Surrounded by Ponderosa Pines and Red Canyons with hoodoos of oddly shaped rock formations jutting out of the earth, this is a place where one could easily imagine Butch Cassidy hiding on horseback from the Utah Sheriff. In fact, our first day of riding with Ruby’s Horseback Adventures in Bryce Canyon, Utah, found us at one of Butch Cassidy’s hideouts. We rode our horses right up to an old rock structure where Butch was known to hide cattle after stealing a few from a local herd.
Cowboys and cowgirls converge on southern Utah
Twenty riders, ranging in ages from 16-69, came together to join Ruby’s Horseback Adventures on Ruby’s Grand Adventure 4 day trail ride. We were a mix of equestrians traveling from California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and Vermont, each with varying degrees of horseback riding experience.
Trish Townsdin of Lesueur, Minnesota, started riding at 40 and will turn 70 in March. She picked Ruby’s Horseback Adventures because some friends recommended Ruby’s Grand Adventure ride to her. A husband and wife team from Colorado read about the ride on a Facebook forum for trail riders. I joined the ride after horseback riding last year with Ruby’s Inn half day trail ride. When I heard about Ruby’s Grand Adventure, I signed up a year in advance. Good thing I did. The 4-day horseback ride is only offered 6 times a year and next year is already sold out.
“Next year’s ride is already full, so I’ll be doing Ruby’s Grand Adventure when I’m 71,” laughs Trish Townsdin.
The 4-day Ruby’s Horseback Adventure starts off in Red Canyon. The horses are trailered to Losee Canyon and we are shuttled from Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. A buffet breakfast is included each day of our 5-night hotel stay, as well as buffet dinner with nightly entertainment. Riders are given saddle bags to pack our own beverages and lunch. Riders are fed well on this trip. You needn’t bring more than a light lunch, water and some carrots for your horse. Dress in layers, as you never know what Bryce Canyon, Utah has to offer when it comes to weather.
Bryce Canyon horse rides
Guests have the option of riding their own horses. You can even camp out with your horse, but why would you want to sleep on the ground or at Ruby’s Campground and RV Park when you have the option to sleep at Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel or Best Western Ruby’s Inn? Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit as there is a swimming pool and hot tub.
“This area was settled on a hope and a prayer,” according to Cowboy Poet David Pollock.
After riding Losse and Castro Canyon 16 miles with six hours of saddle time, we were ready for a shower before the evening’s entertainment. Some of us with bionic parts in our bodies were looking forward to the hot tub. I must confess that after two hip replacements before the age of 60, I was a little apprehensive about Ruby’s Grand Adventure and what 4 days of horseback riding would bring. I sailed through the experience, thanks to the fabulous wranglers, well-trained horses and Utah’s endless abundance of natural mounting blocks. I was even more impressed with Teri Nash of Arvada, Colorado and the riding challenges she faces with her health issues.
“I’m 58 years old and not ready to quit riding,” said Nash with a wry grin. “I am fused from C2-C7 and have 2 disc in my lower back that are shot. My doctors highly advised that I no longer horseback ride at all. I can’t quit. Some days are worse than others, but never enough pain to stop me from horseback riding.”
“I ‘ve been riding horses for over half my life,” said Therese Surdel of Milton, Florida. “Riding in Bryce Canyon with my daughter has been one of my top horseback riding experiences. Having the opportunity to share on horseback, the wonder of the hoodoos, slot canyons and Inspiration Point is astounding and something that we will reminisce about for years to come.”
Thunder Mountain Trail Ride
Disneyland Resort in California may be known for Thunder Mountain Rail Road, but the amusement park’s inspiration for the roller coaster ride was taken from the hogback trail in Hatch, Utah. The 5-hour, 9-mile horseback ride takes equestrians up 8,450 feet elevation to Inspiration Point for some magnificent photo opportunities. This ride is open to ages 10+ as a day ride for $98, but personally, I’d only recommend this ride to experienced equestrians. The views are jaw-dropping, but I’m told it’s challenged some cowboy’s fear of heights!
Equestrian Nancy Wright of Sandpoint, Idaho roped her twin sisters into Ruby’s Horseback Adventures ride. The twin sisters from Vermont and New York’s Finger Lake region were up for Ruby’s Grand Adventure, yet appreciated the flexibility of not having to ride all 4 days. All of Ruby’s hotels offer a complimentary shuttle ride into the Bryce Canyon National Park, with paid park admission fee. Ruby’s Inn also offers a horse and carriage ride into the rim of Bryce Canyon for an additional fee.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Willis Creek and Sheep Creek Trail was the highlight of my trip and is what horseback riding in Utah is all about, in my humble opinion. The ride goes through Sheep Creek in Paria River drainage to Willis Creek. Riding through the slot canyon on horseback, the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is not to be missed. At the start of our ride we passed through Averett Canyon and visited Elijah Averett’s monument – so much history is hidden in these canyons. After riding through Willis Canyon, we visited ancient Indian petroglyphs drawn on the rock walls.
One of the great things about Ruby’s Grand Adventure ride is that it offers so many options for every level of equestrian. Day 4 of our ride brought inclement weather. We were supposed to ride Henderson Rim Trail or Showalter Trail; however, we were fog delayed. Instead, we enjoyed hot cocoa by the crackling fire in the hotel lobby and when visibility improved, we rode the 4-mile Lightening Trail loop. This 1.5-hour ride to the rim of Bryce Canyon is $65 for Bryce Canyon visitors and ideal for beginning riders.
Need to know:
Ruby’s Grand Adventure horseback riding vacation is geared for the intermediate to experienced rider. Most days are 5-6 hours of horseback riding. The rides are walking only with excellent, sure-footed horses. There is also a possibility to ride a mule. Rides go out rain or shine; dress appropriately. Guests stay at Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel unless other arrangements are made. Breakfast buffet is included in the price of your stay, as is dinner. All dinners will be at Bryce Canyon Rim, weather permitting, including live western entertainment nightly. Cowgirls and cowboys will enjoy a live country dinner show with Western music at Ebenezers Barn and Grill.
Prices start at $1,300 per person based on double occupancy at Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. $800 per person based on camping and bringing your own horse. Always check the website as prices and dates change. Gratuity for wranglers and cook staff is not included in the fee. I’ve been on many horseback riding vacations and I’m pleased to say that Ruby’s Horseback Adventures takes very good care of their horses and mules.
On this particular trip I brought my own Western foam tush cushion. Turns out that they supplied extra riding pads for our Western saddles. Most all riders in our group brought their own riding helmets. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown and Ruby’s Inn on Instagram.
If You Go:
Ruby’s Horseback Adventures (866) 782-0002
26 South Main
Bryce Canyon City, Utah 84764
Ruby’s Horseback Adventures Bryce Canyon Utah review written by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Photography and YouTube video by Nancy D. Brown. No compensation was received for this review.