Saddle up: 5 beautiful spots best experienced on horseback
Riding out on a trail is one of the most low-impact ways to travel and horse riding is one of the most intimate ways to experience a new destination, all over the world. Saddle up the horses, take in the majesty of the scenery, literally get off the beaten path and discover places bikes and cars just can’t go.
Wed 7 Jun 2017
TV presenter and travel journalist Darley Newman has spent more than a decade discovering the best places to ride for Equitrekking, her Emmy-winning TV series. She’s put her insider knowledge to work and come up with five amazing nature spots that are best experienced on horseback – and even better they’re all suitable for beginners.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s trot on.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
There are lots of dude ranches around Jackson Hole in Wyoming, where horseriding adventures take centre stage. Gros Ventre River Ranch, a family owned guest ranch, has some of the best views of the Grand Tetons around. Trail ride up to higher elevations from the main ranch into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Your route will wind by a creek-lined meadow and a historic cabin, before you climb up through the woods that’s filled with wildlife.
The weather can change drastically in this area, making it important to dress in layers and be prepared for anything, even summertime hale. Once you hit the ridge-line though, your between the ears Teton views will take your breath away.
The ranch’s main lodge is a nice place to warm up after a day on the trails and the food is fresh and wholesome, making for a complete dude ranch experience that’s great for learner and more experienced riders alike.
Banff National Park, Canada
The Canadian Rockies are a great place to camp for several days, but if you don’t have that kind of time, you can also just ride for part of a day and still get to see granite peaks from on horseback. Banff Trail Riders has been leading riders into Banff National Park since the 1960s. As this park has limited vehicle access, riding is one of the best ways to explore.
The scenery varies from deep forests, glacier-fed lakes, rushing streams and craggy peaked mountains. While I spent a few days on horseback here, rides range from an hour to a full day or multiple days. Beginners can even camp too or stay at historic lodges, it’s a very cool multi-day adventure.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
The Kenai Peninsula in Alaska is an oasis for wildlife and natural wonders. From the Kenai Fjords National Park, which you can explore on a boat ride, to the iconic Seward Highway, one of the USA’s most beautiful road trips, there are lots of things to see and do but I recommend making the time to ride horses while you’re here.
In small town Seward, saddle up with Bardy’s Trail Rides to discover areas of devastation caused by the 1964 earthquake, wildlife like the Arctic Tern and enjoy a short canter on the beach.
As you ride, you may enter forested areas and cross creeks, but also continually view majestic snow-capped mountains. This is a destination where you can’t take a bad photograph. It’s dramatic Alaska, best seen from the saddle. Even better, local guides recount the area’s history and may even tell you where to get the best salmon for dinner.
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Ireland is a destination that I tell all riders to visit at some point in their lives. Called “the land of horses,” Ireland not only has countryside, mountains, lakes and beaches to explore on horseback, but also sensible, laid-back horses to ride. I stress this, as many Irish horses get to spend lots of their lives grazing in pastures, as opposed to inside horse stalls or barns and many of them have easy-going temperaments and are not easily spooked.
A great place to ride for beginners is along the Ring of Kerry and into Killarney National Park. Killarney Riding Stables is a family-owned stable with cool Irish horses and even cooler spots to ride. If you have time, take a ride up the Windy Gap, where the verdant patchwork countryside is juxtaposed with the bright waters of Dingle Bay for some of the most beautiful views in Ireland.
The Golden Circle, Iceland
Icelandic horses are easy to ride and if you have a fear of large horses, these pony-sized ones with their flowing manes and smooth ways of moving may be a good fit for you. You don’t have to be an expert to take an hour-long or even multi-day tour in Iceland and any rides along the classic Golden Circle are good picks.
Ishestar, which has been leading riders on tours since 1982, offers a variety of riding tours, including for beginning riders and families. The rugged lava landscapes are best traversed on horseback. If you don’t want to saddle up, Ishestar offers a farm visit, where you can simply meet and learn about Icelandic horses.
Wherever you decide to ride, research the company with whom you’re riding in advance and if the horses don’t look healthy, don’t ride.
Darley Newman is also the host, writer and producer of Travels with Darley, and as an equestrian expert, she has created resources for travellers looking to ride, including Equitrekking Travel and Top20Ranches.