There is no better place in which to snap autumn's kaleidoscope of colours than the USA and Canada. At this time of year, its larger-than-life landscapes bathe in a sea of fiery reds, brilliant oranges and shimmering golds, and there are plenty more options than New England. Best of all, you can take in these spellbinding 360-degree views from the saddle. Leading riding holiday specialist Ranch Rider has selected seven properties (the list includes working, guest, dude, and resort ranches) where you can savour the season either on a trail ride or cattle drive. Here are eight prime examples:
In the heart of Montana's Rocky Mountains out on the Idaho border, a drive of just under six hours from capital Billings, the tiny town of Darby is home to this award-winning Relais & Chateau luxury property set on 26,000 acres. Breathe in the crisp mountain air from atop your mount and gaze at the snow-covered peaks, the majestic mountains bounded by ponderosa pine forests, all dressed in their golden finery. With the wildlife preparing for winter, there's always something to discover on the trail, and the cross-country rides overlook the beautiful fall colours along the Bitterroot River. Once you're on horseback, it's like tuning into BBC Earth from the saddle, with deer, black bear, moose, mountain lion, and osprey found in this untamed wilderness; the ranch's no-hunting policy resulting in large herds of elk and other game gravitating to the property.
Located in the Big Horn National Forest beneath the towering Bighorn Mountains in the town of Buffalo, four hours north of Cheyenne, this working ranch and when autumn arrives the hillsides glitter like gold. The trails are canopied in bright yellow aspen leaves, the colours contrasting sharply against the evergreens. At this time of year, it's cattle work all the way and, as you will be spending 90 percent of your time in the saddle, there will be plenty of time to savour the season in all its glory.
The foliage in and around the Okanogan Forest is a spectacular sight to behold during the autumn months, and this property outside the town of Republic (some 2½ hours northwest of Spokane and five hours northeast of Seattle) backs onto its 954,409 acres. Simply hit the trail on a scenic ride or pony up with a purpose and help the wranglers round up the horses in the mornings and evenings. Alternatively, savour the season's delicious hues while fly fishing (lakes and streams wind their way through the ranch's open meadows), trapshooting, gold panning or mountain biking. And for a pursuit that sounds like it was made especially for this time of year, take an exhilarating buggy ride through the woods and fields.
Located on Lake Diefenbaker in southwest of the province, 90 minutes south of largest city Saskatoon and 2½ hours northwest of capital Regina, this 5,000-acre spread is surrounded by rolling prairies, open ranges, and canyons, and come autumn, the landscape basks in a glorious orange glow. In October it's round-up time, so expect to be pitching in with the real cowhands. When the day's work is done, put your feet up and relax by the sandy lake shore, with the season's colourful hues reflected in the water.
Spend autumn in the Cariboo-Chilcotin wilderness just under seven hours north of Vancouver and go cowboy up at this sprawling ranch proeprty in Hanceville with incredible views of dense forests where the changing colours of the season are always truly spectacular. For the ultimate display, check into the Chilcotin wilderness, the ranch's remote cabin located near the mighty Anvil Mountain. Inaccessible by anything other than a horse, a 20-kilometer horseback journey winds its way through the Big Creek Provincial Park to the Fire Creek Camp.
Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Colorado
Located in the town of Clark, three hours or so from Denver, here the months of September and October are reserved for adults and cattle work, when guests accompany wranglers out onto over 16,000 acres of forested land to find and gather the cattle before the winter weather sets in. Leaf peeping with a purpose, you won't regret exploring the mountains against the backdrop of the fiery red quaking aspens.
Down south - a bit over three hours from Billings and just an hour 20 minutes from Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park - this ranch dating back to the late 19th century is a fantastic place to experience the beauty of the Big Sky State as the aspens begin to turn and the air cools down. Elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears are often spotted on the horseback trails..This is also fly-fishing season in the famous Gallatin and Madison Rivers, their waters fairly calm and perfect for catching trout.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Idaho
In Idaho's northern "panhandle," the town of Sandpoint (about an hour 20 minutes north of Coeur d'Alene) autumn is one of the best times of year to enjoy the region's spectacular mountainscapes and quaint towns. And it’s also the perfect time to visit the this ranch with accommodations in a lodge as well as log cabins.The season’s colours makes trail rides here unforgettable, under heavenly blue skies amid vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. Western pleasure, indeed!
Besides the USA and Canada, Ranch Rider offers riding holidays in Argentina, Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania. The specialist tour operator is part of the Frontier Travel collection, which also includes Frontier Canada, Frontier Ski, Frontier America, American Round-Up, Holidays 2 and Independent Traveller's Africa programme. The company offers tailor-made skiing holidays, bespoke itineraries, including fly-drives and escorted holidays, and ranch holidays. For more information on Ranch Rider please contact (020 8776 8709; firstname.lastname@example.org; ranchrider.com). ATOL PROTECTED No 5405 ABTA W3207.