A Horseback High

Riding vacations can be found around the world. Here are five bucket list rides in the United States that you can't miss.

When horse people travel, many don’t opt to book a trail ride or a horse excursion because, well, our horses are home! Whether an accomplished showman or a recreational rider, sitting on an unknown horse isn’t always the first choice for vacation fun. But it should be on the list. 

Riding horseback across Florida’s beaches, seeing the natural wonder of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or taking a tropical trail ride on a Hawaiian island can reignite any longtime rider’s passion in the experience, no matter if the ride is a head-to-tail trek or something more adventurous. 

From riding on the East Coast to booking an iconic Western experience, we’ve got a bucket list of rides to take around the U.S.

Horsemen and -women don’t always opt to take a guided horseback ride while on vacation, but if they did, the ride could show them a one-of-a-kind view. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

East Coast Excursions

Amelia Island, Florida

Hacking horseback across a white, sandy beach is tops on many riders must-do lists. When visiting Amelia Island, it’s a reality. 

Robin Allen of Amelia Island Horseback Riding has a herd of approximately 25 horses. The company is celebrating 30 years in business providing one-hour guided tours that include complimentary photographs of the trip. 

“Unlike most other companies who specify breeds, I actually have one of almost every breed,” she says. “I look for training, temperament, and intelligence in the horse. We have a Gypsy Vanner, a Quarter Horse, a Paint, and a Tennessee Walker—so many in our vary diverse herd. I own about 25 horses and ride 12 to 15,000 people down the beach every year.”

Contrary to the beach scene in Miami or other more metropolitan areas, Amelia Island doesn’t allow loud, blaring music on the beach but rather caters to a more laid back, family friendly atmosphere. Allen says not to miss a kayak or boating opportunity while there. 

“I would go visit Fort Clinch, it’s a famous fort out here,” she says. “One of the other things we love is Follow That Dream, a catamaran tour. The captain is Bud and he has a 42-foot-long catamaran. I even rented it for our Christmas party. If you ride the horses with me, that can take you past Cumberland Island to see the wild horses—it’s a two-for-one deal.”

Options for a ride include $125 for an hour at sunrise and $175 at sunset. Proposal rides and private rides are also options. Visit ameliaislandhorsebackriding.com for more information. 

English and Western riding is offered at Mountain Top Inn where riders can access 40 miles of trails. Photos Courtesy of Mountain Top Inn

Chittenden, Vermont

Situated on 700 acres with access to 40 miles of trail, Mountain Top Resort is set up as an equestrian playground in rural Vermont. Guests can book a short or long ride, and some even bring their own horses.

“We offer different riding trails, with different difficulties, but the most important piece is the privacy,” says Jade Miller, marketing manager at Mountain Top Inn. “Our resort also offers overnight boarding for your own horse if you so choose. We find that we see both local and regional riders through the season. They range from beginner level, to experienced, both English and Western riding.”

The Vermont trails are also open to hikers, and Miller says that many riders do a combination of both activities while staying at the inn. 

“If you’re coming in the summer, we recommend hiking the same trails you’d ride on, plus some that are not available to horses,” she says “We also have pontoon boat riding, clay bird shooting, a spa and salon on property, and other amenities like our pool and private beach. Whether it’s spending everyday riding and ending with a meal at our tavern or restaurant, or heading into town, we truly have a little bit
of everything.”

For a one-hour guided ride, it’s $45 per person, increasing to $100 per person for a 2-hour ride. Locals can purchase a $20 day pass to bring their own horse, and overnight boarding is $45 a night. Visit mountaintopinn.com/event/horseback-riding for more information. 

Wild Western Rides

Bryce Canyon National Park 

Nothing quite prepares a visitor for the first glimpse of Bryce Canyon National Park’s unique rock formations jutting up from the ground so far below. Those adventurous enough to take a horse or mule ride into the canyon leave with an entirely different, and special, experience. 

“The horse rides get you down into the main areas of the canyon,” said Crystal Mortenson. “There are a couple of other hikes that are must-do in my opinion, like the Navajo Trail Loop. The park is 16 miles to the end, with several viewpoints to pull off and see what’s around. You can get the canyon from up on top, then with the horse rides you can go down in [the Canyon].”

Bryce Canyon National Park’s unique rock formations provide stunning visuals and a truly one-of-a-kind riding experience. Left photo Courtesy of Canyon Trail Rides, Right photo by Kate Bradley Byar

Awe-Inspiring Views

With views of iconic vistas like the Wall of Windows, The Chessman, Silent City, and more, riders see Bryce from the bottom up, and top down while enjoying a one-of-a-kind trek with this family-owned business that’s celebrating 50 years’ operating at Bryce. They also operate on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and will celebrate 40 years as that concessioner.

“We take people from all over the world. Riding is a very popular thing to do at the park,” she said. “They are all guided tours, and we don’t require riding experience. We go to the bottom of the canyon in the Queen’s Garden area. For our longer ride, we do the Peekaboo Loop trail, which is a 3-hour ride.

“Our season typically is April 1 through October 31. June, July, and August is our peak season. If you want to get away from the crowds, family travel is less in the months of May, September, and October.”

For the 1½ to 2-hour ride, there are two departures times daily in Bryce Canyon, 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and rides are $75 per person. The 3-hour loop trail ride departs at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and is $100 per person. Visit canyonrides.com for more information. 

Glacier National Park & the Bob Marshall Wilderness 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many Americans indoors in 2020, the Unites States National Park system has seen record attendance as families and individuals want to get back to the great outdoors. Swan Mountain Outfitters, located at Swan Lake, Montana, can help with that goal through a ride or pack trip in either Glacier National Park or into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which is a complex of forest lands. 

The only horseback concessioner in the park, Swan Mountain Outfitters has operated in the area more than 15 years.

“We have three corrals in the park—at Glacier, Lake McDonald, and Apgar—as well as our West Glacier location just outside of the park, and our Swan location in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area,” says Jessica Bonomo, marketing coordinator. “With us, not only are you getting to explore the beautiful, rugged backcountry of Northwestern Montana, but you get years of experience and knowledge joining you on your trip.”

Left and top right: The views are top-of-the-world in Montana’s wilderness with Swan Mountain Outfitters. Photos Courtesy of Canyon Trail Rides. Bottom right: A hardy Haflinger is a trusted mount in the rugged Montana mountains. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

Fit Your Needs

An hour-long ride or a multi-night pack trip, the outfitter offers several options to fit any rider’s needs. The horse herd includes 150 leased horses that are often draft-crosses or Haflingers, due to the rocky, steep terrain in Montana. The busy season is May through August, but the park is often not fully open until June due to snowfall. 

For those looking to beat the crowds, September to October is a good option, Bonomo says.

“Our stock works all summer then they get to relax and have the winter off,” she says. “They mean a lot to us; in a way we view them as our co-workers more than anything. They have a specific work schedule and usually return to the same corrals where they can work with their friends. Each corral is a little different, so we work hard to make sure our boys are in the place that is best for them.”

Bonomo suggests that visitors also make plans to check out the other activities in the area, like white-water rafting, llama trekking, hiking, and attending local, summertime rodeos. 

A one-hour loop starts at $85, with a Cowboy Cookout option on a 2-hour ride with dinner starting at $165. Private trail rides in West Glacier are also available. Visit swanmountainoutfitters.com/glacier for more information. 

Tropical Treks


Whether celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary, or finally taking that dream beach vacation, riding horses in Hawaii is a special experience. Horses are popular on the islands and several riding schools, horseback tours, and ranches are across the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu. 

The views while riding in Hawaii range from volcanos to beaches. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

A beach ride is available on Oahu through Hawaii Polo Trail Rides. The barn, located on the northeast side of the island in Waialua, offers a variety of lessons and rides. Polo lessons start at $128 an hour, and riders can learn to play polo on the North Shore. There are sunshine rides ($128) and sunset rides ($148), and even a surf and turf combination to bring the best of the beach and barn together. If you’re unable to make it to Oahu, or simply want a preview, a $20 virtual lesson is also available. Find out more about riding on the North Shore at oahuhorsebackrides.com.

Your Choice

Visitors staying on the Big Island of Hawaii have a few options, including riding on a 500-acre ranch with Waipio’o On Horseback. The 2-hour ride has ocean views, and the trail leads through a coconut orchard, banana grove, and alongside fishponds. Rides are offered in the morning and evening, starting at $150, and more information is on waipioonhorseback.com

On Maui, Jerry and Toni Thompson run a working cattle ranch in Kula, Hawaii. The ranch has been in the family since 1902, and the riding stables is on Haleakala volcano, upwards of 4,000 feet in elevation. Morning rides are offered at $200 per person for over two hours in the saddle. Visit thompsonranchmaui.net for more information. 

No matter where you travel, a special horseback ride is never far away. Whether it’s a horse owner, competitive rider, or casual enthusiast, sitting on a horse—or mule—in one of America’s iconic beach or mountain locations will always be a memory worth making.

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