Are you hoping to go horseback riding in Mesa Verde during your trip to Southwestern Colorado? While Mesa Verde National Park does not offer trail rides in the park, Mesa Verde horseback riding is possible with Canyon Trails Ranch. The family-owned ranch in Cortez, Colorado offers horseback riding in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument for small groups and it is a fabulous trail ride.
Horseback riding in red rock canyons
Horseback riding in red rock canyons such as McElmo Canyon, outside of Cortez, is a wonderful way to explore Montezuma County in Colorado. I’ve had the pleasure of horseback riding in Moab and experienced horseback adventures in Bryce Canyon Utah, but riding on horseback in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is truly a ride not to be missed.
Canyon Trails Ranch in Mesa Verde Country, Colorado
As I pulled into Canyon Trails Ranch, I was greeted by two friendly ranch dogs. The horses were tied up outside the huge barn in Cortez, Colorado. Inside the barn were all sorts of western treasures. Owners Kristie and Rodney Carriker, along with their daughter, Jessica, operate the 250 acre ranch.
Inside the imposing wood timbered barn are numerous wooden wagons and buggies in various stages of production. Rodney Carriker wears many cowboy hats from wagon builder to chuck wagon chef and cast iron skillet master. He’s also a dog whisperer if you watch him interact with the ranch dogs.
What makes this Mesa Verde horseback ride unique?
While the Carriker family owns the 250 acre Canyon Trails ranch, they are the only licensed horseback riding operation to have a permit to take riders into Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This Mesa Verde horseback ride accesses 160,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) canyon country. Situated in the high desert in the southwest corner of Colorado, this rugged terrain is best explored on horseback. Better than a four wheel drive motorized vehicle, (which are not allowed in Canyons of the Ancients) Canyon Trails Ranch horses are well trained and know these trails well.
Riders from 8 to 80 years old are able to take a Mesa Verde horseback riding adventure. This is a walking only ride due to terrain. Beginning riders or experienced equestrians are welcome on this southwestern Colorado trail ride.
Rides go out one per day and are available for a half day trail ride or full day, including lunch. We enjoyed a half day horseback ride. We were treated to a wealth of history about Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and its former Puebloan inhabitants.
Small group horseback rides
The size of the Mesa Verde horseback ride group is limited to six riders. On our ride we crossed McElmo Creek, as noted in the video above. We traveled by horseback into the cliff dwellings known as Sundial ruins. Owner Kristie Carriker tied our horses up to some trees in the canyon. To my delight, we were able to hike into the cliff dwellings. We found many ancient pottery pieces and a small arrowhead. As is expected in any national monument, we looked respectfully at these artifacts. Of course we left them alone for other visitors to discover and enjoy.
Stay overnight on a Mesa Verde horseback ride
Guests wanting to stay overnight at Canyon Trails Ranch are able to sleep in a Shepherd Camp Wagon. I didn’t stay overnight, so I was not able to see inside the wagon. On my visit to the ranch, Rodney was working on building a queen size Shepherd Camp Wagon. I look forward to returning to Canyon Trails Ranch to explore deeper into Mesa Verde country!
For prices on a half day or full day horseback with Canyon Trails Ranch check the website. To inquire about staying overnight in Cortez, Colorado, click on the highlighted link below.
Canyon Trails Ranch (970) 779-0255
13935 Road G (McElmo Road)
Cortez, Colorado 81321
Mesa Verde horseback riding review, You Tube video and all photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Mesa Verde Country while researching articles for other publications. All opinions are my own.