The Wild Bunch – photo courtesy of White Cloud Outfitters
If the spirit of the West lives in all of us, why not nurture it? Go horseback riding and live out your John Wayne and Annie Oakley fantasies!
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area has all the classic characteristics for horseback riding – pristine wilderness, natural beauty, wildlife viewing, wildflowers and well-maintained trails. But it’s the outfitters that make your experience unforgettable.
Horseback riding outfitters that are members of the Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce include Mystic Saddle Ranch, Pioneer Outfitters, Valley Ranch Outfitters and White Cloud Outfitters. They are professional, knowledgeable of the area and have sure-footed horses that are ready to take you for the horseback ride of your life.
Before you saddle up, you should know your options. Here’s a rundown on trail rides, pack trips and spot packs.
For a taste of an outdoor adventure from the back of a horse, go for a guided trail ride into the wilderness. The wranglers will match horse to rider based on your size and ability. Whether you were born in a saddle or never been on a horse, trail rides are a great way to explore the area. Depending on the outfitter, one hour to full day rides are offered into the Sawtooth or White Cloud Mountains to scenic views and alpine lakes.
Trail Rides – photo courtesy of Mystic Saddle Ranch
The more adventurous souls should consider a multi-day pack trip that takes you to unspoiled places faster than your own two feet can travel. Imagine riding deep in the mountains where you’ll see more wildlife than people. Be prepared to get blown away by the expansive landscapes, the beauty of secluded mountain lakes and watching wildlife in their natural habitat.
Glamping may come to mind with these outfitter’s base camps and home-cooked meals. It’ll become your home away from home with the added bonus of a billion stars in the night sky. From base camp, you can take day rides and hikes to isolated lakes and territory only a handful of people have explored. Now that’s experiencing the good life in Idaho!
Test your fly fishing skills on the banks of pristine lakes and streams where fish are begging to be caught.
You may be a bit saddle sore at the end of your pack trip, but you will only remember the memories, jaw-dropping views, home-cooked meals, campfire stories and your horse’s name.
Fly Fishing – photo courtesy of Pioneer Outfitters; photo credit to Ogden Gigli
Are you a backcountry-savvy hiker who wants to explore on your own without hoofing a 100 pound pack on your back? Than a spot pack is the way to go! Plan your own trip itinerary and enjoy the solitude of the wilderness. Work with any of these outfitters who will pack all your supplies you will need for your backcountry adventure to your desired location.
Camping in the backcountry – photo courtesy of Mystic Saddle Ranch
Now that you used your horse sense to determine which option is best for you, it’s time to choose a professional outfitter to meet your needs and expectations.
Mystic Saddle Ranch
Matthew and Rebekah Cain, owners, are passionate about the backcountry and welcome the opportunity to share a wilderness experience with you. They offer one hour trail rides to two week completely customized pack trips. Day rides leave from the Redfish Lake Corrals or from other trailheads in the area to Alpine, Hell Roaring, Alpine/Sawtooth and Marshall Lakes.
With 50 horses and 11 wranglers, they can easily accommodate large groups on pack trips into the Sawtooth Mountains. They have two base camps (Toxaway Lake and Edna Lake) and are able to take a total of 20 people into the wilderness for a backcountry adventure. Maybe a pack trip for your next family reunion or friend gathering?
Photo courtesy of Mystic Saddle Ranch
MSR guides work year-round. When they leave Redfish Lake Corrals in the fall, they move to Arizona to continue their guided trail rides outside of Scottsdale in the Sonoran Desert.
Devan Jackson, owner, operates the corrals at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch. An 1.5 hour or 3 hour ride is all it takes to give you a new perspective of the Sawtooth Valley at the overview destinations. A full day ride at Boundary Creek offers amazing views of the Sawtooths and White Clouds and you can’t beat the awesome fishing experience at Casino Lakes.
Devan has two base camps in the White Clouds (Chamberlain Lakes at the base of Castle Peak and Champion Lakes). His camping sites are known for their luxury in the backcountry with heated wall tents, a tented outhouse and fully catered Dutch oven cooking meals. Day trips from camp take you to picture-perfect viewpoints and to Castle Lake – a remote destination people can’t get to unless they know the way….and Devan knows the way!
Photo courtesy of Pioneer Outfitters; photo credit to Ogden Gigli
Valley Ranch Outfitters
Randy Baugh, owner, has over 30 years’ experience riding into the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains. He enjoys showing people the beautiful country as seeing it through their eyes keeps it fresh for him. Randy has raised and trained all his horses – some are second and third generation.
Photo courtesy of Valley Ranch Outfitters
Randy guides every trip he books so you’ll get the chance to learn the cowboy ways. For a day ride, his gentle horses know the way to Alice, Toxaway, Hell Roaring and Sawtooth Lakes. All multi-day pack trips are customized based on your expectations and ability. Randy’s pack trips are unique in the sense that he does not have base camps; he sets up a different camp every time offering the freedom of going to new places every day.
Hell Roaring Lake – photo courtesy of Valley Ranch Outfitters
White Cloud Outfitters
Based out of Challis, Mike Scott and Louise Stark have been in business since 1987 offering horseback rides into the White Cloud Mountains, Challis BLM and Salmon-Challis National Forest. Day rides include riding into the White Clouds or to view wild horses roaming free while their full day rides take you into the Challis Valley.
The most popular multi-day pack trip takes you to their base camp in the Little Boulder drainage at the base of Castle Peak. Canvas wall tents are set up equipped with wood heat stoves and bunk/cots with foam. Meals are served family style in a separate kitchen tent. From base camp, you can take day rides to cast your line in Noisy and Quiet Lakes, photograph the white limestone peaks of the White Clouds and enjoy the simple pleasures of being in a remote location.
Little Boulder Drainage – Photo courtesy of White Cloud Outfitters
With the spirit of the West in you, ride into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area!
Blog written by Erica Cole