Winter Scene 2010: Happy winter trails to you

Trade your skis for (horse)shoes





Contrary to popular belief, horseback riding is not just for cowboys on hot summer days. In fact, winter horseback riding has become a popular, cold-weather attraction for Boulder County residents and visitors alike. Numerous equestrian ranches, stables and liveries provide a fun alternative to a weekend on the slopes this winter. No matter if you’re a beginning rider or a riding veteran, most riding facilities will accommodate your riding abilities — or lack thereof.


Sombrero Ranches, Inc., the largest horse outfitter in Colorado, offers eight locations within reasonable driving distance of Boulder County at Allenspark, Estes Park, Glacier Creek, Grand Lake, Meeker, Moraine Park, Snow Mountain and Steamboat Springs. Created in 1958, Sombrero offers a variety of rides in the natural beauty of the Colorado Rockies without any commercialism: the company doesn’t feature any gift shops or advertising apart from their website.

With more than 1,800 horses, Sombrero indubitably has a horse for every type of rider. Offering one- to eight-hour trail rides daily, riders can experience scenic Colorado trails in vast, untouched Rocky Mountain terrain. The rides are led by knowledgeable guides who have insight into key points of interest, wildlife and Colorado history. Beyond traditional trail rides, Sombrero also boasts breakfast, steak dinner, sleigh and wagon rides. Sleigh rides are limited to the Snow Mountain Ranch location, but what better way to enjoy the snow than in a sleigh pulled by a team of beautiful horses? Riders can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or a home-cooked dinner made by cowboys in a warm dining hall. Prices vary, depending on which ride you embark upon, but one-hour rides start at $35, while the Dinner Sleigh Rides start at $60. Reservations are required for all winter riding activities.

The Cabin Creek Stables at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash are about two hours west of Boulder on I-70 and offer a year round equestrian program that focuses on horsemanship skills and trail riding. Like Sombrero, Cabin Creek has half-or full-day rides, meal tours, and wagon and sleigh rides. The stables have a “shodeo” course, where riders can practice rodeo events like pole bending, barrel racing, egg racing, team penning and horsemanship score. With more than 5,000 acres of riding terrain and reasonable rates, starting at $90 for a half-day ride, Devil’s Thumb Ranch is well worth the two-hour drive.

Closer to Boulder is Peaceful Valley Ranch near Lyons, one of Colorado’s oldest and largest guest ranches. Trails meander along the St. Vrain River, where peaks are prominent and wildlife roams free. Rides vary from one hour to overnight camp-outs in Colorado wilderness. Trails explore the Roosevelt National Forest, Beaver Reservoir, Timberline Falls and many other key destinations. The ranch, however, only offers horseback riding through the fall. Interested riders should check out this nearby attraction before winter truly arrives. Layers of warm clothing, warm socks and durable gloves are recommended for all rides.

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