You don’t need prior experience to take advantage of our rides, which vary from short and easy to long and challenging. With relaxed instruction from our capable wranglers, you will soon feel safe and comfortable on horseback and be able to enjoy our high mountain country with its acres of mountains, meadows and streams.
Our foreman, Jim, will choose a horse for you from our herd of over 100 to suit both your interest and ability. If compatible, you will ride the same horse for your entire stay.
Your Week on Horseback
On Monday morning Jim and the wranglers will help you get comfortable in the saddle and review some of the principles of western riding. Then you and your family will be on your way for your introduction to riding at the Elkhorn. As the week progresses, your appreciation of the beauty of the environment grows. All of your senses come alive with the songs of jays and larks and the percussion of woodpeckers drumming for breakfast, and the sounds of wind in the lodgepole pines and the riffling waters on Sage Creek or the Gallatin, and of course, the horses clip-clopping on the trail. As you climb higher, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mountain scenery that is spectacular. In early season, there is still snow on the peaks. Later in the summer, the quaking aspens begin to color. You are in the midst of the Madison Mountains of Montana: in one direction, Monument (10,056 feet) and its neighbors; in another, the Spanish Peaks; in another, the Taylor-Hilgards. Wherever you gaze, there are memory making vistas.
In addition to the breathtaking views, you will quickly discover that the Madisons are home to wildlife of all kinds. From the trail you see deer, coyotes, moose, elk and sometimes bear, mountain goats or bighorn sheep on the high ridges. Riding through meadows, you will become familiar with high country flora, including Indian paintbrush, lupine and fragrant sage. As the terrain permits, more experienced riders will lope their horses from time to time. Wranglers are always happy to instruct any guest who needs a little extra help sharpening their riding skills.
Grown-ups, fossils or can’t-a-lopes as they are affectionately known, will be offered a variety of horseback trips each day designed to suit their interest and ability and to get them into the high country as the week and their confidence progress. Rides are small, normally with less than eight guests in a group.
Our youngest, the Peanuts, ride, play and eat together. On the trail, they go for carefully supervised rides, which may include a river swim, a visit to an old cowboy fort or a trip to the Bear Caves.
Teenagers also band together, and invariably have spirited rides full of adventures that always seem to grow in the retelling.
Whether you choose short and relaxing or long and challenging, sharing a mountain trail seems to build friendships for guests of every age. As you brush your horse down before heading back to your cabin, you will smile at the prospect of returning to the barn tomorrow – well-fed, well-rested, and ready to enjoy another spectacular summer day on a high country trail in the Montana Rockies.
Like most Dude Ranch Association ranches, Elkhorn is a member of the DRA horse safety program. We are proud of a riding program that weaves a great safety record with a reputation for phenomenal riding for beginner and experienced riders of all ages.