By Matt, May 2022
Yellowstone National Park is one of America’s most beloved outdoor tourist attractions. Nestled between Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, it seems only fitting that visitors are inclined to experience this park on horseback, cowboy style.
But can you ride horses in Yellowstone?
Yellowstone permits visitors to travel on horseback around the park as long as the tour is authorized by a licensed outfitter. Some tours last a couple of hours, while others include backcountry camping. Private stock must pass all NPS regulations prior to entering the park.
If your heart is set on traveling through this historic park on horseback, you have access to plenty of NPS permitted outfitters in the area.
We’re going to talk about your options for riding horses INSIDE THE PARK and OUTSIDE THE PARK.
Inside the park
If you want to ride horses inside Yellowstone (and who wouldn’t?), there are quite a few options.
Roosevelt & Canyon Lodges
Two lodges in the park also offer horseback rides. These lodges are managed by Xanterra, which is the same company that provides mule rides in the Grand Canyon, as well as many other national park adventures.
Here are the different types of rides available from these lodges:
- Roosevelt 1-Hour Ride: This is a simple, classic ride through the sagebrush flats that loops back to the main corral in an hour or less. You’ll walk alongside Garnet Hill before crossing a stream and enjoying a view of Pleasant Valley and Hellroaring Mountain.
- Roosevelt 2-Hour Ride: Behind the corral and up the forested hillside, this 2-hour ride will take you through meadows, creeks, and canyons before climbing upward for a stop at Lost Lake. You’ll be able to see the park’s famous Petrified Tree before heading back down through Pleasant Valley.
- Canyon 1-Hour Ride: This quick little ride takes you along Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon side, following Cascade Creek and wandering through the wildflower meadows and pine tree forests before looping back to the trailhead.
- Canyon 2 Hour Ride: To begin this ride, you’ll cross a large meadow and explore the regrowing forest area, recovering from the infamous 1988 Yellowstone Fire. You’ll proceed along the rim of the canyon, enjoying a splendid view from the Coyote Slide before circling back to the Corral.
Each of these rides is the perfect introduction to all that Yellowstone has to offer.
There are some basic requirements. All riders must be:
- at least 8 years old
- 48 inches tall
- under 240 pounds
- able to understand English
- accompanied by a responsible adult if under the age of 17.
Book your horse ride early, as horseback tours are very popular and fill up quickly.
Old West Cookout and Stagecoach Rides
Roosevelt Lodge also offers the famous Old West Cookout, a steak dinner in the mountains. Half the joy is getting there, which you can do with a delightful horseback or stagecoach ride.
A tour guide will tell you about the area as you ride into Pleasant Valley for dinner and cowboy songs.
You can also skip the cookout and go for the less expensive stagecoach experience.
We did this for the first time last year and really loved it! Watch the video below for the best overview of this must-do experience!
Yellowstone approves of horseback tours through these private, licensed outfitters.
|Adventures Outfitting, LLC||http://adventuresoutfitting.com||406-581-7056|
|Bear Paw Outfitters, LLC||http://bearpawoutfittersmt.com||406-222-6642|
|Black Mountain Outfitters, Inc.||http://blackmountainoutfitters.com||406-222-7455|
|Black Otter Guide Service||http://blackotterguideservice.com||406-333-4362|
|Boulder Basin Outfitters||http://wyomingsummerpacktrips.com||307-250-0076|
|Cache Creek Outfitters||http://cachecreekoutfitters.com||406-995-3888|
|Castle Creek Outfitters and Guide Service||406-838-2301|
|Covered Wagon Ranch||http://coveredwagonranch.com||406-995-4237|
|Dry Ridge Outfitters, LLC||http://dryridge.com||208-351-1796|
|Heart Six Ranch||http://heartsix.com||307-543-2477|
|Hell’s A’ Roarin’ Outfitters, Inc.||http://hellsaroarinoutfitters.com||406-848-7578|
|Hidden Creek Outfitters||http://hiddencreekoutfitters.com||307-899-5214|
|Horsetrack Outfitters, LLC||http://horsetrackoutfitters.com||406-946-1488|
|Jake’s Horses, Inc.||http://jakeshorses.com||406-995-4630|
|Lone Mountain Ranch||http://lonemountainranch.com||406-995-4644|
|Medicine Lake Outfitters||http://yellowstone-packtrips.com||406-388-4938|
|Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, LLC||http://mountainsky.com||406-333-4911|
|Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Inc.||http://ninequartercircle.com||406-995-4276|
|Rand Creek Outfitters||http://randcreekoutfitters.com||307-587-3200|
|Rockin’ HK Outfitters, Inc.||http://rockinhk.com||406-579-1222|
|Sheep Mesa Outfitters||http://sheepmesaoutfitters.com||307-587-4305|
|Skyline Guest Ranch and Guide Service, Inc.||http://flyfishyellowstone.com||406-838-2380|
|Slough Creek Outfitters, Inc.||http://sloughcreekoutfitters.com||406-222-7455|
|Sunrise Pack Station, LLC||http://sunrisepackstation.com||406-579-9642|
|Triangle X Ranch||http://trianglex.com||307-733-2183|
|Wilderness Pack Trips||http://wildernesspacktrips.com||406-581-5021|
|Wilderness Trails, Inc.||http://wildernesstrailsinc.com||307-733-5171|
|Yellowstone Horse & Mule, LLC||http://yellowstonehorseandmule.com||406-640-0039|
|Yellowstone Mountain Guides, Inc.||http://yellowstone-guides.com||406-539-4556|
|Yellowstone National Park Lodges||http://yellowstonenationalparklodges.com||307-344-7311|
|Yellowstone Wilderness Outfitters, Inc.||http://yellowstone.ws/index.html||406-223-3300|
Some outfitters in and outside of the park
There are so many options for horseback rides in and around Yellowstone. Since Yellowstone is so big, here’s a sampling of some options by location.
If Yellowstone’s horseback tours have all been booked, have no fear!
Skyline Guest Ranch in Cooke City also offers horseback tours. This ranch is only seven miles from Yellowstone’s Northeast park entrance and gives riders a more immersive experience with backcountry views.
With over 40 years of customer experience under their belts, these tour guides have trained horses for riders of all sizes and skillsets.
Skyline offers two main tours, one through Yellowstone Park, and another through the Beartooth Mountains. Here are the tours that they offer:
- Yellowstone Park Tour: Move away from the crowds of tourists to witness the hidden beauty of Yellowstone’s wilderness. This intimate, day-long tour often features wild animals and stunning vistas that visitors couldn’t otherwise view from the main boardwalks and roadways.
- Beartooth Mountain Tour: Beartooth Tours offers full-day rides as well as guided, trail rides. Wandering along the river and through the Gallatin National Forest, this tour is perfect for family members of all ages to get an authentic taste of this beautiful little corner of the world.
Not far from Yellowstone, Cody, Wyoming offers a variety of horseback rides; each of the trails is rugged and vibrant in its own way. Guest Ranches in Cody are all approved by Yellowstone’s NPS, so choose any one of Cody’s three main tours and enjoy the park at your pace.
- Boulder Basin: Not only do they offer rides anywhere from 2 hours to an entire day—lunch is included! Horseback tours begin and end at the ranch for easy access. Be sure to book summer reservations well in advance; this is a popular stop!
- Cedar Mountain: Like other services, Cedar offers long and short rides, but also uniquely includes opportunities for fishing trips and wildlife photography. Locate the ride services near Cody’s rodeo grounds.
- Shoshone: For over 25 years, Shoshone National Forest’s (known as the “Horse Forest”) volunteer organization is committed to preserving and perpetuating sustainable enjoyment of one of the nation’s most beloved forests. Enjoy a quiet tour on horseback through the woods, learning about the area’s rich history and modern conservation efforts.
West Yellowstone Creekside Trail Rides
We have personally used West Yellowstone Creekside Trail Rides to do a basic beginner horseback ride. The ride is an hour-long, and it’s definitely geared for beginners: it winds through the trees and crisscrosses the area. The horse ride itself isn’t that great, but is good for kids and timid first-timers.
They also put on the West Yellowstone Rodeo, so you can buy a package horse ride and rodeo ticket. The rodeo is super small, which makes it fun because the kids get to run onto the rodeo grounds.
Yellowstone Mountain Guides
Yellowstone Mountain Guides in West Yellowstone has offered horseback rides to visitors for over 125 years. That’s a long time to become experts at trail guiding and showing off the best areas of the park! West Yellowstone’s ranch services offer both half-day and whole-day rides, each with the option of enjoying a sack lunch along the way.
Visitors can even opt for a stop along the river to do some fly fishing, or for a wagon ride through mountain meadows to explore a beautiful pond surrounded by pine trees. Tour guides and wagon drivers are dressed in authentic cowboy and cowgirl gear, giving you and your party a memorable, country experience.
Based near Gardiner, Montana, Horsetrack Outfitters offers private, guided horseback rides that feature Yellowstone’s scenery, high-traffic wildlife locations, and popular fishing spots. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to snag a reservation for one of their hunting trips, located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
If all other horseback tours have been booked, or if you’d like to bring your own horses to ride through the park, NPS permits visitors to bring private stock under two conditions:
The park also requires that your horses are well-trained so that there are no conflicts with other parties on the trails.
Be prepared with the gear you will need throughout the day, including food, water, and equipment for inclement weather. During the day, you will need to have obtained a free day ride permit. If you plan on staying overnight, you will need to secure a backcountry permit.
Can you help me with a game plan for Yellowstone?
Definitely! Take advantage of our 30+ years of experience visiting the park. Our step-by-step itinerary is the best game-plan for seeing the BEST of Yellowstone National Park!
With a more efficient way of seeing the park, you’ll have extra time to fit in a horseback ride or the Old West Cookout.
- Our Yellowstone self-guided tour is the most affordable and educational tour there is!
- Our Yellowstone Trip Planner covers all the basics you need to know!
- Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on all the places we are covering.
- Our YouTube playlist of Yellowstone videos will get you excited and prepared for your trip!
- Learn about the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone, where Cooke City is located.
- Learn about the West Entrance, where West Yellowstone is located.
- Learn about the East Entrance, where Cody is located.
- Visiting Grand Teton as well? See our Grand Teton trip planner.