Serious riders will love the true adventure and unparalleled remoteness of Estancia Ranquilco. Nothing gets you closer to nature than pack tripping in the wilderness, and guests visiting this 100,000-acre Argentine estancia can do just that in the foothills of the Andes. This is no donkey ride, however; you’ll learn to pack and lead a mule, and saddle and care for your horse as you spend 10 days packing in the mountains near Chile, camping under the stars in the pristine wilderness of Patagonia. Strong, calm, sure-footed horses will take you through remote valleys, over huge mountains and along narrow, steep and rocky trails. Entailing a three-hour horseback ride just to get in and out of the estancia, this horseback riding adventure is not for the faint-hearted.
If you prefer the saddle of a bike to that of a horse, Majestic Dude Ranch in Cortez, Colorado, has just the thing. Located near Durango, a town famous for its outdoor adventure activities, Majestic offers more extreme adventure opportunities that you can shake a water-ski at. Aside from a top-notch horseback riding program, Majestic boasts lake water sports, river floating and white-water rafting on its schedule of activities. But the highlight here lies in a small basement tucked away under the luxury lodgings – home to a brand new, top-of-the-range set of mountain bikes. With a bike and safety gear to fit every age and size, Majestic will kit you out with everything you need for the highlight of its cycling program – the famous Phil’s World, one of the top 10 cycle trails in the United States. Located high in Mesa Verde National Park, this network of single-track trails features half-mile climbs, a ‘rollercoaster’ section and several jumps – making this twisting, turning, up-and-down mountain trail one of the fastest growing destinations for mountain bikers the world over. Accompanied by Majestic’s cycling guide, you’ll experience the ultimate adrenaline-fuelled ride with stunning mountain scenery to boot. Guests are so won over by awe-inspiring cycling program, they’ve even been known to take a bike home with them!
For the same stunning Colorado terrain but tackled from the back of a horse, head to nearby Chico Basin Ranch in Colorado Springs – the ultimate in working ranch vacations. The third-generation ranch operation’s day-to-day activities will dictate the nature of your stay, so expect to get your hands dirty and a sweat on your brow! And if you’re looking for frills then you’re best headed to the nearest hotel in local Colorado Springs, because you won’t find any here – this is the real ranch experience with true working cowboys. With the chance to spend more than eight hours in the saddle each day, a ranch vacation at Chico Basin is not one for the fainthearted, requiring boundless energy and enthusiasm – not to mention seatbones of steel!
A working ranch vacation at Chico’s sister ranch, Zapata Ranch in nearby Mosca, is equally challenging – but for very different reasons. Still a working ranch operation but with a more luxurious feel, Zapata Ranch offers its guest the unique challenge of moving bison herds aboard real cow horses. A completely different experience to moving traditional cattle herds, riding with bison requires quick reactions, skill in the saddle and nerves of steel! For horseback adrenaline rushes don’t come better than this, but for those preferring to get their kicks out of the saddle, whitewater rafting trips down the Arkansas river will provide Zapata guests with the ultimate in extreme adventure experiences.
For off-roading at its most extreme, head to the untamed natural environment of New Zealand for the Beaumont High Country Experience. A good level of fitness is recommended for the backcountry horseback riding over diverse, hilly terrain – whether it’s on full-day rides personally guided by a station owner, or week-long remote pack trips through the ranch against the backdrop of the Southland’s great mountains, where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d just stepped into a scene from Lord of the Rings. For those preferring wheels to hooves, the excitement and adventure of four-wheeling in the high country awaits. Or if water sports are more up your street, travel to nearby Clifton for a thrilling jet boat adventure, crossing Lake Hauroko to the mouth of the Wairaurahiri River where you’ll encounter some of the most intense and exciting white-water rapids New Zealand has to offer.
While you’re ‘down under’, why not hop over to Australia for a Snowy River Horseback Adventure? With two to five-day treks across the snowy river countryside, Snowy River offers riding country that’s second to none, with each day in the saddle offering new adventure and diverse landscape to explore. This is no easy ride, however, and is certainly not for the fainthearted. Covering an average of 30 km each day, you’ll need to be riding fit; but the hard work will be worth it when you spot wildlife such as emu, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, echidna and deer, and herds of brumbies – Australian wild horses – along the way.
If it’s remote wilderness you’re after, Rancho Los Baños ticks all the boxes – don’t expect to see a sign of civilisation for miles at this Mexican ranch. Safely located at the foot of the Sierra Madre in secure northeast Sonora, this travel destination is unlike anywhere else; a unique kind of guest ranch catering to new-generation adventure travellers. The wilderness is comparable to the likes of Zion, Kenya and Tanzania, making for backcountry horseback riding you won’t find elsewhere. The vast, rugged and diverse land offers up a whole host of adventure pursuits, making for a 30,000-acre personal playground; whether it’s canyoneering or bouldering in the canyons, trekking in the rocky mountains, exploring the country by jeep, white-water rafting or a night-time safari, Los Baños guarantees a thrilling, challenging and fun-filled adventure.
For an equally remote adventure in the USA, Triple Creek Ranch’s Selway Wilderness Rides offer guests horseback riding in an area so secluded it cannot be reached except by airplane. A plane ride to the top of the Rocky Mountains in the Bitterroot National Forest brings guests to their horses and tack, ready to set off on rock ledge trails, across rivers and through fields, before fishing in pristine streams loaded with trout. Strictly for cowgirls, November sees ‘Klicks for Chicks’ – a 62-mile, women-only endurance ride. Venture into deep canyons, over mountain passes, past crystal clear lakes and through pristine meadows, to discover the last frontier of the Rocky Mountain West.
If the only thing that could drag you away on a ranch vacation are wild horses, then The Hideout Guest Ranch in Wyoming is the place to go. Home to a McCullough Peak wild Mustang herd, this luxury dude ranch offers the rare and unique opportunity to ride with wild horses. Says The Hideout’s owner, Marijn De Cabooter: “Just last week, close to 50 wild horses came to circle the guests while we were out herding cows.” The Hideout, also a fully operational working ranch, has several Mustangs in its string of guest horses that head wrangler Ramon Castro has tamed and trained himself. Head to the ranch in September for The Hideout’s ‘Mustang Package’, and you can ride one of Ramon’s Mustangs to go exploring for the wild herd across the ranch, before attending the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas, in which Ramon himself will be competing. Horseback vacations don’t come wilder than this!