In my youth I could have been described as horse crazy. I took riding lessons twice a week, subscribed to a variety of horse magazines. I even spent three weeks at a horseback riding camp in Wales. These days I don’t often get the opportunity to ride horses. So when planning an anniversary celebration at Gateway Canyons Resort and the opportunity to partake in Palisade Ranch horseback riding presented itself, I jumped. Our timing was perfect. The foliage in Gateway, Colorado was just starting to peak. The bright orange and red fall colors of the area are spectacular.
Disclosure: Consideration provided by brands mentioned in this post. All opinions are our own.
Getting to Palisade Ranch Horseback Riding
First, let me tell you that the drive to Gateway Canyons Resort is spectacular. It is different from the many other beautiful resort towns and front range terrain. South of Grand Junction feels like the middle of nowhere on a windy road sandwiched between canyons. The area to the north of Gateway Canyons Resort has the most vibrant orange and red colors of fall that I have seen in Colorado. Palisade Ranch is located here. The many rock formations are so interesting and different.
Gateway Canyons itself is in a red rocks area with a signature rock formation “The Palisade.” Palisade Ranch is a short 15 mile drive north of the resort. We chose to drive ourselves but transportation is also provided by the resort. It is not well marked so the printed directions we received from the Gateway Canyon Adventure Center were imperative.
We had the unexpected entertainment of getting to watch the wranglers use ATVs to round up two loose donkeys as we arrived. It was a pretty entertaining sight. But I wouldn’t expect that they arrange that for every visitor.
Cowboy Up at Palisade Ranch
The wranglers greeted us and chatted while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. Gateway Canyons adventure center gathers approximate weights and riding levels prior to arrival. The wranglers choose and saddle horses for each rider. They then give brief entertaining instructions on how to ride. We were in a group with one other couple for our scenic 90 minute ride. Our wrangler, Kevin, was exactly what you might think of when you think of a Colorado Cowboy. He sported a handle bar mustache, spurs that jangled and traditional chaps. Kevin brought over a step stool and then summoned my husband over to the largest horse he thinks he’s ever seen. My husband had no shame in using the step stool to mount Tucker. I don’t blame him. The experienced horsewoman that I was in my youth refused to use that step stool for my much smaller horse, Sundance, when Kevin repeatedly offered it to me. I was quite relieved that I successfully swung into the saddle after that.
On the Trail at Palisade Ranch
Kevin led us up the trail with our new friends, Kelly and Clayton. Clayton’s horse, Big ‘Un, is also a large guy. It was perfect sunny fall day, cool in the shade but the sun was shining brightly on the vibrant colors of the ranch. We enjoyed chatting on our leisurely ride through the spectacular ranch. Kevin led us up through the colorful brush to a small forest and clearing and then back down to the ranch over an hour and a half. There wasn’t much dust, which there can be on trail rides. They matched the horses perfectly to each of us. The ranch manager and wranglers clearly take good care of the horses. Each horse followed the horse in front of them but also listened to the rider’s commands.
Activities Galore at Palisade Ranch
Gateway Canyons Resort offers so many fun activities. I am so glad that we didn’t pass up horseback riding for taking a fast sports car out for a ride, skeet shooting or a game of laser tag. Gateway Canyons Resort also boasts a relaxing spa, car museum, sports cars for rent, helicopter rides and more. But I am so glad we chose to horseback ride. Breathing fresh mountain air while taking in spectacular scenery via horseback was the perfect way to spend the morning.