Dude ranch: the world's best adventures on horseback

Chris Coplans
Saddle up for the ride of your life - Copyright - 2017 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.

Whether you love nothing more than viewing the world from atop a horse, or are a novice eager to learn, these are some of the world's best horseback adventures.

1. Rocky mountain high

Tumbling River Ranch occupies a spectacular location 9,200ft up in the Colorado Rockies. It’s perfect for families and has a full programme for babies, children and teenagers. Half and full-day rides are available for all abilities as well overnight pack trips. Other activities include fly-fishing, hiking, clay pigeon shooting, rodeos and white water rafting. Enjoy a sizzling cowboy cookout after a day in the saddle.

A seven-night itinerary with Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194; bon-voyage.co.uk) costs from £2,555, including flights and transfers, accommodation, meals and all activities. 

There are worse places to ride a horse than in Colorado Credit: Getty

2. The long riders

Cottonwood is a working horse and cattle ranch in the remote, surreal north-eastern corner of Nevada. Drift through the wilderness on pack trips and horse and cattle drives with opportunities to fish and go mountain biking, bird watching or snowmobiling.

An eight-night itinerary with American Roundup (01798 865946; americanroundup.com) starts at £2,829 including flights on Delta Air Lines, six nights full- board at Cottonwood. Prices include all riding and on-ranch activities. 

3. Bush ‘n beach

Experience both the grandeur of the wilderness and the charm of the Sunshine Coast on this magical Aussie “trail ride”’ which snakes through tropical rainforest and into the bush, before taking in Noosa’s spectacular North Shore surf beach. Opportunities to muster cattle abound on the large beef farms and you will experience magical canters on the beach on your last riding day. Extend your stay and learn to surf on Noosa Beach or head up to the Great Barrier Reef for world-class diving and snorkelling.

A six-night trip with In The Saddle (01299 272997; inthesaddle.com) between March and November costs £1,787 including meals, accommodation, riding and return airport transfers.  

Make your way across the top of the Frozen Inca Pass Credit: Getty

4. Inca high jinks

Follow in the footsteps of the Spanish conquistadors along the Inca trail to celestial Machu Picchu, riding high up in the Peruvian Andes. The unique 10-day riding trip takes you to the spectacular Inca settlement near Cusco and includes exploring the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas.   

A 10-day itinerary with Equestrian Escapes (01829 781123; equestrian-escapes.com) between July and December costs from £2,600 including luxury mountain lodges, all meals and cultural guide.

5. Canadian odyssey 

With an unbeatable location in British Columbia between Banff and Glacier National Park, Three Bars Ranch is a family-friendly dude ranch offering unforgettable trails in the Canadian Rockies and along the banks of St Mary's River. Over 120 horses give riders of all abilities the chance to explore over 75,000 acres of pristine landscape. Those flying into Calgary can enjoy some of Alberta and British Columbia’s many highlights, including Lake Louise, Banff, Frank Slide and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

A six-night itinerary with Canada As You like It (020 8742 8299; canadaasyoulikeit.com) starts at £2,958 including return flights, compact car hire and all activities. 

Fly into Calgary and enjoy some of Alberta and British Columbia’s many highlights, including Lake Louise Credit: Getty

6. Spanish sierras

West of Madrid lies the little known Sierra de Gredos mountain range. The Crystalline Waters itinerary is centre-based with one overnighter on a trail, so you can unpack and relax. The rides, mainly on pure-bred Lusitanos horses, are ideally suited to less experienced riders and families. You will ride through pine forests, up mountain passes, along a Roman road and medieval paths. There are river valleys and an impressive gorge and guests can swim in freshwater rivers and pools during lunch stops. 

A six-night itinerary with Far and Wide (01462 701110; farandride.com) from June to August costs £1,008, including airports transfers from Madrid, six nights accommodation, meals and all riding but not flights.

7. Give me the Big Five

You’ll need to be an experienced rider for this one – who wants to fall off their horse during a lion encounter? The horseback safari trots and canters through Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one of the world’s finest game viewing areas because of the density and variety of wildlife. Accommodation is in the Macutoo tented camp, which has its own plunge pool. If you’re lucky, you could tick off the Big Five (lion, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, and rhino).

A seven-night itinerary with Ride Worldwide (01837 82544; rideworldwide.com) costs from £3,520, including charter transfers, accommodation, all meals and drinks and riding and game activities. The delta is best visited between April and November.

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8. Rein in your inner Genghis

Discover Mongolia, with its vast steppes and open skies, its magnificent mountains and equine tradition as Genghis once did. This epic 14-day tour includes the cultural city of Ulaanbaatar before heading off to the southern fringes of the Siberian taiga, a land of mountains, lakes and shamans. You will enjoy the hospitality offered in nomadic Mongol family encampments and marvel at snow-capped mountains, turquoise rivers, beautiful lakes in the great meadow of Darkhad Valley. 

A 14-day itinerary with Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; wildfrontiers.com) costs £2,750 in June and includes all accommodation (a mixture of hotels and camps), meals and activities. 

9. Hang with the Gauchos 

The Huechahue estancia is a 15,000-acre working ranch in Argentina’s Patagonian region. The riding programme is tailored to the needs of the guests, so whilst it can cater for novices who are fit and enjoy a challenge, there is plenty of scope for fast and challenging rides. Exhilarating rides range from water-meadows to rugged climbs opening up into majestic valleys. Guests can muck in and help the gauchos with the cattle work and then relax and luxuriate in the lodge’s sauna, Jacuzzi and plunge pool. Other activities available include hiking, fishing, tennis, rafting and river swimming.

A seven-night itinerary with Ranch Rider (01509 618811; ranchrider.com) between September and May starts from £2,449, including accommodation, meals, drinks, ranch activities and facilities, plus transfers.

Hang with the gauchos at the Huechahue Estancia, Patagonia Credit: Getty

10. Welsh skills and thrills

If you are an equestrian novice, why not head off to the Welsh hills to learn to ride? You will spend three days in the saddle mastering all things equine. You will learn basic trail preparation and instruction, which includes catching, feeding, grooming and tacking up on the first morning and then it’s ride out into ‘dem hills.

A three-day itinerary with Free Rein (01497 821356; free-rein.co.uk) costs from £595, including two nights’ accommodation from April through to October.