Science continues to prove that being in nature has benefits for our mental health, this evidence boosting the popularity of holidays where we are able to reconnect with the world around us. To ensure you stay positive this year, riding holiday specialist Ranch Rider has created a top ten list of horseback escapes where you can maximise the feel-good potential of a week in the saddle - their selection based on location, available activities and the “nature factor” (experience and location were rated by Ranch Rider to give an overall score).
Tony Daly, managing director at Ranch Rider, comments, "Experts have already voiced their opinion on the very real benefits of being in nature, from enhancing our creativity to reducing our stress levels, and if exposed long-term as children, there are even reported advantages for our adult mental health - a recent decades-long study (published in February of 2019) establishing this fact *. Often based near national parks and in unspoilt wilderness areas, our properties are bound to excite your love for the outdoors, whether you are hitting the trail on horseback or on foot. We expect to see an increasing number of people booking more off the beaten track riding holidays, for example pack trips, and more atmospheric accommodation, from reconditioned wagons in Wyoming's backcountry to glamping tents overlooking Botswana's Okavango Delta - both ideal options for guests who want to immerse themselves in nature, but who don’t want to pitch a tent.”
British Columbia’s Big Creek Working Guest Ranch came top of the list as the best place to recharge your batteries. Set in the heart of the Chilcotin wilderness, with no cities or towns lying in its path all the way to the coast and over 80 miles from civilisation, the 25,000-acre property is surrounded by dense forests, crystal-clear waters and snow-covered mountain peaks. Offering a well-rounded western riding experience, you will have the opportunity to savour the country trails on scenic horseback rides (some trails inaccessible by anything other than a horse), as well as help with any cattle work. Mountain biking, hiking and gold panning are additional activities.
Mother Nature has a surprise of her own lined up in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, as the snowpack at Medano Pass is well above normal (+160 percent). This means it’s an exceptionally good year for tubing on the Medano Creek (also known as Colorado’s Natural Beach), the snowmelt or “surge flow” creating a river, with waves of up to 20 inches, the water surging over ripples in the sand as it flows around the base of the dunes. You can still expect a shallow flow in July, and the Zapata Cattle & Bison Ranch offers guided hiking and riding within the national park and trailered access to the creek for some wet and wild horsey adventures. A true nature lover’s paradise, additional special weeks include, a bird watching workshop with American birding magazine editor and naturalist, Ted Floyd and a hike into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Horizon Horseback in South Africa won the award for "Best Riding Safari in Africa" at the 2019 Safari Awards - the Rainbow Nation also scooping first prize, as the country won the most awards overall. Lodge based, the list of pursuits at Horizon includes riding with game (giraffe, zebra and antelope regularly spotted on the reserve), swimming the horses, polocrosse and cattle mustering (on request) - the grounds complete with a cross country jumping course. Only a three hour drive from Johannesburg and ideal for families, the lakeside property located in the heart of the malaria free Waterberg Reserve. Six nights from £1,190pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities (including riding), use of ranch facilities and tax. Excludes return transfers from Johannesburg (from £195pp), gratuities left to discretion and return flight from £879pp. Year-round departures.
Stay at Montana’s Triple J Wilderness Ranch and immerse yourself in the beauty of the USA's national parks while still escaping the crowds that increasingly plague many of them. Located in the scenic corridor between the Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, the ranch’s setting is stunning, the property overlooking the beautiful Sun River Canyon and Gibson Lake. Leave through the backdoor and you will find yourself in the famous million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness - "the crown jewel of the Wilderness system” blessed with glacier-carved river valleys, jewel-like lakes, virgin yellow pine forests, stunning peaks, and vast cliff formations. When you’re out of the saddle, why not try a non-technical climb to Mortimer Peak and or take a boat ride along Gibson Lake, this pristine wilderness a regular haunt for birders and wildlife enthusiasts. Six nights from £1,839pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities. Excludes return flight from £889pp. Open June through 28 September.
Located near Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, Wyoming’s Goosewing Guest Ranch is set deep in the Gros Ventre Valley near Jackson Hole. The property marks the entry point to a protected, pristine wilderness, which is home to some of North America’s most spectacular game including, deer, elk, moose, antelope, bear, and eagles. Take a horseback ride through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, try canoeing on the nearby Soda Lake, take up shooting, fishing and archery or even enjoy an afternoon of geo-caching. For the ultimate nature fuelled getaway, go Rendezvous Glamping - the ranch’s hand crafted, custom made wagons located about four miles northeast of the main property at 8,400 feet. Seven-nights from £2,285pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes and gratuities. Excludes transfers £190 per group RTN from Jackson and return flight from £889pp. Departures from June through 08 September.
The Okavango Delta is Botswana’s last remaining wetland wilderness - all the more reason for it to feature in Ranch Rider’s top ten list of great nature escapes. Stay at the Macatoo Camp, a luxurious tented bush camp situated in the south western corner of the delta. Enjoy thrilling horseback rides through the water meadows and canter alongside the wildlife, kick back on a 4x4 safari, see Botswana from the skies on a helicopter adventure or up the pace on a jet boat ride. Seven night stays from £3,325pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, drinks (including alcohol), activities (including riding), use of facilities and taxes. Gratuities are left to discretion. Excludes transfers from £205pp and return flight from £986pp. Year round departures.
Arizona’s White Stallion Guest Ranch is set on 3,000 acres of pristine Sonoran desert, the property bordering two miles of Saguaro National Park West. A chance to embrace Mother Nature at her best, the guided horseback rides and hikes will provide you with access to the park trails, and better still, this year you can enjoy the NEW Outdoor Adventure Package. The ranch is currently experimenting with additional activities, shooting, rock climbing and fat tire e-biking included in your complementary package. Seven nights from £1,149pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities. Excludes return flight from £1,289pp. Year round departures.
Only 18 miles from Yellowstone and bordering 2.2 million acres of the Gallatin National Forest, Montana’s Lone Mountain Luxury Guest Ranch is a true wilderness retreat, and one of an elite few (permits held for over 30 years) offering guided rides and hikes within the national park's boundaries. Led by experienced naturalists, you can expect to see landmarks such as geysers and thermal hot springs, and plenty of wildlife too - from bison to grizzlies. Seven nights from £3,699pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, outdoor youth adventures program, yoga, archery, guided tour of Yellowstone National Park, horseback riding, ropes course, hiking, canoeing, ranch BBQ, live entertainment, taxes and transfers. Excludes gratuities as left to discretion, gratuities and return flight. Departures 01 June to 12 October.
For an even more intrepid experience, head for Montana's backcountry and enjoy an Adventure in the Rockies, the trip taking you deep into the Beartooth Mountains and the Custer Forest. Camp out with a fifth generation rancher, your days spent hiking to abandoned gold mines, fishing on the Lake Plateau or hitting the trail on horseback. Truly wild, moose, elk, antelope, and bear have been known to join guests, the tailor-made journeys lasting from six to ten days. Calling all adventure honeymooners: the minimum booking requirement is two. Seven nights from £2,179pp (two sharing) including ranch (first and last night at the Barron Working Ranch in Montana) and camp accommodation (an outfitted camp complete with cook tent and water supply, but no showers), meals, horses, tack, activities, transfers from Billings. From 10 years. Excludes return flight. Departures from late July through August.
Described as an oasis in the prairies, Saskatchewan’s Historic Reesor Working Ranch is close to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (home to Canada’s highest point) – its 150 square miles straddling the southern Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Explore the lush forests, grasslands and prairies on horseback and learn the lifestyle of the cowhand with lessons in cattle work and cowboy poetry. Alternative modern day pursuits include guided ATV rides through the Cypress Hills (a first in the area). Two new cabins opened in summer 2019. Seven nights from only £1,126pp (no single supplement) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities and taxes. Excludes car hire from £330pp and return flight from £989pp. Departing June through September.
Ranch Rider (01509 618 811; ranchrider.com) ATOL PROTECTED No 4660 ABTA 96395/V9150.