I’ll be honest. In all of the hours that I’ve spent wandering around the mountains of the Pacific Northwest I never really wished I had a horse under me. It wasn’t unless I had two little pony-loving girls that we decided that a horseback escape was in order and started looking for resorts that could give us a great experience.
Now that I’m a bit older (and wiser) I can appreciate that there’s truly something special about enjoying our world-class scenery from the back of a horse.
So special, in fact, that many residents look for opportunities to incorporate a horseback experience into their vacations. Others go as far as to make their ride the entire vacation.
The Pacific Northwest caters extremely well to this with its expansive outdoor space and dozens of resorts that provide great experiences for both beginners and experienced horsemen alike.
No matter what level you’re at there is a place for you. From a 60-minute guided trail ride for you and your kids to a week-long pack trip deep into the wilderness you’re sure to find something at one of these resorts that fit the bill.
Here are five Northwest resorts and ranches that I know to offer excellent adventures on horseback.
5 Best Horseback Escapes In Washington
1. Bull Hill Guest Ranch
If you’re looking to get your hands dirty with a more rustic experience you should check out Bull Hill Guest Ranch.
Located in Washington near Kettle Falls, Bull Hill Guest Ranch is part of a larger working cattle ranch that has existed for nearly 120 years.
Visitors report that the wide-open area of NE Washington states makes them feel like they’re truly in the wide west. The old-growth cedars and tall pines meld perfectly with lakes, streams, and rivers in and around the ranch.
Bull Hill offers the entire gamut of ride experiences from mundane (but beautiful) trail rides to the chance to actually participate in a legitimate cattle drive.
But don’t worry, you won’t have to miss out on modern luxuries during your stay. Plenty of folks enjoy spending the evening in the ranch hot tub to wash away the dust and aches of the saddle.
Although, you might need to be careful to maintain your swimsuit figure if you’ll be here long. As part of the daily package, you’ll be treated to huge helpings of homestyle ranch cooking, beer, and plenty of other drinks.
While this atmosphere is more suited to adults, everyone seems to have a great time. If you’re looking for an experience that is fully built around a horseback escape then this is a great option.
For more information, check out their website.
2. K Diamond K Guest Ranch
It has long been my view that, if you’re in the United States, the scenery just gets better and more majestic the farther north you go. The K Diamond K Guest Ranch confirms my theory as they are set in a beautiful area in Republic Washington, right near the Canadian border.
It’s not only horseback experiences available at the ranch either. In addition to the 60 horses that they stable for guests, you can hunt, pan for gold, mountain bike, or try your hand at trap shooting.
The K Diamond K provides guests with private rooms (no bunkhouses here) in a handcrafted log lodge that evokes feelings of the wild west. Here, you’ll be treated to family-style meals as well as have access to the ranch saloon where you can wet your whistle.
The ranch specializes in helping riders of every level feel comfortable and have a good time on a horse. If it’s your first time on a horse, don’t worry, you’ll receive personalized instruction from professional riders during your pre-ride orientation.
To book a stay, visit their website.
3. Mountain Springs Lodge
In the mountains near Leavenworth, you’ll find Mountain Springs Lodge, a prime example of a horseback resort.
Guests at the resort have access to an extensive trail system that is maintained right on the resort property. While the adventure of the backcountry might be missing to some, riders of al ages can enjoy rides through the old-growth forest to beautiful scenic views.
The resort has many offerings to fit with your schedule with rides varying from two to 10 miles in length. The longer rides are often combined with a meal while out away from the resort.
The horses are well-broken and gentle, making this an excellent option if you are new to a saddle or have kids with you.
If you choose a short ride, don’t worry, there are plenty of other activities for you to enjoy during your stay including plentiful hikes and a zipline.
Check out the Mountain Springs Lodge website for more info or to book a stay.
4. Sun Mountain Lodge
If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience with horses as an option, check out the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, one of the PNW’s old western towns.
This luxury resort offers a wide range of amenities and is a perfect spot for both couples and families. One of their most popular offerings, obviously, is their horseback riding experiences.
The scenery near the lodge is spectacular and your entire party will be able to see it as the horses are gentle and the guides non-intimidating or condescending (unlike at some other horseback resorts).
The lodge’s most common offering is a 90 minutes trail ride which, in my experience, is just about long enough for your kids to get over the novelty of the experience and start pining for a TV or swimming pool.
Our favorite experience with the horses was one called the “Cowboy Dinner”. We were able to trail-ride for about 45 minutes out to an old homestead where we enjoyed a dinner of steak, chicken, cornbread, beans, potatoes, cole slaw, and cobbler. It might not be quite Michelin Star worthy but I doubt any cowboys ever ate so well. It was a great time and the dinner was enough to break up the ride and keep everyone in our group interested.
So if you’re interested in enjoying the incredible scenery of the Methow Valley, this is a great way to do it without giving up your comfort.
Visit their website for bookings and more information.
5. Icicle Outfitters
If you’re in the Leavenworth area you can pretty much have your pick of horseback escapes at ranches, lodges, or riding resorts.
One of the best options in the area is Icicle Outfitters, a crew that specializes in high-country pack trips through the Cascade Mountains.
They offer anything from guided trail rides to overnight pack trips through the majestic peaks.
This is meant to be a true horseback escape so be sure to leave your laptop and cell phone at home as you’ll be far away from such modern entrapments.
The horses at Icicle Outfitters are gentle and have traveled their trails so many times that even inexperienced riders will be comfortable. The outfitters take care of both the horses and your needs so all you have to do is shower up with your own gear and sit in the saddle.
Food on the trail is all part of the package so be sure to eat well!
These backcountry trips are extremely popular with photographers who come back with incredible shots from areas that would take much, much longer to access on foot than on horseback.
Check out their website for more information!
At the end of the day, finding a horseback escape near you in the Pacific Northwest isn’t that difficult. It’s honestly not even that hard to find stays at luxury resorts that offer horseback rides.
Because of the incredible amount of scenery and the love of the outdoors that PNW residents have, horseback rides are a common option at many lodges and outdoor outfitters.
If none of these work, most resorts or lodges in the area you’ll be staying can either provide you with the place to go for a perfect equestrian experience or give you an idea of who to call. So don’t wait!
Even if you’ve never ridden before it’s never too late to start. You’ll be safe and well taken care of at any of the above.
So ride on!