Horseback Riding in Jackson Hole
When people picture the West most people think of Cowboys, Indians and Bandits on horseback – who wouldn’t want to play cowboy or cowgirl for a day? There are plenty of great places to ride a horse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but there are only a handful of places that provide impeccable personalized service that will quickly turn what you once believed was going to be a simple horseback ride in Jackson into the highlight of your vacation.
My parents were coming to town and since my mother was essentially born on the backside of a horse, I wanted to take them on a ride that they wouldn’t forget. I asked around the community, seeking out recommendations on who offers the best trail rides. Having ridden at Spring Creek Ranch and enjoyed my one hour tour I was looking for something a little bit more advanced and adventurous.
Finally I found an avid horse back rider and she suggested that I get in touch with Kim at Mill Iron Ranch. She told me that no matter what type of ride we chose to do we needed to stay for dinner and eat Chancy’s famed T-Bone Steaks. According to her they were “out of this world and you’d be crazy to miss it!” Being a devoted carnivore I said of course we would stay for dinner.
I called up Kim and booked out trip for a Sunday afternoon 2 hour ride. I had no idea that I had just signed up for the “Most Scenic Trail 2 Hour Trail Ride” in the United States. Reaching the ranch is easy enough, but it’s a little more difficult to do without a car – cabs know where to take you but they can be rather expensive (I’d guess that it’d be about a $40 fair one way). The ranch is unassuming – a small cabin by the paddock where you check in and settle up with Kim. The ranch is family owned and operated – Kim does all the administration work and Chancy is out in the paddock with the horses and behind the grill for dinner. They make you feel at home and will do their best to ensure that you have a unforgettable time.
When we arrived a distraught guest was in the office – she had put her keys loose in one of the saddle bags and they had fallen out on her trail ride. With no spare key she was stranded. Kim did her best to help the guest – she found out the cell phone number of the owner of the local Dodge dealership and called him on his day off to ask for advice! I made a mental note to not put anything loose in the saddle bag that I didn’t want to risk losing. Kim also reminded us that they cannot control the weather and if we did get caught in a rain or thunderstorm they would not be issuing refunds (which is understandable!). Weather can be a very fickle thing here in Jackson Hole, so I would suggest bringing a rain jacket if you plan on an afternoon ride.
After settling up with Kim we headed outside where Chancy and Justin (our guide) were saddling up the horses and hoisted us up onto them. We had another couple from California join us on our ride. In total there were 6 of us guests to 1 guide, a perfect ratio.
After each of us took turns snapping photos of each other on horseback we headed off for our ride. This ride is no joke – it is a long uphill and then a shorter downhill ride. Every once in awhile we would stop to let our horses cool down and readjust the bridles. The horses were well maintained, gorgeous animals, and well behaved. Since the ride is rather strenuous they have a strict age limit (7 and up) and weight limit (230 pounds or less).
The horses followed each other dutifully up the trail until we reached the apex – a bald summit with sweeping views of the Gros Ventres Range as well as a vista of the Tetons in the distance. Our guide dismounted and snapped photos of us on the summit with each of our personal cameras. I thought that this was a nice touch, since I had been trying to take photos of my family atop of my horse the whole ride.
As we headed down the mountain our knowledgeable guide, Justin described some of the flowers along the trail and answered any questions we had. After 2 hours on a horse, parts of your body that you didn’t even know existed start to hurt. The ride was the perfect length – long enough to appreciate horseback riding but I was ready to get off of my horse and sink my teeth into a juicy steak at the end of the ride.
We drove from the paddock to the barn where they serve the dinner. There were picnic tables and plenty of wildlife trophies on the surrounding walls – definitely typical Wyoming. There was also a bar where you could purchase alcoholic drinks, which were well deserved after the ride. The dinner included salad, corn on the cob, a baked potato, roll, desert and a choice of steak, salmon, chicken or a vegetarian option. Our guide, Justin joined us for dinner. I cannot even begin to describe how delicious Chancy’s steak was – he asked what temperature I wanted it cooked to and he cooked it perfectly. There was also some musical entertainment – a cowboy “singing for his dinner”, who inspired my parents to get up and dance, which made the dinner feel a little more authentically western.
Mill Iron Ranch is the perfect place to take your family, friends or loved one. It was truly a memorable experience and we were so happy that we chose to go horseback riding with them. The ride offers unbelievable scenery, the Wheeldons are very hospitable and genuinely good people, the steak is unforgettable and we left wanting to go back for another ride. It is an authentic Western experience that is not to be missed!