We arrived early in the morning for the 5-hour Bierstadt Lake ride.

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Since we were the only three people signed up for this ride, it was a great adventure. After paying our money and signing the waiver, we were each assigned a horse and given standard safety instructions. We were soon on our way down the trail.


Horseback ridingBierstadt Lake Ride

Annette and Larry had been on this ride the last time they were in the area. We liked the length of the ride and the varied scenery.

After riding through Glacier Basin and across a meadow, the three of us plus our guide headed up the mountain into an Aspen grove.

It wasn't long before we'd made enough elevation gain that we could see snow along the trail. We stopped for a brief rest, then headed toward the lake.

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A Little Lost?

Is it possible to be a "little lost"? Or, when you're lost, you're lost? Let's just say that we had some routing problems after our rest stop. This was the first time our young guide (above left) had led a group along this trail. We missed a turnoff and ended up part of the way up a mountain area used for wilderness camping. Luckily, we all knew enough about horses to turn around and make our way through the trees and back to our trail. Unfortunately, our guide's horse became a little testy after this experience and didn't want to continue. Our guide ended up trading horses with Larry which was fine because Larry's horse was a rough ride.

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The Long Way Around

After we were back on the trail for a while, our guide once again became a little concerned about directions. At this point we wondered why they didn't just provide guides a GPS device to double check their progress. Instead, he used his 2-way radio to check which direction we should head around the lake.

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Bierstadt Lake

After crossing several streams and making a few wrong turns, we made it to our destination - a pretty little mountain lake named Bierstadt Lake after the famous Rocky Mountain artist.

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Horseback ridingOnce again we stopped for a break. We took personal breaks and then enjoyed the beauty of the mountain lake.

We also got out the water, crackers, and peanut butter.

The Trip Down

After leaving the lake and taking a short ride through the woods, we emerged to see a spectacular view of the mountains. One of the highlights of this ride is the winding trail down the mountain face.



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The trail down the mountainside involved a series of steep, narrow switchbacks. Since we'd been writing for a while, we were confident in the surefooted ability of our horses.

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A Storm Rolls In

Near the bottom it was evident that a storm was rolling in. Luckily, each horse had a slicker tied to its saddle, so we made a quick stop to don the bright yellow raincoats. After crossing the river into Glacier Basin area it began to rain. It was slow going for a while because we ended up behind a large group of beginning riders from another group. When the storm became severe, we decided to stop in some trees. After the thunder, lightning, and hail subsided, we continued our adventure.

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Close to Home and Still Lost

We were already way behind schedule from earlier off-trail adventures and hail delays, but we were in for one last adventure. After getting back on the trail at the end of the storm, we apparently once again took the wrong fork. This time we were headed toward Wind River, which would have taken us another couple hours in the wrong direction. Luckily, a seasoned guide had been sent out to make sure we made it in. He came to the rescue and turned us around before getting more than a half mile down the wrong trail.

Although we were damp, tired, and a bit saddle sore when we got back to the stable, we were laughing and joking with our guides. Even Ben who had limited riding experience had a wonderful time and proved himself a real trooper.

Our 5-hour ride ended up as a 7-hour expedition, but it was truly an adventure we'll remember!

Created by Annette Lamb, 6/05.