We checked in with the horses and had to meet an enforcement officer who checked all our paperwork, Coggins and health certificates and gave us maps and instructions where to park. We still hadn't gotten hold of the horse concession people who we were to coordinate our ride with. The officer told us we were lucky, because beginning in July, they weren't letting private horses on the trails without a hired guide for $200. We drove to the horse parking area and eventually got hold of someone, who told us to come to the horse concession barn by the lodge. We found a place to park and walked over there. We found the guy we were supposed to talk to.
" We are two riders who were told to coordinate our ride with you all." He said that's easy. Either hire a guide or wait until after 4:30 when they were out of the canyon. So, we asked where we could wait for the 3 hours. He said back at the horse parking area. Is there no way we could work our way in earlier? We told him the park ranger told us that guides weren't required until July. He shook his head and then relented and drew us out a plan on our map. He said be back here with your horses just after we leave for our 2 hour ride at 2:30. You have to be at a certain point by 3:00 to miss connecting with another group. You have turn there and go clockwise on this trail and counterclockwise on this trail. You don't turn here, because that is a shortcut for the 2 hour rides.There is a stock watering tank, but some of the stock has runny noses.Sooo, off we went, driving again back to the horse parking area, which is a mile or so back on a service road. We hurriedly prepared the horses and began riding back to the concession corral. We arrived there just as the group was leaving, so we stayed well behind them. This slowed us down, but kept us on track. Our mistake was following them on the shortcut we had been warned to avoid. But, the wrangler saw us following and directed us back to the correct trail. Further up, we took another wrong turn, but a wrangler from another group coming out guided us correctly. I can surely see why they find private riders a pain. Some parts of the trail are extremely tricky with narrow trail and steep drop offs. If they were encountered going the wrong way, it could get dangerous. Luckily, as we entered the Peekaboo Loop, the last group was coming out of the other side while we went up, so we avoided any encounters. This loop was truly amazing. I had never been down in this area, so close to the formations of hoodoos. It was so fun. There were switchbacks, tunnels and breathtaking views.
The website for more information is: http://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/horse.htm
Recommendations: If you want to do this ride on your own horses, plan on doing it very close to the summer solstice. You will not be allowed on the trail before 4:30 pm. That gives you 4 hours of daylight to complete it. Everything will have to be coordinated with the concessionaire. The other options are: arrange for a paid guide at $200 OR go on one of their guided horse tours. There are no provisions for camping in the park with horses. There are horse camping areas in Red Canyon and other areas near the park entrance. We didn't pursue the information on this because we had a place to stay in Panguitch. (UPDATE: Private horses are allowed on the trail before 7:30 am, at 12:30 pm or after 4:30 pm. Since park rangers aren't on duty before 7:30 am, that requires a "check-in" the prior day. Be sure and call to check before you go.)
(Click on one of the photos to a begin slide show.)
|June 21, 2013: Distance: 9.83 miles; Maximum Altitude: 8,004 ft.; Total elevation change on ride: 1,925 feet; Trail condition: 95% dirt, 5% rock|
|Just beginning the mile ride from the parking area to the trail head|
|There's the trail just for horses|
|Yep, that's a Limber Pine...|
|Loved the tunnels|
|What a fabulous ride!|