Cowboy Up: Horseback Riding at the Rusty Spurr Ranch in Colorado
Wide open spaces, snow capped mountains and groves of aspen trees; there’s no doubting the beauty of Colorado’s landscapes. The best way to view Colorado’s stunning scenery? By horseback of course. Seeking an authentic Colorado horse experience I made my way to the Rusty Spurr Ranch.
Located near the town of Kremmling, Rusty Spurr Ranch is about an hour’s drive from the resort town of Breckenridge, the last 4 miles down a dusty single lane dirt road through undeveloped federal land giving me a hint of the views to come. The Rusty Spurr is working ranch with cattle free to roam throughout the ranch’s 10,000 acres. Eschewing large nose-to-tail rides ( you know the rides where the horses are on auto-pilot and the only view you get is of the horse in front of you), Rusty Spurr limits groups to eight riders tops and offer rides from a quick 1 hour ride to a half day cattle drive. Two hours on the range would be a perfect introduction to Colorado ranch life.
Our wrangler Charlotte helped us onto our horses. Steve would be riding Rooster, a laid back chestnut steed; while I would be with Pepper, a speckled white and black horse who was as spicy as his name suggests. Along with a family of four from Florida we would explore the green, glacier carved mountains that the Rusty Spurr calls home.
Our ride started off on that same dirt road we drove in on but soon Charlotte led us off trail, encouraging us to explore as we wished. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the seemly endless vistas that unfolded around me, bordered by the Gore Mountains to the south and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north. The expansive sky pulled me up toward the heavens while the smell of sage kept me grounded. The wide open spaces offer a sense of freedom that I can’t get on the east coast, an endless allure that has always drawn the intrepid westward.
Reaching our first grove of aspens we encountered a small group of black cattle, about 20 of Rusty Spurr’s herd of 400. Cows and calves lounged in the aspen’s shade and paid us no mind, but their bull wasn’t thrilled with our presence. He gave our group a small charge, just enough to let us know who was boss in these parts, glaring as made our way out of the grove.
On the other side of the grove we proceeded single file up a narrow trail that spiraled higher. Pepper proved a bit of a daredevil, walking on the outer edge of the trail while I leaned inward but he was quite happy with his chosen path. Once at the top we were treated to the endless views that only 9,600 feet can provide.
Going down we descended further into the Colorado back country. Deer hidden among the aspen groves, trees marked by the resident brown bears, meadows of wildflowers dotted with ponds and that blue Colorado sky that challenges the notion that Montana is Big Sky Country. I also learned that back country mosquitoes are no joke. Even with jeans and bug spray they made a meal out of my right leg.
Returning to the ranch we were welcomed with smiles and a couple of tail wags from the ranch dogs. I thanked Pepper for our afternoon’s adventures and marveled at how time, much like Colorodo’s vistas, seemed to stretch forever over my two hours exploring the ranch. The Rusty Spurr offered one of the best horseback riding experiences I’ve had and is a place I will certainly return to for horseback riding in Colorado.