The Winter Pastures horseback riding vacation will take you far below the remote North Rim of the Grand Canyon into a microclimate which is sheltered from the cold and winds above. As one descends into the depths of the Canyon there are a series of benches or esplanades which vary in width from 200 yards to a mile wide. Thanks to the exquisite scenery and solitude they make an inviting location for winter camping and exploring. This adventure is definitely not to be confused with infamously tedious donkey rides; it is a rigorous horse pack trip into some of the canyon’s least frequented drainages. It is rough going in this country, and riders often dismount to lead the horses through particularly treacherous stretches. You will quickly gain an appreciation for the amazing fortitude of these horses, and their instinctive skill negotiating the rugged trails.
Once the trail drops off the north rim, you are unlikely to meet anyone but the odd desert bighorn sheep, wary mule deer or perhaps glimpse a condor soaring overhead. The groups are small, and everyone must be a competent rider and be willing to lend a helping hand around camp. The few hardy souls who venture into the Winter Pastures will be rewarded by experiencing the grandeur of the canyon as the first explorer did. Explore our other horseback riding adventures in Utah and Arizona.
This is a camping trip with minimalist facilities. Two different camp sites will be used on this trail, the first two nights at one and the last 3 nights at the other. Tents comfortably fit two people and their gear. Mattresses and cots are provided to sleep on and you can either bring your own sleeping bag or rent one from the outfitter for $35 for the week.
Water is available for washing up in the morning and evening, but please keep in mind that in this country water is a scarce commodity.
The horses on this ride are chosen for their surefootedness in rough terrain. Although predominantly Quarter horses, other breeds and crosses will be among the outfitter's remuda. He also has a couple of mules which are excellent packhorses, and can sometimes be used as saddle horses.
Western-style tack is utilized. Riders are welcome to bring their own saddles.
Pickup in St. George at 1:00pm. Transfer to Hack Canyon where the first camp is located. Enroute stop to purchase alcoholic beverages should that be requested. Once in camp, learn to set up the tents and become acquainted with the horses. Get to know the rest of your fellow travelers and learn of the days ahead during the welcome dinner.
After a hearty camp breakfast in the frosty air, which will be served from 7-8 AM every morning starting with a hot drink, saddle the horses and follow the trail down Hack Canyon to Water Canyon where the horses will be watered at the spring. Continue to the beginning of the canyon where you have a relaxing picnic lunch. Keep your eyes open for wary desert bighorn sheep, which are often seen in this area. Afterwards ride back to the spring and hike to a few petroglyphs before mounting up and heading back to camp where you should arrive around 4PM.
Today’s ride takes you deeper into the canyon as far as Chamberlain Cove. From there you ride to Kanab Creek where camp will be made for the next 3 nights. While on the trail you may want to get off and lead the horses down steep and slick rocks. Along the way explore the various drainages cutting through the Esplanade and arrive in camp around 6PM. The pack horses split off today and take an easy route into camp.
Saddle up and leave camp around 9.30 AM. Ride along the middle layer of Kanab Creek. Some places on the trail will require leading the horses on foot. Return to camp around 5 PM.
Leave the pack horses at camp, and ride down the dry creek bed of Kanab Creek, exploring the inner gorge and some of the side canyons. JumpUp Canyon is the border of Grand Canyon National Park. The walls of Kanab Canyon keep getting higher as the creek bed lowers in elevation. Back at camp around 5.30 PM.
Pack up camp after breakfast and help load things onto the pack horses and leave camp around 10.30 AM. Climb at a steady pace up Kanab Creek to Hack Canyon camp and arrive around 2.30 PM where you have lunch. Help load the horses, and transfer back to St. George arriving no later than 8 PM.
This itinerary is flexible. Changes may occur at the guide's discretion based on weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
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