For some, the Outlaw Trail Ride is a weeklong vacation of a lifetime, riding the outlaw trails of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch. Riders come from all over the United States, as well as Canada, Australia, and Europe. This adventure provides a unique opportunity to ride Wyoming’s beautiful backcountry.
The 100-mile trek crosses the southern slopes of the spectacular Big Horn Mountains. Riders experience the diversity of Wyoming’s backcountry – sagebrush- covered rolling hills, rocky canyons, elk trails, and wooded mountains. First-timers quickly learn that this isn’t a ride for the novice rider or unfit horse. The terrain can be rugged and challenging, with long hours in the saddle.
This unique ride is made possible through the generosity of area land owners, who allow riders to cross their property and camp on their land. Approximately 95 percent of the ride takes place on private property, only about 5 percent is on public land.
Everyone is ready to kick back and relax when they get into camp each night. And relax they can, as they’re treated to delicious catered meals and campfire entertainment, including cowboy poetry, history, music, and historical-character impersonators.
A live band provides dancing music during the Wednesday-night gala, held far from civilization, under the canopy of the moon and millions of stars in the Wyoming sky. This past year, riders cut the rug under a huge full moon. One can only wonder what the local fauna – coyotes, antelope, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife – thought of all the activity.
After four long days of riding and a night of dancing, both horses and riders welcome a day of relaxation. Last year, folks were occupied with horsemanship clinics, an equine massage demonstration, horseshoes, a poker run, visiting, resting, and swimming in the pond. Human and equine massage therapists were also available.
Behind the Scenes
While riders enjoy great riding, breathtaking scenery, wildlife, and wide-open spaces, the ground crew works hard, transporting camping gear and luggage to the next campsite. Roads are few and far between. The crew may travel as much as three times the distance of the riders over bumpy roads some would describe as trails.
Vince Hayes – trail boss since organization was formed in 1989 – has given the ride untiring, year-round devotion, year after year. His wide shoulders have carried the responsibility of making sure all the details come together, all unforeseen circumstances are handled, and all emergencies are resolved. Even though he recently stepped down as trail boss, he’s agreed to become the advisor to the executive committee, offering his wealth of experience and knowledge.
The newly elected trail boss, Al Schmautz, is a seven-year veteran of the Outlaw Trail Ride Committee. He’s a lanky, white-haired, soft-spoken, handsome gentleman. But his genteel, quiet manner can’t hide the fact that he’s a man of action. He started out at the bottom of the committee hierarchy and has performed almost every ride job.
The Outlaw Trail Ride originated as a Wyoming Centennial Event. The first ride was such a success, the nonprofit committee decided to turn it into an annual event to promote recreation and tourism in Wyoming. Committee members are volunteers from all walks of life.
Ride proceeds (more than $35,000 since the first ride) have been donated to select organizations and individuals. The money has been used to erect a historical monument at The Hole-in-the-Wall hideout, for educational scholarships, and to support local youth programs, area museums, and more.
The 2007 Outlaw Trail Ride will be held August 4 to 11. The regular fee is $1,050. Registrants who sign up by January 31, 2007, will qualify for the Early Bird Special of $950. The fee includes horse pens at the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds before and after the ride, an orientation dinner, Sunday breakfast in Thermopolis before leaving for the trailhead, ride organization, transportation from Thermopolis, on-trail meals, hay and grain for horses, campfire entertainment, and more.