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Can I Ride Horses in Yellowstone?

people riding horses in forest

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.

horses behind the fence

Inside the Park

If you want to ride horses inside Yellowstone (and who wouldn’t?), there are quite a few options.

Roosevelt & Canyon

Two areas in the park also offer horseback rides. These rides 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 in these areas:

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.
  • 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 near Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon (though you cannot see the canyon on the ride), following Cascade Creek and wandering through the wildflower meadows and pine tree forests before looping back to the trailhead.
  • 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 and must wear a helmet
  • closed-toed shoes required

Book your horse ride early, as horseback tours are very popular and fill up quickly. To book a ride, visit the Xanterra website.

Not sure which Yellowstone entrance is right for you?

Download our Free Quick and Easy Guide to Yellowstone’s entrances!

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! Read about our experience in our article Old West Dinner Cookout in Yellowstone National Park: Our Review. Watch the video below for the best overview of this must-do experience!

Yellowstone's Roosevelt Lodge & Old West Cookout: A delicious trip back in time
Watch this video I made about the Roosevelt Old West Cookout!

Private Outfitters

Yellowstone approves of horseback tours through these private, licensed outfitters.

Adventures Outfitting, LLChttp://adventuresoutfitting.com406-581-7056
Bear Paw Outfitters, LLChttp://bearpawoutfittersmt.com406-222-6642
Black Mountain Outfitters, Inc.http://blackmountainoutfitters.com406-222-7455
Black Otter Guide Servicehttp://blackotterguideservice.com406-333-4362
Boulder Basin Outfittershttp://wyomingsummerpacktrips.com307-250-0076
Cache Creek Outfittershttp://cachecreekoutfitters.com406-995-3888
Castle Creek Outfitters and Guide Service406-838-2301
Covered Wagon Ranchhttp://coveredwagonranch.com406-995-4237
Dry Ridge Outfitters, LLChttp://dryridge.com208-351-1796
Elkhorn Ranchhttp://elkhornranchmontana.com406-995-4291
Heart Six Ranchhttp://heartsix.com307-543-2477
Hell’s A’ Roarin’ Outfitters, Inc.http://hellsaroarinoutfitters.com406-848-7578
Hidden Creek Outfittershttp://hiddencreekoutfitters.com307-899-5214
Horsetrack Outfitters, LLChttp://horsetrackoutfitters.com406-946-1488
Jake’s Horses, Inc.http://jakeshorses.com406-995-4630
Lone Mountain Ranchhttp://lonemountainranch.com406-995-4644
Medicine Lake Outfittershttp://yellowstone-packtrips.com406-388-4938
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, LLChttp://mountainsky.com406-333-4911
Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Inc.http://ninequartercircle.com406-995-4276
Rand Creek Outfittershttp://randcreekoutfitters.com307-587-3200
Rockin’ HK Outfitters, Inc.http://rockinhk.com406-579-1222
Sheep Mesa Outfittershttp://sheepmesaoutfitters.com307-587-4305
Skyline Guest Ranch and Guide Service, Inc.http://flyfishyellowstone.com406-838-2380
Slough Creek Outfitters, Inc.http://sloughcreekoutfitters.com406-222-7455
Sunrise Pack Station, LLChttp://sunrisepackstation.com406-579-9642
Triangle X Ranchhttp://trianglex.com307-733-2183
Wilderness Pack Tripshttp://wildernesspacktrips.com406-581-5021
Wilderness Trails, Inc.http://wildernesstrailsinc.com307-733-5171
Yellowstone Horse & Mule, LLChttp://yellowstonehorseandmule.com406-640-0039
Yellowstone Mountain Guides, Inc.http://yellowstone-guides.com406-539-4556
Yellowstone National Park Lodgeshttp://yellowstonenationalparklodges.com307-344-7311
Yellowstone Roughridershttp://yellowstoneroughriders.com406-559-0969
Yellowstone Wilderness Outfitters, Inc.http://yellowstone.ws/index.html406-223-3300
List from Yellowstone’s website

Some Outfitters 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.

Cooke City

people on a wagon ride in Yellowstone

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 skill sets.

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.

Cody

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 two main tours and enjoy the park at your pace.

  • 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.

Learn more about the things to do in Cody and the East Entrance to Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone

People riding horses

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.

14 Things to do in West Yellowstone, MT
I cover Creek Side Trail Rides in this video

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.

Gardiner

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.

Wagon ride in Yellowstone

Private Trips

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:

All private stock must have negative results for a valid Coggins Test and must pass all stock packing regulations.

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 travel guide with daily 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. Check out our travel guides here!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
YELLOWSTONE

YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Yellowstone National Park, check out our Yellowstone Homepage

ENTRANCES: Yellowstone has 5 entrances: The West Entrance, the East Entrance, the Northeast Entrance, the North Entrance, and the South Entrance. Learn which entrance to Yellowstone is right for you with our Free Quick and Easy Guide

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Yellowstone has to offer including Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and West Thumb and Grant’s Village

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Yellowstone and things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and other areas surrounding Yellowstone

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat including the Old West Dinner Cookout and also where to get groceries and eat picnics in Yellowstone National Park

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation or bear spray and binoculars, as well as tips for driving in and flying to Yellowstone 

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Yellowstone National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Yellowstone YouTube Playlist

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