Colorado Rockies Horsepack
Ride the Continental Divide in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
Ride horses to our lakeside mountain base camp at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. Watch the sun crawl down Devil’s Kettle until it lights up the meadow in the valley below. Journey through aspen and lodge pole pine to the Continental Divide and take in the stunning view. Explore new trails through wildflower meadows. Venture to the high country on switchback trails. If you’re into horses, you’ll love getting to know Ipsus, Blackie, and Squeak. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, marmot, pika, and the elusive cougar. After an exciting day’s ride, you can fish in a mountain lake teeming with trout. The Gunnison country of western Colorado is vast, pure, and wild. This is an adventure you will remember for years to come.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: Meet your group in Gunnison, CO. At dinner get to know trip mates during trip orientation and prepare for the next days' adventures. Tonight's accommodations will be at a local hotel.
DAY 2: Travel to the Mineral Creek trailhead south of Gunnison, CO to meet the wrangler, horses, and ride to the base camp situated on a beautiful lake in the Rockies. Learn about horses and explore the area in the evening. Don't forget to look for shooting stars!
DAY 3: Get up early to experience the sun rising and turning Devil's Kettle into a beautiful orange glow. Review horse-packing skills and saddle up the horses before taking off for the day. Ride in the mountains on winding, switchback trails through Aspen and Lodge Pole Pine.
DAY 4: For the adventurous, try fishing in the spring-fed lake in the meadow before breakfast. Enjoy sitting by the lake as the sun rises and watch beavers busily working to construct and maintain their dam. After breakfast venture to the high country, above the tree line, to enjoy the splendor of the Rocky Mountains. There may even be the opportunity to sit on the Continental Divide! Keep your eyes peeled and camera ready as we search for Big Horn sheep and elk.
DAY 5: Enjoy a relaxed morning as you choose to ride a trail not yet explored, hike through a meadow of colorful wildflowers, or sit by the lake watching beavers.
DAY 6: Get an early start to ride back to the trailhead. Soak in the last bit of mountain atmosphere and reflect on your adventure in the high country. The trip officially ends in the afternoon in Gunnison, CO. Those using WI's van transportation can expect to return to Denver in the evening.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The Colorado Rockies are beautiful and rugged. Saddle up at the trailhead and ride a couple hours to our base camp in a beautiful setting at 10,000 feet elevation. From there, you will enjoy full and half day rides to various places, including the Continental Divide at 12,000 feet.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: Travel by horseback, use saddlebags and pack animals to carry equipment across trails. An average day's travel from base camp consists of 3-5 hours of riding, depending on the weather and terrain. Travel distances vary from 8-10 miles per day. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip, but you must have the ability to mount and ride a horse in a western saddle for 4 to 5 hours per day.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 35 F to 90 F. Mornings and evenings can be chilly as a result of the altitude.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 6 to 8 participants, 2 wranglers, and 1 Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Sleep in wall tents at night. Typically there are 4-5 people per tent (divided by gender). Other arrangements may be made if necessary. Bathroom facilities consist of a foldable commode chair or outhouse.
MEALS: Enjoy preparing meals together using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast and pack trail lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
FISHING: This trips supports fishing for cutthroat trout in nearby ponds and streams. You must buy a Colorado fishing license, which you can get the first morning of the trip, or online.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
The alpine areas of the Gunnison National Forest in southwestern Colorado, on the west slope of the central Rocky Mountains, feature two peaks over 14,000 feet and another 20 peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation. The La Garita, Collegiate Peaks, Maroon Bells-Snowmass, Raggeds, Fossil Ridge, Powderhorn and West Elk areas -- all designated by Congress as official Wildernesses -- provide popular backcountry destinations.
Located within the Gunnison National Forest, the 129,000-acre La Garita Wilderness remains one of Colorado’s more lightly visited wilderness areas, even though it was an original unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. “La Garita” means lookout in Spanish. This high Rocky Mountain country provides the sensation of being in a watchtower, high above the surrounding landscape. Our horsepack trip travels through this alpine country, above the tree line. The terrain consists mainly of gently sloping meadows and picturesque alpine bowls. Wildlife abounds in this high country, where visitors commonly see black bears, snowshoe hares, golden eagles, and coyotes. Bobcats and mountain lions live in the area, too, yet seldom show themselves.
From the summit of La Garita’s single fourteener (14,014-foot San Luis Peak), visitors can gaze across the upper Rio Grande Valley and down the long stretch of the San Luis Valley. About 35 miles of the Continental Divide lie well above a sprawling forestland that provides ideal habitat for huge numbers of elk and mule deer, though the animals may winter on the northern slopes when hard winds scour off the snow cover. On the southern slopes in Wason Park and Silver Park, visitors find a surprising ancient forest of towering spruce and fir. This is a land of rushing streams, broad and gentle alpine meadows, fascinating beaver ponds, long talus slopes, and tremendous mountain beauty.
Layers of volcanic basalt comprise the mountains in this area. The manner in which this basalt formed and cooled resulted in long vertical columns of rock, hexagonal in cross section. This has resulted in dramatic vistas filled with towers of rock.
The ideal summers in this area feature typically cool Rocky Mountain temperatures. Sometimes, the daytime temperatures climb, requiring a dip in a mountain stream or lake. Cool temperatures arrive as the sun sets on the La Garita high country.
Gunnison’s human history dates back 6,000 years to the Prehistoric Archaic period when nomadic groups traversed the high mountain valleys of the inner mountain region in search of migrating wildlife. The Mountain Ute Indians, and later mountain men, settled the fertile river valleys, surviving on the abundance of game. Captain John W. Gunnison and an extensive party of explorers in search of a transcontinental railroad route explored the area in 1853. In the late 1870s, prospectors discovered gold and silver. Typical of small western communities located in mountain valleys, Gunnison was shaped by ranching, the advent of the railroad, and mining. More recently, recreation-based tourism has fueled Gunnison’s economy. Approximately two million tourists passed through Gunnison in 1995; winter and summer destinations include Curecanti National Recreation Area, Black Canyon National Monument, and Crested Butte Mountain Ski Resort. Additionally, outdoor recreation enthusiasts including hunters, fishermen, hikers, and mountain bicyclists frequent the public lands surrounding Gunnison on a year round basis.
Frequently Asked Questions:
On the horse-packing trip, do you stop for bathroom or other breaks?
Usually, we go out on the trail for 2-3 hours at a time. Most of the time, we go back to base camp for lunch and then head out again afterwards. We also have snacks and rest breaks on the trail. If you do need a bathroom break while on the trail, you can discreetly tell your trip leader and she can set something up for you to ensure for privacy and cleanliness.
Can children attend the Colorado Rockies Horsepack trip?
Our Colorado horse packing trip is not a designated family trip, but kids age 6 and over are welcome. We do ask that children would have tried riding prior to the trip, though no lessons are necessary. We want them to feel comfortable on a horse. Children have attended this trip in the past and had excellent experiences.
For more information, visit these links:
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Water Wheel Inn at 6:00 PM (local time)
End: Water Wheel Inn at 2:00 PM (local time)
This trip officially begins at 6:00 PM in Gunnison, CO, at the Water Wheel Inn. The trip ends at 2:00 PM at the same location. You can take your own transportation or use WI’s van transportation from Denver. If you take your own car, Gunnison is a 5-hour drive southwest of Denver. If you travel with WI back to Denver, please plan on staying the final evening at the Comfort Inn in Denver. We won't get back to Denver until late in the evening. Even with perfect weather and travel, we cannot guarantee getting back to the airport for any flights on the final day. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.Want to Ride With Us?
We typically provide transportation for this trip from the following places (make your selection when you register):
- Denver - Quality Inn & Suites FEE: $95 per person