Experience Zion on Horseback
Of all the fantastic activities to enjoy while visiting Zion National Park, horseback riding is the most exciting and unique thing to do. The experience of getting to know one of these impressive animals as they saunter along the incredible Zion area is truly unforgettable. There are many things that make horseback riding such a wonderful activity. The scenic views, leisurely pace, and connection with nature during a horseback ride are all things that make a horseback riding journey one of a kind.
Before heading out on a horseback riding excursion, there are a few things that are helpful to know. Things like the overall experience, places to ride, necessary gear, and best times to ride are great to know ahead of time to make the most out of the ride. By being prepared for what’s to come, riders can focus more on the amazing trip and less on the unknown. Scheduling a horseback ride in Zion is the best decision visitors can make during their stay.
The Horseback Riding Experience
Many people, especially those who have never ridden a horse before, may feel anxious about what to expect during a horseback ride. These fears and uncertainties are completely understandable. Horses are large, powerful animals and, for those who are unfamiliar with them, their size and strength can be quite daunting. Another uncertainty many people have is how safe the ride will be, especially in more precarious areas and on more difficult trails. Some other questions that potential riders may be anxious about are if it’s ok to be inexperienced for horseback rides in Zion, whether they will be pushed outside of their comfort zone, and how long the ride will be. Anyone worried about these aspects of the ride can put their mind at ease, because the following is an explanation of the entire experience of horseback rides in Zion National Park.
Depending on the riding company, most horseback riding experiences will start out with a bit of training, preparation, and the riders getting familiar with the horses. Skilled guides will go over the handling of the animals, some dos and don’ts, and give riders an overview of the journey they will embark on. All the horses used for riding have a calm temperament, are very well trained, and are used to being ridden by riders will all different experience levels. This means that even if riders have never seen a horse, they can feel confident when they get in the saddle because the horse has enough experience for both.
Once riders are familiar and comfortable with their horse, the journey will begin. There are many different trails and ride lengths that can be taken, which will be discussed later. Riders can ride for as little as thirty minutes or go on an overnight journey. The duration and location of the trip will mostly depend on experience level and the rider’s preference. Most riders choose a trip that is a few hours long. The ride will consist of seeing beautiful scenic areas, maneuvering the horse along the trails, and taking the time to really connect with the land. Every horseback riding journey through Zion is magnificent and relaxing, no matter where or how long.
Once the ride concludes, riders will say goodbye to their new best friends, the horses, and leave the ranch. This is when riders will reflect on what an incredible day they’ve had and begin planning their next trip and horseback ride in Zion National Park.
The Best Places to Ride
There are many places to ride both in and near Zion National Park. To ride in the actual park, there are two very popular trails that allow horses, which are the Virgin River Trail and Sand Bench Trail. Outside of the park, many ranches have their own land that is thrilling to ride along, as well. No matter which area riders will be in, inside or outside of the park, the incredible views of the wild west will take their breath away.
The trail that follows the Virgin River is one of the more popular trails that lead through Zion National Park. This is one of the few trails that allow horses. This trail gives riders the chance to get into the heart of the park and experience the rugged landscape the way Native Americans and settlers did. Riders will walk and trot their horses along the river, perhaps seeing some wildlife along the way. In some shallow spots, riders can cross the river with their horses for a more exciting adventure.
Sand Bench Trail
While the Virgin River Trail takes riders into the heart of Zion, Sand Bench Trail takes them far above it. Riders and their horses will reach elevations of five-hundred feet, allowing a panoramic view of the entire park. While the trip up and down the trail can be a bit daunting, the horses are surefooted and more than capable to get riders along the trail safely. The reward for braving this journey uphill is a 360-degree view of Zion National Park, so riders should be sure to bring along their cameras.
Outside of the Park
When riding on public land or land owned by the ranches outside of the park, there are many unique and exciting things to see. The ponderosa pine forests, lush and green countryside, and fascinating red rock mix together to provide some of the most scenic views many have ever seen. The different terrains can be ridden in different ways. Wide open spaces mean that riders can get their horses moving at a quicker pace, as fast as they are comfortable with. Narrow trails in the forests give riders a chance to see how agile and impressive these gentle giants are. The stunning red rock allows the horses to show off their skills as they effortlessly climb around narrow paths and across jagged rocks, all while the rider can take in the views and leave the hard work to the horse. Riders don’t have to go inside of Zion National Park to have an incredible horseback riding experience.
Gear Needed for the Journey
Horseback riding requires very little gear, and most of what is needed will be provided by the riding company or ranch. However, there are a few things that riders should bring along to have a safe and comfortable excursion.
Riders should wear pants that can stand up to a bit of wear, like denim or canvas. This will make the rider more comfortable since the saddle can rub the seat and thighs of the rider. If the rider is wearing thin pants, like leggings, sweatpants, or yoga pants, the journey can be very uncomfortable or downright unbearable.
Riders should also wear a fully enclosed and sturdy shoe. Flip flops, sandals, and clogs just won’t cut it during a horseback ride. A pair of tennis shoes with gripped soles or boots, hiking or cowboy boots will do, are the only shoes that should be worn while horseback riding. This is for the safety and comfort of the rider, since open toed or backed shoes can become uncomfortable, break, fall off, or hinder the rider’s ability to control the horse from the stirrups.
Riders will also want to wear clothing that will protect them from the sun, especially during the summer months. Long sleeved but lightweight shirts are perfect for keeping the sun off skin without overheating. Riders may also wish to wear a hat to keep the sun off their face, although some ranches may require riders to wear a helmet during their trip.
The other thing that riders should bring along is water. Some ranches may supply water and snacks, but it is better to have water and not need it than to need it and not have it. Even for less strenuous activities, it’s a good idea to have about a gallon of water for an outdoor adventure. Having a couple of bottles of water or a wearable water pack will help riders stay cool and hydrated during a horseback ride.
Horseback Riding Throughout the Year
One of the great things about horseback riding is that it can be done during most times of the year. As long as there is no dangerous weather, riders can enjoy seeing Zion on horseback year round.
At lower elevations, the weather in Zion during the winter can be quite favorable. Though it can get very cold, it generally does not bother the horses and riders can have a journey that is less likely to be interrupted by other tourists. If considering riding in the winter, riders should check to make sure the ranch they would like to ride with is open during the winter season. Snow and ice accumulation can make conditions dangerous, so it is also a good idea for riders to keep an eye on the weather before heading out.
Early spring is like winter in Zion, but as the season continues it begins to warm up. Riding during the spring can be cold, wet, and rainy, so riders should plan accordingly and decide if they are comfortable with those conditions. However, on the nicer days in the spring, the ride will be beautiful.
The hottest and most popular time of the year, summer is a great time to go horseback riding. Since the horse will do most of the work, riders are less likely to overexert themselves. This allows guests to see the beautiful landscape during this lovely season even if they are sensitive to the heat.
As the temperature cools, the rides become even more beautiful. Changing foliage and a clear sky will greet riders who head to Zion for horseback riding in the fall. It is important for riders to keep in mind that some ranches close in late fall, so calling ahead is a must.
Experience the Thrill of Horseback Riding
Horseback rides in Zion National Park will be an unforgettable adventure. The scenic views, gorgeous weather, and amazing horses all combine to create a magical journey. Those who choose to go on one of the horseback rides in Zion will find themselves talking about the experience for the rest of their lives. Anyone traveling to the area, no matter the season, should be sure to book a horseback riding adventure with one of the many local ranches. It is an incredible once in a lifetime experience.