by Matt, Oct 2021
There’s no better place to feel like you’re in the Old West than Bryce Canyon! And there’s no better way to do that than on horseback.
If you’re thinking about horseback riding on your trip to Bryce Canyon, let me say: GOOD CHOICE! BUT, there are some very important things you need to know before you book a ride.
In summary, there is one company authorized to give rides into Bryce Canyon: Canyon Trail Rides. There are many other trail riding companies within an hour of Bryce Canyon, and they will take you to some lesser-known, but still gorgeous areas. Rides typically range from one hour to all-day trips and range from $75-$100 per person, with some companies offering multi-day trips. Riders generally need to be 7 years or older and weigh less than 230 lbs.
But before you go booking with the resort you’re staying at, keep on reading so you know your options!
Here’s a quick summary of our recommendations.
- To ride into Bryce Canyon: Canyon Trail Rides
- Short on time: Red Canyon Trail Rides
- On the way to/from Boulder & Capitol Reef: Hell’s Backbone Ranch and Trail
- Staying near Cedar City: Rising K Ranch
- Staying near Panguitch: Panguitch Trail Rides
- Staying between Zion & Bryce: Duck Creek Horse Rides
- To go into a slot canyon: Mecham Trail Rides
- Small group or more customized: Hell’s Backbone or Rising K
Keep on reading for nine options for horseback riding in or near Bryce Canyon.
1. Canyon Trail Rides
This is the ONLY company authorized to give rides INSIDE Bryce Canyon National Park. We used this company twice — at Bryce and at the Grand Canyon’s north rim. They also offer rides at Zion Canyon.
The employees are extremely friendly and professional. They must have a squeaky clean operation because they are a concessionaire of the National Park Service. They risk losing their license with the park if they aren’t by the book.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun! The guides are folksy westerners with an informal sense of humor. They also understand their audience is tourists who don’t own horses (city slickers), so they are very patient and helpful.
They use both horses and mules, both of which are extremely well-trained and well-behaved, so you shouldn’t have any concerns about safety.
They offer 1.5-hour rides for $75 and 3-hour rides for $100. The 1.5-hour ride goes all the way into the canyon on a dedicated horse trail. The 3-hour ride travels the same path but adds the Peek-a-boo loop to it. The Peek-a-boo loop is a multi-use trail for hikers and horseriders.
They do four rides per day, and riders must be 7 years or older and weigh less than 220 lbs.
If you choose any other company on this list, you won’t be riding into the canyon hoodoos (rock formations) at Bryce. Some will take you to the rim of sections of the canyon outside the park, and others will take you to other gorgeous places in the area (many well-worth seeing!). But none of them take you into Bryce Canyon.
- Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon? Consider purchasing our Bryce Canyon Travel Guide. It includes a daily itinerary as well as audio guide. The itinerary tells you where to go (and how to do it) and the audio guide gives you great stories and history about the park.
- Check out ALL our videos and articles about Bryce!
2. Ruby’s Horseback Adventures
Ruby’s Inn is the most popular resort by far at Bryce Canyon. They have lodging, camping, group tent sites, RV sites, tipis, and swimming pools. They have a rodeo and a country music dinner show.
They also offer a variety of tours: helicopter, airplane, ATV, and horseback.
They offer 4 different kinds of horseback rides, ranging from 1.5 hours ($68) to a full day ($135). Each ride goes to a different area of the Paunsagaunt Plateau.
I haven’t been on their rides, but I know that all the areas they ride in are beautiful.
HOWEVER, I recommend NOT taking the 1.5-hour ride because it’s mostly forested (boring) and then pops out to the rim of Water Canyon, which is just north of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. Water Canyon is in the national park and has some hoodoos, but it’s really a lesser version of Bryce Canyon (much lesser).
Book a ride (through Ruby’s or another company) to Red Canyon, Thunder Mountain, Grand Staircase, or some of the other nearby areas rather than Water Canyon.
|Canyon Trail Rides||Bryce Canyon (also Zion and the Grand Canyon)|
|Ruby’s Horseback Adventures||Red Canyon, Thunder Mountain, Grand Staircase|
|Red Canyon Trail Rides||Red Canyon, Kodachrome Basin State Park|
|Mecham Outfitters||Grand Staircase|
|Panguitch Trail Rides||Panguitch Lake|
|Hell’s Backbone Ranch and Trail||Boulder, Utah|
|Rising K Ranch Trail Rides||Cedar City, Utah|
|Duck Creek Trail Rides||Duck Creek, Utah|
|The Red Rock Ride||Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon Multi-Day Trip|
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3. Red Canyon Trail Rides by Bryce Canyon Pines
Red Canyon Trail Rides offers a wide variety of rides. They have 5 options ranging from 1/2 hour ($25) to All Day rides ($125).
They offer rides in the gorgeous areas of Red Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park. We love both these places!
Both of them have colorful red rock, made even more vivid by the contrast with the clear blue skies (this part of the country is so remote it offers some of the best air quality in the United States).
They are owned by Bryce Canyon Pines Resort, which also has lodging and a popular restaurant.
Book online or call 435-834-5441.
4. Mecham Outfitters
Mecham Outfitters is a small family-owned business based in nearby Tropic, 15 minutes from Bryce NP.
They offer a 2.5-hour ride for $100 per person, and an All Day (5-6 hour) ride for $140 per person.
Tropic lies just below Bryce Canyon and sits in between Bryce and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Their rides go into a slot canyon in GSENM.
GSENM is a vast, sprawling area in Southern Utah. It is full of slot canyons and scenic areas.
They aren’t bunched together(which is why it isn’t a national park), and they are difficult to reach. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t great. So this would be a great way to see some of it — with a guide.
5. Panguitch Lake Trail Rides
Panguitch is a charming little town about 30 minutes away from Bryce Canyon. Near Panguitch, in a forested mountain area, is Panguitch Lake.
Panguitch Lake Trail Rides offers rides in the area. They offer day rides, wagon rides around the lake, and overnight rides. They accommodate small and large groups. Call 435-676-3334 for more information.
- See The best places to stay at Bryce Canyon.
- We recommend using booking.com to secure your lodging accommodations. We have found great deals and almost always use them.
6. Hell’s Backbone Ranch and Trail
Hell’s Backbone Ranch and Trail is located in Boulder, Utah, about 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon. This is a more premium experience offering day rides, overnight rides, and cattle drives.
Check them out at bouldermountaintrails.com, but you’ll need to call them at 435-335-7581 first because their rides are more personalized and because they don’t have internet (it’s very remote)!
Their personalized rides are not “nose-to-tail” rides like most trail companies. They tailor it to your abilities and to your group.
This is some of the most remote country in the United States, and some of the most scenic! Hell’s Backbone is a scenic drive between Bryce and Boulder that is insanely cool.
Trust me, this part of the country is super cool, and no one knows about it! Here’s a video I found online to give you a quick idea of the kind of ride they offer.
7. Rising K Ranch Trail Rides
Rising K Ranch Trail Rides is located near Cedar City, about 1.5 hours away from Bryce. They specialize in small groups and tailor the experience to suit your needs.
I mentioned that this entire region is gorgeous, and the Cedar City area is no different! Cedar Breaks National Monument is nearby, and the whole area is forested, mountainous, and full of red rock surprises.
Check out this video for a testimonial of the Rising K Ranch experience.
8. Duck Creek Horse Rides
Duck Creek Horse Rides is located in Duck Creek, about an hour away from Bryce in a forested, mountainous area.
All I could find is their Facebook page, which has few details about the rides. But the reviews were fantastic. It seems like a small family operation.
It’s located in a cool area between Zion and Bryce with some cool caves nearby.
9. The Red Rock Ride
Red Rock Ride offers a week-long package of horseback riding around Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and additional areas.
They work in conjunction with Canyon Trail Rides (above), and a 7-day ride costs over $2500 per person.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is horseback riding in Bryce Canyon worth it?
Definitely! It’s both more adventurous and more relaxing than hiking into the canyon. The switchbacks into the canyon will give you a little thrill, and the rest of the ride will blow your mind as you stroll through the hoodoos. You’ll see more of the canyon in less time, and you’ll get to do it while hearing the clip-clopping horse-walking sounds.
Can I ride my own horse into Bryce Canyon?
Yes, but you must obtain pre-approval as the park has many regulations you must follow, including feeding your horses weed-free feed for 72 hours before your trip, staying on authorized trails, being Coggins Certified, and no overnight camping. Be sure to read the park’s official webpage for all the details.
What can you observe in Bryce Canyon on horseback?
You’ll see Bryce Canyon and ride through the hoodoos — just like the hikers do. The initial descent into the canyon is on a dedicated horse trail, then it meets up with Peek-a-boo Loop, which is a hiking and horse trail. However, horses are not allowed on the famous Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, nor the Fairyland Loop Trail.
What do you wear horseback riding?
You must wear pants and close-toed shoes. You might be a city slicker, but don’t show up in shorts and sandals!
Typically the trail companies won’t let you bring cumbersome items, such as a purse, camera, or backpack. Sometimes they will have storage pouches on the saddles.
You can usually carry a phone in your pocket. If you want to take pictures or videos, check with your guide.
Usually, hats are allowed, but check with the company — they don’t want your hat falling off and slowing the group down or worse, spooking another horse.
- For a list of other items you might want to consider packing for your trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, see our recommended gear page.
How old do you need to be to ride a horse?
Generally, you need to be at least 6 or 7 years old for shorter rides (half-hour to 1.5 hour rides), and 10 years old for longer rides.
Is there a weight limit to riding a horse?
Generally, you need to weigh less than 225-230 lbs, depending on the length of the ride. Longer or more strenuous canyon rides will sometimes require you to weigh less than 200 lbs.
Can I do overnight horse rides in Bryce?
While there is a backcountry trail in Bryce Canyon — the “Under the Rim” Trail — it is for hikers only. The park does not allow overnight horse rides in Bryce Canyon because the backcountry campgrounds are not suitable for horses.
However, remember that 8 of the 9 companies we mention in this article take you to places other than Bryce Canyon, and many of them offer overnight excursions.
Do they use horses or mules?
Both! Canyon Trail Rides — the company that operates in Bryce Canyon — uses mules and horses at Bryce Canyon.
At the north rim of the Grand Canyon, they only use mules. At Bryce Canyon, however, there aren’t any sheer cliff edges, so they also use horses.
What’s the difference between a horse and a mule?
Mules are a mix between a horse and a donkey. They are better for the Grand Canyon because they have the careful temper of a donkey required to walk along the cliff’s edge, but the size of a horse needed to carry a rider.
Both were brought to the Americas by the Spanish in the 1500s.
What if I’ve never ridden a horse before?
No problem! Most riders with these companies are newbies seeking a little adventure while on their vacation, and maybe trying to capture a slice of the Old West. The trail guides are extremely kind, patient, and helpful — you’re their main kind of customer, after all.
What else do I need to know?
If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon for the first time, you want to get to the best spots at the right times. We have created a must-have travel guide that will give you a step-by-step itinerary.
Our travel guide will save you hours of research and will give you important information: where to go, what order to do things, where to eat, and what activities to do (including horse rides).
When you plan things on your own, sometimes you don’t even know what to ask. Our travel guide takes care of all of that for you. No fuss, just a simple game plan to get the most out of your time visiting Bryce Canyon.
The added benefit? We tell you about the park in our audio guide, which is included with the travel guide. Listen to it while you’re cruising along the 18-mile Bryce Scenic Drive to learn all about the park!
This is a MUST for getting the most enjoyment out of your trip. PLUS, it will make you look like a genius to the others in your group.
We also offer travel guides to other locations as well, such as Zion, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, and more. Check them out here!
- Remember to book your lodging early and use booking.com for ease and convenience.
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