Bear Basin Trail – Colorado
Bear Basin Trail, Colorado. 7 days / 6 nights / 5 days riding
Our base is Bear Basin Ranch, established in 1890 as a stopping-off post and horse exchange post on the Pony Express route. The 3,500 acre ranch is at 9,000 feet in the shadow of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Blood of Christ). This whole area was once the domain of the Ute Indians.
The ranch’s well trained Quarter Horses are easy to ride, sure-footed and forward-going. You will quickly get the feel of the Quarter Horse and more importantly, the western tack, which will allow you to really enjoy the pristine wilderness.
This trail ride leads through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and out into the sand dunes of Colorado (You know the place …. it’s where the baddy rides out into the desert pursued by the sheriff!).
Pace: walk; 50% trot: 35%; canter/gallop 15%.
Horse Breed: The Quarter Horse. Of all the breeds in all the world, the Quarter Horse has to be right up there with the best! None of theunpredictable Arab temperament nor the fragility of the Thoroughbred and none of the cheek of a pony. They’re quick, agile (sometimes even cat-like) and smart.
Tack: Western. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. It’s a different philosophy compared to English; it has more in common with dressage riding, where less is done with the bit and considerably more with your leg, seat and balance.
Rider’s involvement: it’s your horse for the week! You will need to groom and tack up; untack during breaks; check hooves and generally make it your own. Guides available to advise and assist as necessary.
Rider’s weight: 90 Kg
Day 1. London to Colorado Springs.
We’ll meet you upon arrival at Colorado Springs (on any Monday July/Aug/Sept) and drive you to the ranch at Bear Basin. If your flight arrives late we can arrange a hotel in Colorado Springs. Check-in to “Cow Camp” an authentic camp in the middle of the ranch. The tents are large and could sleep four, complete with foam mattress, but we use them for two. You can request a single occupancy tent.
Day 2. Music Pass trailhead. Start 5-day trail.
The day starts with a word about grooming and saddling, while listening to details of the care, handling and riding of the western ranch horse, then we are off over the rocky, pine covered hills that surround the ranch. The horses are boxed over (20 miles +/-) and we make the transfer by Jeep. This avoids crossing tarmac roads on horseback.
This trail is designed for the horse enthusiast and high country lover who wants to experience the wilderness. It meanders through aspen and spruce forests, home to mule deer, porcupine and wild turkey. Ride about four hours up and over Music Pass (12,500 feet) where you may hear strange whistling sounds that come from the yellow-bellied or mountain marmot. From here we get the first glimpse of the vastness San Luis Valley. Set up tents, picket the horses and soon the scents of a mouth-watering feast mingled with wood-smoke entice us to gather round the fire for drinks and dinner.
Day 3. Music Pass to Sand Creek.
Load the packhorses and set off for Upper Sand Lake before descending to Sand Creek and a beautiful camp in a mountain meadow just above Little Sand creek. This is elk country and there’s a chance of seeing cougars and black bears too.
Day 4 Sand Creek to the Dunes.
We work as a team to break camp while enjoying a traditional pack-trip breakfast and lots of cowboy coffee. Today we ride on the west side of the range and it’ll be a long day, nearly 18 miles. We take a little-known route down Sand Creek to the base of the mountains in the San Luis Valley. Here we intersect with a trail that heads south to the Sand Dunes. Big skies and the gradually emerging dunes dominant the day. We camp at the foot of the Dunes.
Day 5. Into the dunes.
After yesterday, today is a gentle pace. We ride into the dunes themselves (which is very hard work for the horses) and take it easy around camp. There is time to fish in the creek for those who wish. Tonight, as the fire dies down and you drift off to sleep, you may hear the calls of screech owls and night hawks: slightly spooky, but absolutely typical of this wilderness area.
Day 6. Madano Pass to Cow Camp
After breakfast we break camp and head up to Madano Pass. As we approach the high country again, there are an amazing variety of wildflowers, especially at the peak of their season and if there’s been sufficient water. We descend to the trailhead arriving by 4-6pm and transfer back to Cow Camp by vehicle, where it all started, for the night and a celebration supper.
Day 7. Departure
Transfer back to Colorado Springs for the flight home, or onward travel.
Getting there: London to Colorado Springs.
Terrain: Some riding is along rough, unmaintained trails that may require moving rockslides or chopping a fallen tree. We cross between valleys following old herder’s tracks above the tree-line where it’s necessary to dismount and lead our horses over rugged terrain.
Accommodation (Based on twin share; single occupancy option isn’t available.)
Cow Camp x 3 nights
Mountain camps (tents) x 4 nights.
Distance from urban areas: nearest town is Colorado Springs, which has everything you can dream of!
Guides: An American professional guide accompanies the group throughout; plus several wranglers to look after camp, horses and group.