Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time for trail riding! Whether you plan to do some hardcore riding and backpacking or you're simply looking to get out of town for the weekend, here are some ideas for pulling it off in the Intermountain West.
The Intermountain West is Utah, Nevada, western Wyoming, southern Idaho, and a small portion of California. There are numerous trails and exciting backcountry spots in the region that are ideal for trail rides, no matter your level of experience.
Road Tripping with Horses in Tow
The road trip is an American rite of passage, and your horses don’t need to be left out of the fun. Several popular road trip ideas will take you through the Intermountain West, such as Denver, Colorado to Big Sur, California. The 1,380 mile trip passes through Utah and Nevada, and those states are full of trails for every type of riding.
During the drive, you’ll pass through Utah’s Fishlake National Forest, where riding opportunities are abundant. In Nevada, you’ll discover the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just east of Las Vegas. The rec area’s backcountry is full of horse trails.
At Lake Mead, horses and pack animals are allowed in most areas except picnic areas and campgrounds. Approved backcountry roads are marked with a yellow arrow sign.
National Park Trail Riding
The Intermountain West is home to a number of national parks, many of them among the country’s top rated. According to National Geographic, Yellowstone in Wyoming remains one of the country’s most visited, with more than 4 million annual visitors. The good news for horse riders is that a large chunk of Yellowstone’s 900 miles of trails are open to horseback riding.
Yellowstone sits on the Idaho border, so when you’re looking for camping spots near Yellowstone, don’t overlook the Gem State. Some RV parks and campsites have spots for horse trailers but fill up quickly, so call ahead to find the best spot for your horses to sleep rather than waiting until you reach Yellowstone.
Along with Yellowstone, other scenic national parks in the Intermountain West include Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, all of which are in Utah.
Protecting Yourself on the Trail
When trail riding, there are many safety factors to consider. Prior to setting off, check the difficulty level of the trail to ensure that your horse can handle it. Most trails have well-marked indicators that list trail difficulty levels.
You also need to protect your body from the elements while trail riding. Always wear a riding helmet, and apply sunscreen before heading out, even if it is cloudy. You may also want to consider eye protection. According to eye care professionals, your eyes can be damaged by exposure to UV light. Always wear sunglasses or another form of eye protection, such as UV blocking contact lenses, while on the trail.
Along with a helmet and sunglasses, essential items to take on the trail are a pocket knife and your cell phone. That way, if something happens on the trail, you can call for help. When trail riding in the Intermountain West, you also want to bring along snacks and plenty of water so that you stay hydrated.
The Intermountain West, or the land between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades, is ripe for adventure. No matter your experience level, you’ll find plenty of trail riding opportunity this spring and summer. Before setting off, make sure you know what to expect from your chosen trails so that you stay safe on your trail riding adventure.