Montana is well-known as one of the historic regions of the Old West, and one of the most commonly-associated images with that period is of course the horse. And for many visitors to the vast, rugged, and amazingly scenic natural landscapes of Montana, this is one of the preferred ways to explore some of the regions.
As it turns out, horseback riding is one of the traditional means of getting around that is still in operation in various parts of the state. And if this is something you are looking to try your hand at you have a broad range of options in the Big Sky Country. Some of the best horseback riding in Montana can be found on ranches, and many of these offer accommodation as well as tours that can be anywhere from half a day to three days in duration.
Ranches are an essential facet of the rich historical background of the region, and these days visitors can experience the cowboy lifestyle in various ways, whether it be a half-day trail ride or a week-long stay at a full-on working ranch. Montana Dude Ranches are the places where some of the best horseback riding to be found in the region is the main focus, although many of them offer various other activities as well.
Many of the ranches offer hospitality, training, and adventure, including programs for kids and horsemanship clinics. The horseback riding approach may vary with each different ranch, but these places are certainly a great way to experience some authentic Montana horseback riding, especially if that is one of your main focus points.
If you don’t want to go the dude ranch route, there are endless outfitters to choose from across the vast landscape of Montana. These outfitters can organize pretty much any kind of outdoor adventure, whether it be horseback riding or another activity like white water rafting, hiking, or mountain biking, although some of them specialize in one particular aspect.
So whether you’re interested in a full-on, working ranch vacation, or just an afternoon of trail riding, there are countless ways for finding some horseback riding in Montana. So let’s take a closer look at a small section of some of the different available options.
Horseback Riding in Montana
- Diamond P Ranch
- Bear Paw Outfitters
- Blacktail Ranch
- Rocking Z Guest Ranch
- Adventures Outfitting
- Upper Canyon Outfitters
- Absaroka Beartooth Outfitters
- Bitter Creek Outfitters
- Maera Montana
- Jake’s Horses
1. Diamond P Ranch, West Yellowstone
Diamond P Ranch has been around since the early 1950s and provides guided horseback rides into the surrounding regions of West Yellowstone. This is the Gallatin National Forest, and there are some pretty scenic trails to check out by way of three different guided rides offered between 9.30 am and 5.30 pm.
The ranch is just 7 miles to the west of Yellowstone National Park, and opens 6 days per week between mid-May and September, with children and families more than welcome. All the horseback rides start and finish at The Diamond P Ranch barn, and take in the Gallatin National Forest regions overlooking both Yellowstone National Park and the Continental Divide.
2. Bear Paw Outfitters, Livingston
Bear Paw is an established Montana Outfitter offering various trips throughout Yellowstone National Park.
What you get with this outfit is pleasant, safe, and incredibly scenic trail riding. The company is a family-owned operation and is one the oldest trail riding outfits in the area providing a professional and enjoyable experience. Starting out from Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, and north of Yellowstone National Park, the rides take you out on an unforgettable horseback and trail ride.
3. Blacktail Ranch, Wolf Creek
Blacktail Ranch is a historic, 8,000-acre Montana dude ranch in Wolf Creek with its origins stretching back to the late 1800s. The ranch has been operating since the 1950s and provides various vacation packages and horseback riding experiences.
The ranch has a large stable of horses suitable for all different levels of rider and offers tuition and assistance to anyone requiring it. The ranch specializes in day-long treks across the mountainous, surrounding scenic trails and rugged terrain.
4. Rocking Z Guest Ranch, Helena
Rocking Z Ranch can be found in the mountainous regions just north of Montana’s capital. This is the place to come if you really want to hone those horse-riding skills, as the ranch specializes in Natural Horsemanship instruction.
All levels of rider are welcomed here, even if you’ve never even sat on a horse before – these are well-raised horses. Everyone starts off with a spot of orientation before heading off towards the trails which vary according to the requirements and skill levels of the riders. If you would prefer to spend more time building skill and confidence back on the ranch before doing so though, that’s all good.
5. Adventures Outfitting, Ennis
Ennis is in SW Montana, in Yellowstone country, which means with Adventures Outfitting you get a taste of the backcountry on one of their organized, guided trail rides. The rides are operated between June and August and give you the chance to spend a day on horseback on one of their trips, along with experienced guides and horses that are also experienced and thus easy-going.
These routes are more the road less traveled in terms of the Montana backcountry covered and its impressive natural beauty in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. The outfit has horses suitable for all age groups and caters to all riding levels, including rank beginners. Every rider is assessed before being matched with the ideal equine companion for the trail.
Rides set off in the morning and return mid to late afternoon, and lunch is provided. Reservations should be made 24 hours in advance, and groups of 6-10 are catered for.
6. Upper Canyon Outfitters, Butte
Upper Canyon Outfitters provides various options for exploring some of the regions of the Old West from horseback. They cater for riders of all skill levels and offer anything from two-hour rides to full-day excursions.
Ruby Valley is close to Butte, and you can explore the surrounding landscape at your own pace in order to experience the views in an unforgettable way. The rides are conducted in relatively small groups to ensure that you are properly looked after. Accommodation options are also available if required.
7. Absaroka Beartooth Outfitters, Big Timber
If you don’t fancy trekking off into the Montana backcountry, you might consider joining Absaroka Beartooth Outfitters for a day’s rides, maybe some lessons, or a customized trail ride to suit any other requirements.
The outfit operates all year, weather permitting, and you can experience a great horseback adventure just 1 mile to the west of Big Timber riding along the Yellowstone River through the cottonwoods. You might get to see an authentic cattle and sheep ranch, or schedule a picnic lunch next to the Yellowstone River. Most of the rides are of 2-hour duration, conducted by experienced and knowledgeable guides who will do their utmost to see that you get the best adventure.
8. Bitter Creek Outfitters, Billings
Bitter Creek Outfitters in Billings is a full-time ranch operation that offers guided horseback trail riding experiences with impressive scenery, about 5 miles away from the central downtown area of the city.
The outfit is a family-operated business and is experienced at taking you off on a leisurely trek through the Angus cattle ranch, which is located along the area’s distinctive rimrocks. This means you’ll get to take in some amazing views of no less than five different mountain ranges, and this includes a somewhat unique perspective of the city itself.
The group sizes are usually kept to a maximum of 6 people, which makes the trip a more personalized and unforgettable affair. Reservations are required as this is a working ranch, and the trail season runs between June and October, depending on the weather. The rides start out at 8 or 9 am, operating 7 days per week during peak season, and last for 1 to 2 hours.
9. Maera Montana, Livingston
Maera (Montana Awareness, Equine Rehabilitation Association) is a non-profit organization on a mission to provide the community with various programs and activities related to horses. They offer educational programs and classes about horses and the surrounding Montana wilderness to help both students and families in Montana.
Maera also runs trail rides and backcountry trips along with horse riding lessons and their various other classes from a section of Sky Horse Ranch in Livingston’s Paradise Alley. The classes focus on various skills and education related to horses, and the trails cover the scenic surrounding regions of the camp.
10. Jake’s Horses, Big Sky
Jake’s is an outfitter in Big Sky specializing in trail rides. They offer a broad range of trails and rides to suit all levels and ages, and trips of various durations can be arranged — anything from an hour to a week.
Jake’s runs trail rides year-round, including winter if you fancy tackling a few snow-laced trails around the scenic Big Sky region.