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The Best Horseback Riding in Helena

As so many towns in Montana are surrounded by endless miles of backcountry single-track heading up into the mountains, it would be something of a shame if the state’s capitol wasn’t too.

But as it turns out Helena has some amazing riding opportunities just adjacent to the town, including 75 miles of trails that are used for horseback riding amongst other things.

The ‘South Hills Trail System’ network is accessible at the end of pretty much every street in Helena and can be reached and used most of the year.

Horseback riding is also allowed on much of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, with a large proportion of the designated trails managed specifically for stock.

mountain horseback riding

Some of the most impressive horseback riding mountain locations feature the Castle Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Elkhorn Mountains, and the Big Belt Mountains, to name but a few in the region.

But unless you have your own horse and are already an experienced rider it’s likely you’ll require some assistance when riding near Helena. As it turns out though, ranches and riding outfitters in Helena do come somewhat thin on the ground.

Unless you turn your attention to Summer Star Ranch, which seems to have this particular niche pretty much sewn up in and around Helena.

There are plenty of stables and riding tuition schools in and around the city, but for the best horseback riding experience out on the trails apparently, this one stands out mightily. So let’s take a closer look at the best horseback riding in Helena.

Horseback Riding in Helena

Summer Star Ranch

summer star ranch
Image: Phil Plait

Summer Star Ranch is your ultimate chance to get insights into what life is like in the saddle in Montana. The ranch often ends up taking a huge hand in making many visits to Helena memorable.

What you get with Summer Star is professionally-guided trail riding with breathtaking mountain views to boot. Riders often get glimpses of the local and surrounding wildlife which can include the odd black bear, elk, mule deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats to name a few.

Your welcome to the world of friendly working ranch people begins on arrival at the ranch (preferably pre-booked) and ends when you finally decide to admit saddle soreness and call it a day. Seriously though—sunset horseback rides with almost unspeakable views are a specialty at Summer Star.

This is probably one of the reasons so many couples love the place. It could also be the stream of reports indicating nothing less than amazing views, easy-to-ride and gorgeous horses, friendly and helpful staff, and exceptional customer service!

Many people coming to the region are also unaware that much of Helena National Forest and all of the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area is only accessible on horseback (or a bike). With the high possibility of mountainous terrain, riders on these guided trail rides must be at least 8 years old. There is also a maximum weight limit of 225 lbs.

Horseback riders of any level are welcome at the ranch including those with zero experience. Personalized attention and friendly instruction are given encouragingly by the wranglers who are charged with professionalism and safety!

You can check HERE for full rates and details of the various rides on offer at the ranch.

The public horseback riding season at Summer Star Ranch season runs from Memorial Day through September 30th. After that, the entire region around the ranch—the beautiful Helena mountains surrounded only by forests and pastures—transforms into federally-designated elk wintering land!

Rocking S Farm

rocking s farm
Image: Lisa Andres

Anyone who fancies spending a little time learning how to ride properly or improve existing skills might consider paying a visit to the 20-acre farm-cum-riding-academy. Suzanne Schnetzler is the owner and she has been working with horses for more than half a century.

One of the main purposes of the farm and its riding programs is to pass down and thus inspire the same degrees of interest and knowledge about horses that the owner herself experienced to spark the same love in children.

Suzanne’s school may turn out to be an authentic Montana experience of a lifetime for anyone visiting the area wanting to develop or hone their skills.

Students who have attended the Rocking S Farm have competed and won in both national and world events.  This won’t be too hard to believe for anyone who meets Suzanne and experiences her passion for horses, horsemanship, teaching, and children.

If you are staying near Helena for any period of time and want to get more into horse riding the farm caters to anyone whether seeking to ride for competition or just fun.

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