Vail to Aspen Horseback Ride
Riding a horse from Vail to Aspen will be one of the most memorable journeys you ever make. This four day, three night trip traverses some of the most spectacular backcountry nestled in Colorado. Nights are spent in Tenth Mountain Division Huts and private guest ranches, which provide nearly all of the comforts of home.
$2000 per person
Vail to Aspen trips are limited to ten guests.
Dates are scheduled in the fall for the following summer.
- Check this year's availabe dates.
- Meet chef Adam Weinberger and view our trip menu.
- Read the august 2012 article in Food and Wine Magazine.
- Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine feature story.
- Learn about our Kelly Liken Celebrity Chef Trip.
The horseback trip is suitable for riders of any level. Gentle horses and easily navigable terrain make the trip possible for beginners, while the stunning scenery and backcountry nature of the trip make it an adventure for even the most experienced of horse people. Certainly the amount of time to be spent in the saddle must be taken into account, especially for those unaccustomed to riding on a regular basis. We highly recommend that you ride before you come, if only to prepare the old seat bones for the journey.
We usually offer our Vail to Aspen rides during July and August when we have found the weather along the trail to be most favorable. Days are usually sunny and warm; around 75-85 degrees with little or no humidity (remember to bring sunscreen). Evenings will be cool and crisp, with skies full of countless stars. Being Mother Nature, there is always the chance of some variation here, usually in the form of brief afternoon rain showers. If you have rain gear you'd like to bring, feel free, otherwise we'll provide it for you. We find that the better everyone is prepared for inclement weather, the less likely we'll have it.
The first and third nights on the trail will be spent in Tenth Mountain Division Huts. These beautiful, cabin-like structures are always a welcome and surprising sight at the end of a day's ride. Both huts are nestled in the woods with beautiful decks overlooking spectacular vistas - the perfect place to unwind after stepping off your horse. The interior of each of the huts is cozy and comfortable, and set up for communal living. The second floors are sleeping quarters, with everyone sharing one large sleeping room. Each individual sleeping area is equipped with a sleeping pad (very comfy) and a pillow. You only need to bring your own sleeping bag, and if you like, pillowcase. The ground floors are "living" areas with couch-like benches for lounging on, picnic tables for communal meals or games, and of course a kitchen where your meals will be prepared by our cook. Not only will our cook be using the wood stove to prepare your meals, it will also serve to heat the hut, and creates cozy warmth welcome in the cool Colorado evenings. The huts are equipped with photo-voltaic electricity, so that there are lights to turn on at night. However, there are no outlets to plug things in. Bathroom facilities at the huts are outhouses - a big step up from the trees along the trail. Toilet tissue and even scented candles will make this experience a relatively comfortable one. Personal hygiene (brushing teeth, washing up, etc) will be handled in pans of water, as all water at the huts is either hauled in or hand-pumped. Please prepare accordingly by bringing your own towel, etc.
The second night on the trail is a brush with civilization, as we ride into the Fryingpan River valley and spend the night at a beautiful guest ranch. Hot showers and flush toilets await trail-weary bodies. If you'd like you may even have an opportunity to see the news and hit the hot tub before heading back out into the wilderness.
All meals while on the ride will be provided for you. This means a total of three cooked breakfasts, four lunches on the trail, and three dinners. Trail snacks (i.e. candy, granola bars, and fruit) and drinks will be made available for you to have on your horse with you during the day. We will do our best to accommodate any special requests you might have, as long as you tell us about them well in advance of the trip (it's a bit hard to find a Piggly Wiggly in the middle of the wilderness if you get a sudden urge for tapioca pudding). Breakfasts and dinners are always hot meals, freshly prepared. Lunch will be eaten on the trail each day and usually consists of sandwiches or wraps, chips, fruits, cookies, and drinks. We are very proud of the menus we have put together, as we feel they are delicious, healthy and fun. Each trip's menu is different depending on guest's requests and our cook's fancy so let us know if there's something you'd particularly like. It is imperative that you inform us of any (even mild) food allergies well before the start of the trip so that we can plan around them and prevent an emergency in the backcountry!!! Please also note that the Vail to Aspen ride is a BYOB affair. Please bring along any adult beverages you may like to have at the end of each day (not on the trail please!), as well as mixers for said libations. We will provide plenty of coolers and ice to transport everything for you.
All horse care will be handled by the wranglers throughout the trip. You are required only to take any personal items with you when you get off of your horse at the end of day, pet and talk to your horse as you ride down the trail, and feed your horse part of your apple at lunch. If you would like to help with the care of the horses, we always welcome volunteers. Simply let one of the wranglers know, and they'll let you know what you can do and how to do it.
WHAT TO BRING
This list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but instead is a general outline of what to think about when packing for your Vail to Aspen horseback ride. We have included a specific list of some items, especially those that are most often forgotten by guests.
Riding Clothes - comfortable long pants and sturdy shoes are a must here! On top, we highly recommend layers to shed and add to as temperatures change through the day. Include for good measure a warm jacket, gloves and a warm hat. Rain gear (slickers) will be provided for anyone who does not bring their own.
Evening Clothes - again, comfort is key here. Many people look forward to shedding their riding clothes for more comfy "lounge wear" for around the huts. A pair of slip on shoes is a nice thing to have for making a quick trip to the outhouse or stepping out onto the deck to watch the sunset.
Please remember to bring everything you will need to perform your personal toilet rituals each day, including any medications you may be taking. At the huts, these activities will be performed with the help of a pitcher and bowl of water like in the old days. At the guest ranch, you will have the opportunity to shower, shave, etc. The most often forgotten toiletry item on a trip like this is a towel and/or washcloth - so go pack one right now!
- Sleeping bag
- Pillow case (pillows are provided at each hut, but a familiar pillowcase can be very comforting)
- Book, game, etc (maybe something to share for evening entertainment)
- Flashlight (our number two most forgotten item, which makes the outhouse hard to find at night)
- BYOB - because we are not equipped with a backcountry liquor license, this trip is BYOB. Bring whatever you like, we will provide coolers and ice to keep everything cold.
These are items we recommend you not only bring, but have handy while on the trail
- Lip Balm
- Water Bottle (we'll provide water, juice, Gatorade, lemonade etc to refill it)
GETTING TO US
Vail-Eagle airport is the closest one to Bearcat Stables - only about twenty minutes away. Some airlines offer daily non-stop flights from a few major cities, with connecting flights from most others. Denver airport is the closest major airport - about a two hour drive from the stables. A number of transportation companies (listed below) provide ground transportation from either airport to the Vail Valley. Car rentals from most major companies are also available from either airport. Being a resort community, the Vail Valley has plenty of beautiful lodging accommodations for before or after your trip. From any of these properties, cab service could deliver you to Bearcat Stables. Below is a list of some of our favorite vendors.
All Mountain Transportation - private, door-to-door luxury transportation, especially great if there's a group (four or more) of you www.skishopvail.com (970) 949-9255
Colorado Mountain Express - regularly scheduled shuttle services www.cmex.com (970)926-4409
Bearcat Stables has a 15 passenger van available for pick up from Aspen at the conclusion of the trip - please ask us for details.
Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, Edwards, CO (800) 877-3529
Mention you are part of the Vail to Aspen ride with Bearcat Stables to receive a discounted rate!
RESORT AREA (in the heart of Beaver Creek Resort)
The Charter at Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek, CO (970) 949-6660 www.theCharter.com
$150-300/night. All suite hotel, with luxury guest rooms to condos.
Holiday Inn Express, Eagle, CO (970) 328-8088
$89-99/night. Old reliable.
Vail to Aspen Horseback Ride Schedule
We are fortunate on the Vail to Aspen ride to have relatively few miles to cover each day. The four day total stands at approximately 55 miles. The first day will be our longest, with eight hours on the trail. Day two is usually about seven, day three and day four about six hours. Because of this leisurely pace, we can enjoy our time at the huts and the guest ranch, and take relaxing lunches along the trail. We generally start moving around 7am each morning, at which time the cook will have coffee and breakfast "snacks" ready for you. Real breakfast is usually ready between 8:00 and 8:30, and by 9:00 - 9:30 we like to start heading towards the horses (wranglers will have been with them since the wee hours feeding, grooming and saddling). We have found that if we are on the trail by 9:30 or 10am, we arrive at our evening destination most comfortably. This is not a hard and fast schedule and will vary with each trip, depending on number of guests, personalities, and any weather concerns.
The first day on the trail is almost always the most challenging as we adjust to our horses, saddles, each other, etc. The first day of the Vail to Aspen ride is also the longest - usually around eight hours. In other words, by the time we reach the Peter Estin Hut the first evening, we will have had plenty of time to work out all of the kinks (except for the new ones in your rear-end). We ask that all guests arrive at Bearcat Stables at eight o'clock. Awaiting you will be a light continental breakfast (pastries, juice, coffee - if you require more for breakfast, please have it before you arrive). This first hour or so at the stables will be an opportunity for you to meet your fellow riders and the wranglers and support staff who will be accompanying you on your trip, while last minute preparations for departure are made. First, we will finalize any last minute paperwork issues, and then begin with packing. All overnight bags will be packed into the moving vehicle which will deliver them to the hut. Things needed for the trail will be kept handy to load onto either your riding horse or the pack horse. We ask that you keep the amount of this "day stuff" reasonable. We want you to be comfortable, but it is imperative that the horses be comfortable and not overloaded, as they will be doing most of the work the next few days. You might refer to the following list of "Day Items" as a guideline, and we will help you organize and re-think your equipment when you arrive if necessary. We will do a brief riding demonstration and some introductions before saddling everyone up. Then we'll hit the trail, hopefully by 9:30am. The ride will depart up the Squaw Creek trailhead, directly from Bearcat Stables. The Squaw Creek section of the trail is a meandering path generally paralleling Squaw Creek and crossing it a number of times. We will ride through serviceberry and pine trees alternated by wide open alpine meadows. We will pass through an old saw mill area before beginning our climb away from the creek bed towards the New York Mountains. Mid day we will descend into the Fulford area, where we will stop for lunch. The second half of the day will be a long steady climb towards Peter Estin Hut. We should arrive there by 6pm, just in time for appetizers on the deck with sunset as the background.
Day two begins with a descent from Peter Estin Hut through aspens and wide open meadows with sweeping views. This morning ride is ranchland Colorado, with cattle grazing in the distance, on wide meadows of knee-high grass. After a lunch break, a short afternoon ride past the beautiful Lime Creek Canyon will bring us to the Fryingpan River valley just above Reudi Reservoir. We will ride right into the guest ranch, our home for the evening. The ranch boasts hot showers, flush toilets, and even a hot tub. Because this is a shorter ride day (~7 hours), we will have plenty of time to enjoy these amenities. A hearty dinner will be served at the ranch around 7pm.
Day three is the shortest ride of all four days (~5-6 hours). This permits a leisurely morning at the ranch, or for those morning people, a regular departure time and a leisurely evening at Margy's Hut. We will make that decision as a group the night before, taking into consideration any weather concerns. From the ranch we will make a steady ascent towards the jewel of the Aspen ride - the summit of Mt. Yeckel. We will stop for lunch just below the summit in a secluded meadow nestled among pine trees. Make sure to have your camera ready for this afternoon - the three hundred sixty degree views from Yeckel will take your breath away - Maroon Bells, New York Mountains, Flattops, all of it spread out below you. Margy's Hut will welcome us, as did the others, with a hot dinner and spectacular views of the Williams Range from the dining room. It is from the deck of Margy's that you will first glimpse our destination - the slopes of Aspen.
Our final day on the trail will be about a six hour ride. We will cover varied terrain as we climb in and out of small valleys on our descent towards Aspen. Our ride will skirt the historic mining town of Lanedo, and then sneak peaks at the back side of some of the beautiful homes outside of Aspen will be our first warning of the return to civilization. Upon arrival at the Hunter Creek Trailhead, sad goodbyes will be said to all of the new four legged friends you have made, as they load into the trailer for a much needed few days rest in the home pasture. For those returning to Bearcat Stables, transportation will be provided for you and your luggage. If you have other plans, such as hitting the spa in Aspen, please be sure you have transportation arrangements figured out before you get on your horse in Vail (we can help you with this...just get in touch with us before your trip)
We look forward to you joining us on this incredible trip!