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Top Ten Suntan Equestrian Vacations | Under the Sun Bronzing Fun!



Equestrian vacations in the USA are located in some of the most beautiful and unspoiled country sides that the lower states have to offer. Whether one is going to unplug and get away, reunite with family members, reconnect with your spouse or bond with your teens, all of these choices have numerous fun options to explore on horseback. Just remember to get your vitamin D safely! There are just three smart rules to follow: One, the higher the elevation is where you are vacationing, the more exposed you are to UV radiation. Two, don't forget about sunscreen, even when it is cloudy out. Finally, remember to stay hydrated while playing out in the sunshine!


1. Redwood Coast - California


This equestrian vacation has it all with great sunny weather and some of the most amazing coastal scenery in the United States. The long, wild sandy beaches and dense redwood forests in northern California are my idea of the idyllic riding environment. “Equi-Tours” Worldwide Horseback Riding Adventures has put this amazing coastal equine experience together along with ride organizer, guide and gifted horsewoman, Nancie Vion-Loisel. Her horses are exceptionally fit and have won over twenty-one Best Conditioned Horse Awards since 1989. There’s plenty of stock to choose from (Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and more), your choice of Western or English tack and all horseback riding abilities are welcomed.


The meeting is point is Ft. Bragg, California which is about halfway between San Francisco and the Oregon Border on the scenic Mendocino coast. The riding time consists of three to seven total hours each of the six days. Accommodations and meals are included. Make sure to pack smart, clothes-wise. The coastal weather can get chilly! Sunscreen is also a must. When you are on your horse, joyfully cantering on the beach, it is super easy to forget about sun protection.


2. Bitterroot Dude Ranch - Wyoming


This equine vacation reminds me of the Billy Crystal movie, "City Slickers". Featured in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Bitterroot Dude Ranch has the horses and wild terrain to give you a thrilling and authentic horseback riding vacation in beautiful Wyoming. Also arranged by “Equi-Tours” Horseback Riding Vacations, Bitterroot is a fully operational cattle ranch, run by the Fox family for the last thirty years and the epitome of a dude ranch vacation. Time at the ranch is unstructured, except for the riding activities. Breathtakingly located in a remote valley which borders the Shoshone National Forest, there is fifty miles of unspoiled, mountainous wilderness that separate the ranch from magnificent Yellowstone Park to explore! A terrain-lover's dream!


This family farm prides itself on the laid back atmosphere and its Arabian horses. Other animals roaming the ranch include: sheep, llamas, chickens, geese, peacocks and of course, farm dogs and cats. Guests stay in comfortable, individual log cabins located next to the river for privacy and phenomenal views of the surrounding mountains.


Meeting point is Jackson or Riverton, Wyoming. They have mostly western tack and time in the saddle is six to seven hours per day.


3. The Wit's End - Colorado


This guest ranch's tagline is: "When you are at your wits end, come to our Wit's End", and I have to say it sounds amazing! Not only do they have all the great horseback riding in beautiful southwest Colorado, but for those who need a bit more variety...even on an equine vacation, this one is perfect for you. All inclusive activities include: use of the Spa showers, workout room, European dry sauna and steam room. There is a kids program in the summer, a seasonal 1250 square foot pool, three hot tubs, stocked trout ponds, water activities, volleyball, tennis, horseshoes, mountain biking and much more!


The one to four bedroom log cabins are quaint but ample. All have knotty pine interiors, stone fireplaces and are named in honor of various owners of the ranch. Some of the structures are over one hundred and thirty years old and one even dates back to the early 1700s. Light housekeeping is provided daily and laundry facilities are available. Overnight horseback riding trips in the San Juan National Forest sound fantastic.


With testimonials such as, "way beyond our expectations", "unforgettable" and "you took a group of high-powered executives and in few days, turned them into laid back fisherman, hikers, mountain bike riders and cowboys! My group is still raving about the setting, gourmet food, and wonderful staff!”, this amazing guest ranch is sure not to disappoint.


4. The Alisal Guest Ranch - California


Back on July 16, 1946, the Alisal Guest Ranch was opened for summer seasons with a maximum capacity of thirty guests. Through the years, the Alisal is consistently at the top of the rankings for the country's top resorts. Movie legend Clark Gable married Lady Silvia in Alisal's old library. This guest ranch resort maintains a very low profile today and will not boast about its distinguished traditions. The ranch's preoccupation with providing guests a quality vacation ensures its survival long term and the Alisal staff welcomes vacationers from all over the world, including celebrities.  


While they have plenty of themed getaways such as golf, romance, spa, or girls only, one of their featured vacations is a Mother and Daughter "Bootcamp". I would adore experiencing this with my own daughter! The Mother-Daughter Cowgirl Bootcamp is a four days, three night’s all-inclusive getaway designed to strengthen bonds between moms and daughters by enjoying life from the back of a horse. Definitely for horse-lovers! All sorts of trails abound on this 10,500 acre cattle ranch! The package includes studio accommodations, cowgirl basket upon arrival, all meals (including wine at dinner), daily horseback riding and all sorts of fun in the sun ranch activities.


5. C Lazy U Guest Ranch - Colorado


Another must-see, the C Lazy U is an Orvis-endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge, as well as a historic horse ranch. The Colorado countryside is known for its clean air, blue skies and ample sunshine and now for ninety years, this guest ranch has been helping vacationers enjoy all of that on horseback. The cuisine is legendary and this is the only guest ranch in North America that has ever won both the Five Star and Five Diamond awards for Top Resort! Touted as "Colorado's Premier Guest Ranch", this multi-faceted resort offers a zip line, mountain hiking and biking, horseback riding on thousands of (private) acres, a pool, and even a full-service children's program.


Rates vary in accordance to how many people, the accommodations required and the vacation experience wanted. Rates include three meals daily, trail rides, stream and lake fishing, heated pool, tennis, whirlpool, sauna, game room and supervised programs for kids up to teens. Nanny or babysitter required for children under the age of three. Keep in mind that a 20% service charge and sales tax of 5.7% are not included in the rates.  Traveling with a group? Please inquire specifically about wedding parties, family reunions or large groups. They'll knock you out with their "Five-Spur" service.


6. Triangle X - Wyoming


This one makes the list just for its location alone! Located in Jackson Hole, the Triangle X is centered in the Grand Teton National Park, hands down one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Any equestrian vacation would be a dream for a horse-lover, but to ride at the foot of the Grand Tetons is the proverbial cherry on top. The Triangle X is a working, authentic dude ranch and is the only operating ranch in the nation's entire park system. Four generations of the Turner family have been sharing this unique property since 1926. There are countless outdoor activities and much fun is to be had here, in any season. Enjoy horseback riding, hiking and scenic tours, guided fishing trips, big game hunting, and cookouts along with cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter. During the summer season, the Triangle X Ranch has the capacity to accommodate up to eighty guests with one to three bedroom log cabins for visitors. Grand, family-style meals are served in the glorious sun porch dining room at the Main Lodge. This equestrian vacation is also for the ultimate outdoor enthusiast, with several other once-in-a-lifetime optional activities offered including float trips, fishing trips, a hunting trip, and even pack trips.


Rates include lodging, meals, horseback riding as well as all other ranch activities. Peak season is during the summer months. All rates are per person, per week (Sunday to Sunday). Prices range from $1,575 to $2,225, depending on size of your party accommodations. Children too young to ride are half rate. Important to note is that no credit cards are accepted during the summer months, there is a 15% service charge to cover all gratuities and a 6% Wyoming sales tax on 40% of the totaled invoice. It is encouraged that visitors rent a car once arriving in Wyoming as there is no transportation provided from the ranch except for the (optional) $40 charge to and from the airport.


7. "Equi-trekking" Travel Maui - Hawaii


Three uniquely different horse adventures await you on the sunny island of Maui in breathtaking Hawaii. It is here, in paradise, that you can ride into the crater of a volcano (Healeakala Crater), ride at a working Hawaiian dude ranch and take an amazing sunset ride in the West Maui Mountains! This Maui Equestrian Vacation is available through "Equi-trekking" and includes four nights at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (named as one of 10 Beloved Hawaii Hotels and breakfast each morning is included), car rental for the vacation and all taxes except on the car.


The Healeakala Crater Ride is enough of a reason to trek to Maui because where else could you horse ride into the crater of a volcano? This is a little over seven mile ride that takes approximately four hours into one of America's great national parks, Haleakala National Park. Prior riding experience is a must for this ride and if you must be okay with changes in elevation, because you descend over 2,500 feet to the crater floor to have a picnic lunch.


Piiholo Ranch is a sprawling working ranch located on the edge of the rainforest; about two thousand feet above the bright, beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. There are all sorts of riding at the ranch as the terrain surrounding it is quite diverse. This scheduled three-hour ride explores the ranch at a faster pace, trotting and loping along Koa Ridge and through valley pastures. This is typically an advanced ride but can be catered to beginners, if needed. This is where you hear stories of the Paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy culture in the upcountry of Maui. The Paniolos learned their ways of working cattle from the Mexican cowboys called Vaqueros. It's a culture totally unique to the beautiful, sunny islands of Hawaii.


Be enraptured by the magnitude of beauty of a Maui sunset from horseback in the West Maui Mountains. This two hour twilight ride is appropriate for all levels of riders. Ride over tropical valleys, forests and pineapple fields as you enjoy the views and guides retell the ancient Hawaiian legends. According to Hawaii Magazine's "Best of Hawaii", the Maui Sunset Ride was named "Best Place to Find Yourself on Horseback".


There are six-person maximum rides; the rates run a little over $1000 per person, based on double occupancy. The stock is mostly Quarter Horse, though there are some mixed breeds as well. Sorry to those who prefer to ride English, but the tack is strictly Western.


8. Fiddler's Green Ranch - Florida


This is an equestrian getaway where you have the option to take your horse on vacation! In Altoona, Florida, nestled up against the south end of beautiful Ocala National Forest, is Fiddler's Green Ranch - the perfect horse vacation for those wishing to explore the sunshine state in all her raw beauty. With access to 400,000 acres and over a hundred miles of sunny horse trails, this may be one of the hidden jewels in Florida's already considerable crown. There are countless options here, as they have RV accommodations, along with one to three bedroom villas. These run anywhere from $90 - $215 a day to $495 - $1,150 weekly, depending on time of year and accommodations. RV parking or horse trailers with living quarters run about $25 per day, $130 per week and $450 per month. These are full hookup sites and include free WiFi and use of the bathhouse/showers. Tent camping is approximately $15/night and day. This horse vacation includes safe parking for your trailer and a water and wash rack for your horses.


Horse boarding rates are reasonable, and these quoted below are for self-care and per horse. An outdoor paddock will cost you about $15 per day, $60 per week and $150 a month. Indoor stall accommodations are $20 a day, $80 per week and $200 a month. Obviously if you are boarding your horse here, a negative Coggins Certificate is required. They welcome inquiries for long term and seasonal rates.


Guided tours on their horses cost about $45 per person for one hour and $75 per person for two hours. There is a two person minimum for guided trail tours. Riding with your own horse and still wish to be guided through the forest? It costs about $25 for one hour, $40 for two hours and $55 for three hours, again, per person. Feeling really daring? Cruise out on your own, with your group and rent the handheld GPS systems.


9. Black Mountain Ranch - Colorado


In the majestic Rocky Mountains about halfway between Vail and Steamboat Springs is Black Mountain Ranch, home of the all-inclusive, do what you want, when you want, dude ranch vacation. Week packages include a real taste of the West, lodging, all home cooked meals, unlimited horseback riding and other activities such as a longhorn cattle drive, overnight pack trip, fishing, archery and even a trip to a local rodeo. No extra or hidden fees! They have the right horse for every rider and love matching mounts to guests. As an intermediate/advanced rider, I chuckled when I saw their website..."And yes, we let you lope!" They have age appropriate kids' programs and they boast that teens don't ever get bored, with so much to do.


Accommodations on the ranch range from cozy suites to private, western-themed cabins. Have a relaxing massage after a long day of having fun in the saddle or laze in one of the hot tubs after taking a dip in the pool. They have an actual (fully licensed) saloon and the meals are either hearty cookouts in the wild or gourmet when taken at the lodge. Wine is also complimentary at dinner!


Adult only weeks are available also. Call for details regarding shorter stays during ‘Adults Only’ weeks. Don't forget to plan for the 3.9% sales tax and the customary 15% gratuity, as well.


10. The Resort at Paws Up - Montana


Last, but in no way "the least", The Resort at Paws Up epitomizes luxury ranch camping at its very finest. The Paws Up is another of our nation's treasures; a working cattle ranch featuring traditional dude ranch fun in the sun activities, such as trail riding, cattle drives and fishing and whitewater rafting on the Blackfoot River. This is "Home on the Range...Redefined". The commitment to luxury is more than evident at the Paws Up as you can enjoy every luxurious and first class amenity here. First rate cuisine, spa treatments, heated bathroom floors, rain showers and hot tubs are just some of the comfort offered here. Quite a place to dismount and come home to! From private homes to call your own while visiting to their luxury tents to camp in, (they seemed to have started a trend with "glamping", which is now known as luxury camping) the folks at this resort insist that there is no "roughing it" and that in the beautiful wilds of Montana, Paws Up is "the last best place".


This equestrian vacation will cost you plenty but if you want only the luxurious side of camping, you have found it! There are twenty-eight luxury ranch homes are available to rent from about $800 - $2,400 a night for two adults, including meals. Additionally there are eighteen very well-appointed luxury tents (ask for one of the ones by the creek or river!) that go for about $725 - $1,250 a night. Kids under three are free. There are numerous activities to do, no matter the season. The Paws Up has access to 37,000 acres (sixty square miles) of gorgeous mountains, rivers and meadows for your family to explore! Horseback riding excursions are extra and the staff can tailor your experience to meet your wildest dreams. Cattle drives, lessons, kids’ rides, and romantic horseback sunset rides are available to enjoy. This vacation is ideal for romantic getaways, family reunions, large groups and weddings. Contact for details and pricing on the various themed horseback rides.


-CA suntan


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