Horseback Riding in Rocky Mountain National Park: Trails & Tips

Pep Dekker

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The use of horses in Rocky Mountain National Park has a rich and storied history. In the present day, horseback riding is a fun, authentic activity you don’t want to miss out on while visiting the area!

Horseback riding provides a unique way of exploring the park and adds an exciting element to an otherwise run-of-the-mill sightseeing excursion. 

You’ll be able to tell your friends that not only did you enjoy all the Park had to offer – but that you did it on horseback, too!

In fact, there are so many different trails and stables that’ll take you through the terrain that you may be overwhelmed by all the options! In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • All the places that offer horseback riding through or around Rocky Mountain National Park
  • The best trails to experience on horseback
  • Some tips for the best possible horse riding experience.

Let’s get into it!

Where to Go Horseback Riding in Rocky Mountain National Park

The best thing about exploring the national park on horseback is that there are so many great options available! All of the business below will get you up close and personal with the your own trusty steed, ready to explore nature: 

Hi Country Stables / Glacier Creek

Address: 1000 Sprague Lake Road, Estes Park

“Enjoy the scenery at over 8,688ft from the comfort of horseback.”

This is the only stable on this list that’s located inside Rocky Mountain National Park! Hi Country Stables offers a range of trails with different lengths and difficulties, so it’s more than capable of catering to both beginners and advanced riders alike.

The stables are located past the Beaver Meadows Park Entrance, near Sprague Lake. Just follow the signs pointing you to the “Glacier Creek” stables.

And if horseback riding isn’t enough, booking any ride even gives you  free, timed entry into the park. You don’t have to worry about purchasing a separate pass just to get in!

The stable’s season generally runs from mid-May to fall, so there’s plenty of time for you to experience horseback riding with them.

Offerings:

  • 2-Hour Tour: Easy Trail – For beginners and kids under 14
  • 3-Hour Tour: Medium trail – Recommended for ages 14 and up
  • 5-Hour Tour: Advanced trail – Features steep terrain that’s not suitable for beginners.

National Park Gateway Stables

Address: 4600 Fall River Road, Estes Park

“Be a Cowboy for an Hour or a Day.”

National Park Gateway Stables is another popular option if you’re looking for a more relaxed stroll to take in all of the sights. 

Located at the Fall River Entrance/North Entrance, the stable’s tours explore the area around Deer Mountain, Aspen Glen, Lil Horseshoe Park, and Hidden Meadows. 

Raring to go on more adventures? Take the advanced ride and let the horse bring you to the summit of Deer Mountain!

With a variety of tour options, it’s no surprise that this stable is very popular with families and groups.

Offerings:

  • Pony rides for little kids
  • 2-hour ride: Good for all ages/skill levels
  • 3-hour ride: Good for school-age kids
  • 4-hour, half-day ride: Good for any skill level and older kids
  • 6-hour ride: To the summit of Deer Mountain. Good for any skill level
  • 7-hour ride: More advanced skill level required
  • Full-day ride: Takes you to Ypsilon Lake or Lawn Lake and lasts up to nine hours. This is for advanced horse riders.

Sombrero Stables

Address: 1895 Big Thompson Avenue, Estes Park

“Come ride with us!”

Sombrero Stables has the admirable goal of preserving the old Western World. That’s why they offer a unique “Cowboy Experience” where riders can learn the ins and outs of cowboy life!

Located right in the heart of Estes Park, the stables’ rides will take you to the best sights around the national park. Or, if wandering around town on horseback is more up your alley – that’s an option too!

Offerings:

  • Estes 1-hour ride
  • Estes 2-hour ride
  • 30-minute ride
  • The Cowboy Experience
  • Private 2-hour ride.

Jackson Stables

Address: 9500 2515 Tunnel Road, Estes Park

If you’d like to enjoy horseback riding on private property, why not go to Jackson Stables

This stable is hosted by the YMCA of the Rockies, so you’ll be treading through the national park straight from the YMCA grounds!

They also stand out from the others due to the number of options they have with their rides — there’s truly something for everyone.

Offerings:

  • Pony rides for kids 5 years and under
  • 1-hour ride to Deer Meadows or Glacier Basin
  • 2-hour ride to Emerald Mountain or Moraine Park
  • 3-hour ride to Beaver Meadows, East Portal, or Mill Creek
  • 4-hour ride to Wind River
  • 5-hour ride to Bierstadt Lake
  • All-day rides.

Winding River Resort

Address: 1447 County Road 491, Grand Lake

For that unparalleled wilderness feel, Winding River Resort is a great option! This family-oriented campground also has the benefit of being the national park’s neighbor and sitting right beside the Grand Lake.

They offer trail rides through the national park along the Colorado River seasonally from Memorial Weekend until October. Check out their tour offerings below:

  • 30-minute pony ride
  • 1-hour ride
  • 2-hour ride.

Meeker Park Stables

Address: 11733 CO Highway 7, Allenspark

Connected to Meeker Park Lodge, the stable offers seasonal trail rides from Memorial Day weekend through September. 

There are many short rides scheduled throughout the day, so it’s the perfect choice for those who are short on time!

Despite the shortness of its rides, Meeker Park Stables takes you to see some of the best sights you’ll find on horseback. 

Rides will take you to the national park itself or the Roosevelt National Forest — whatever you decide.

Offerings:

  • 1-hour ride to Mountain Meadow, beginner
  • 1.5-hour ride to Horsetooth, beginner
  • 2-hour ride to Horse Creek, beginner
  • 2-hour ride to Deer Ridge, intermediate.

Elkhorn Stables

Address: 6120 CO Highway 7, Estes Park

“A ride above the rest.”

If you want a great way to spend time with your family, check out Elkhorn Stables! This family-oriented stable offers plenty of scenic ride options through the Rockies, making it one of the best options out there.

Their trail rides accommodate up to 15 participants, and there’s also a range of options that last between one and two hours. You can even book a private ride to really take it all in!

Offerings:

  • 1-Hour Guided Ride
  • 1-Hour Private Ride
  • 1-Hour Advanced Ride
  • 2-Hour Guided Ride
  • 2-Hour Private Ride.

Best Horseback Riding Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Now that we’ve gone through a selection of the places that offer horseback riding, let’s look at some of the most picturesque trails you can find!

Please note that you should always check availability on official websites, as well as current closures and conditions to avoid disappointment.

Glacier Basin Trail

The Glacier Basin Trail takes you west up Glacier Basin, along slightly steep terrain. At 5 miles, hiking through this trail will take about 2.5 hours (on horse, it’ll be slightly faster)! 

Along the way, expect to see plenty of lush wildflowers and scenic views of waterfalls and rivers. The timing will be slightly different depending on the ride you choose, and generally, this is seen as a beginner-friendly ride.

Moraine Park Loop

The Moraine Park Loop is known as the best trail to observe wildlife! It takes you around Moraine Park, a beautiful glacial moraine covered in wildflowers and teeming with nature. 

The trail itself is just 3 miles long, so you’ll complete the loop in less than an hour and a half. It’s also very beginner-friendly and suitable for the whole family!

Cub Lake Trail

If you want to check out some of Colorado’s best creeks, ride the Cub Lake Trail! This 2.3-mile path takes you straight to Cub Lake and offers scenic lake views and ample opportunties to spot wildlife. 

The trail begins in the Moraine Park area and takes you around Fern Lake and through open valleys. Secret tip: visit during wintertime and enjoy the trail’s popular alpine views!

Fern Lake Trail

Craving a longer ride with a wealth of awe-inspiring sights? Trek the Fern Lake Trail! 

At over 7.5 miles long, this path is similar to the Cub Lake Trail, but it takes you to Fern Lake instead as its endpoint. Bring your camera with you and make sure to snap some enviable, Instagram-worthy photos while on horseback!

East Portal Trail

The East Portal Trail is a short but sweet path that takes you through dense forests surrounded by dramatic canyons. Being less than a mile long, this one’s perfect for a more leisurely time on horseback or even a nice hike! 

Once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy stunning mountain views that are hard to come by anywhere else.

North Inlet and Tonahutu Creek Loop

If you have some time on your hands, check out the North Inlet and Tonahutu Creek Loop! 

The entire stretch is almost 26 miles long and takes you through the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s a popular destination for backpackers, but who says you can’t enjoy it on horseback as well? 

Experience lush grass, rocky creeks, imposing rock formations, and more as you make your way around the mountain!

Tips for Horseback Riding in Rocky Mountain National Park

So, are you ready to explore the Rockies on horseback? Here are some more tips for the most unforgettable time ever!

Come Prepared

The first thing you need to do is come prepared. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your expectations – and especially about your skill level. This way, experienced stable staff can match you with the safest route or ride.

If you’re going for a longer trip, come prepared for the day! Bring your positive attitude and a snack for the road. A water bottle is also an essential addition to any ride.

Wear the Right Clothes

Don’t just stand in front of the mirror deciding if the outfit’s cute; make sure you wear the right clothing too! 

Like other high-elevation destinations, the Rockies can be finicky – so be prepared for any weather changes. 

Bring an extra layer for the cold and make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothes. A jacket is always great for shielding yourself from the biting wind! If you’re not sure what to wear, you can’t go wrong with long pants and closed-toe shoes.

Just Relax

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about your ride if you’re a complete beginner (or if your horse riding skills are a little rusty). However, it’s crucial that you stay sa calm and relaxed as possible1 

It’s a good idea to focus on the journey ahead and all the sights you’ll see along the way rather than on the things that can potentially go wrong. Trust your wrangler — they’re a skilled professional who will take good care of you.

Of course, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe. Make sure you follow instructions and listen carefully to safety briefings before the ride. As long as you keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine!

Have Fun

This is the most important tip to remember! How often can you ride a horse, especially in an environment as breathtaking as the Rockies? 

Whether you’re a newbie or have many years of horse riding under your belt, remember that you’re here to have fun! 

Relax, take a photo or fifty, and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Rockies’ beautiful scenery.

FAQs

Can you horseback ride in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Definitely! Horseback riding is one of the best ways to experience the Rocky Mountain National Park. 

However, it’s best to hold your horses — horseback riding is only allowed on specific trails. Make sure to check first with the stables and park rangers before you book a ride.

What to wear horseback riding in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Safety and comfort are two key guideposts when deciding what to wear while riding a horse! 

Generally, it’s best to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. A sweater or jacket is also a great addition, especially in the face of ever-changing weather conditions.

Are Rocky Mountain horses good for beginners?

Yes – and fortunately, there are plenty of beginner-friendly options for horseback riding in the Rockies! 

Many stables offer rides catered specifically for people with no experience, so if you’re anxious or not as confident, ask your guide about these options.

Can you wear jeans for horse riding?

Yes, you generally can wear jeans while horseback riding. However, it’s best that you make sure they’re comfortable and will allow for movement in the saddle. 

Any tightness will irritate your skin and spoil the fun. Pro tip: Going for loose-fitting bottoms can help prevent all that!

At what age is it safe to ride a horse?

Many stables typically set the lower age limit at 6 years old. Still, many stables have their own rules about age, weight, and double-riding, so if you have questions, it’s best to ask directly. 

The good news is that many stables also offer pony rides for young customers!

Author

  • Pep Dekker

    Hey. I’m Pep, Paige's husband, and dad to Juliana and Lucille. I'm founder and writer here at EstesPark.com. I've been living full-time in Estes Park for 2 years now and I'm excited to share all that I've learned!