Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from JS of Market Drayton on 11/05/2017
At the beginning of your holiday, Hip, the main cowboy, will help choose a horse for you which will best suit you and your riding level. Most of the horses on the ranch are registered quarter horses. The ranch horses know their jobs, they are very sure-footed, they know how to pick a path with ease in all range terrains and its elements. They are also well known for taking good care of their rider. When riding for cattle it doesn't take long before you'll feel at home in the saddle and at ease with your mount.
The daily riding activities are fun, exciting and genuine. For beginner and/or intermediate riders, the ranch offer unique and very scenic rides involving less distance and less terrain if desired. For experienced riders much the same is offered with greater terrain and distance allowing for an exceptional unlimited ride.
The daily ranching and livestock activities are determined by calf growth throughout the season plus daily or seasonal needs and requirements. Guests are welcome and encouraged to join in the fun! You'll have the freedom to use your horse with cattle as necessary. The cowboys are happy to help show you how it's done so you'll feel like part of the family and one of the cowboys.
The days range from riding the distance it takes to spread out in separate small groups and cover separate areas. You will begin by rounding up and gathering cattle and driving them to a feasible working location where everybody meets with their herds. During cattle drive weeks the cow/calf pairs or cows and bulls are cut out as necessary during cattle drives. After the cattle are gathered, during most seasonal weeks, they are roped in the herd for branding, ear tagging, vaccinating, doctoring, castrating and dehorning. The range pastures are checked for strays that need to be driven back within the ranch boundary pastures. Also any other strays that are found are driven back to their proper range pastures too. The horses are also driven to and from camp each day which is a daily morning and evening drive. If you would like to join in, just ask the wrangler! Please keep in mind the riding and ranch activities are not compulsory, you're welcome to sit back and watch or enjoy the ride. You're also welcome to ride on your own too!
At the end of an eventful day there is nothing like riding back to camp for a great ranch style home-cooked meal! Enjoy reminiscing about the day and listen to some tunes or the guitar around a warm open campfire, with the coyotes howling in the distance. Roping practice is always popular in the evenings too so you can count on a roping match or two, what ever it may be! Take a step back in time - away from it all for an authentic true west experience you'll never forget.
Please note that some flights from the UK arrive in Billings late at night and will therefore be too late for the group transfer. In order to meet your transfer on Day 1 at the correct time it may be necessary to fly to Billings the day before and overnight so that you are ready. The ranch can recommend several hotels/motels to say in and you may also be able to get a discount by quoting the ranch when booking. Please ask for details.
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
There are around 100 Quarter Horses on the ranch, all of which are calm and steadfast but energetic too, having been trained to work with cattle. The tack and style of riding is Western; you will be shown how to ride Western if you have not done so before. You will ride at walk, trot and canter through the week and the landscape is pleasantly varied; from high plateaus and prairies to mountainous terrain and alongside rivers and lakes. You are even allowed to ride out by yourselves in the evenings if you wish. All riders are responsible for their own horse including grooming and tacking up, you may also feed and water your horse if you wish but the wranglers will also do this. Of course you will have the guidance of the wranglers all week to help with anything so you just need to ask!
Riders of any ability are catered for at this ranch. Riders with less experience can take things slowly to start with and usually within a few days be riding with the more experienced riders if they would like to. Ranch activities are not compulsory. The horse drives are exhilarating for the more experienced riders and we recommend taking part in these if you get the chance!
A good degree of physical fitness is an advantage - the days can be long and you will be riding at altitude in some places. A love of the outdoors is also also essential! This is the perfect holiday to get away from civilisation - no TV's, electricity or humdrum of daily life, just you, your horse, a bunch of cowboys and girls and fresh mountain air.
An understanding of safety around horses is important - all riders (including staff) will need to make sure that items are tied securely to their saddles using proper knots and coats must be taken on/off by dismounting from their horse.
The weight limit for this ride is 18 st/250 lb/114 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The ranch has a great emphasis on making yourself at home and to feel part of the family and one of the cowboys. The accommodation on the ranch is basic. There are 3 different 'cow camps' located on the ranch, depending on where the cattle are located during the season. Each camp is located in a scenic and comfortable on original homestead sites so therefore are steeped in history. All camps have a main log cabin cookhouse which you are invited to use as your own and this is where all your meals will be cooked and where you can get your drinks from.
You will sleep in outfitter-style canvas tents, each of which have 2 single camp beds with foam matresses and a gas stove for warmth in the cooler months. You are required to take along your own sleeping bag (4/5 season) and pillow plus extra blankets if you feel it necessary. There are wooden outbuildings housing showers and toilet facilities, shared amongst the guests with cold water only. You are invited to take along your own solar shower pouch which can be cheapily sourched at camping shops or online on websites like Amazon. In the USA you can buy them at shops such as Walmart and K-mart. There are also wash areas with spring-fed water tanks. There is no hot water available.
The food cooked at the ranch is ranch-style: wholesome, homecooked and in abundance, perfect for after a day in the saddle! Fresh drinking water is on tap as well as tea, coffee and squash. Alcohol is not provided but you can purchase your own to take along - the transfer will stop at a shop on the way to the ranch so guests can stock up before they arrive.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
All travellers are required to provide details online 72 hours prior to travel. For more information, and to apply online please visit the following website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Electronic travel authorities once obtained will be valid for a period of two years, or the validity of the travellers passport (whichever is shorter). There is a $14 charge for this service (2015). Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely to be detained and sent home.
On 5 January 2004, the US Authorities introduced the US-VISIT Programme. This means that all those aged between 14 and 79 travelling to the US are now finger-scanned and digitally photographed on arrival at passport control.
There are British consulates at many locations in the US, please check with the Foreign Office website for your closest one. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0232/0233 or see www.fco.gov.uk
The climate is hot in the summer whilst also benefitting from a mountain breeze. The evenings are cool enough to still need a jumper. Spring and Autumn have pleasant days of sunshine but can get cold in the early mornings and evenings.
No specific health precautions are required for visits to the USA.
Medical treatment can be very expensive; there are no special arrangements for British visitors. The British Embassy and Consulates-General cannot assist with medical expenses.
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance is essential; at least $1,000,000 cover, which includes hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the UK, would be wise. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake including horse riding.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org
We do advise to take plenty of sunscreen due to the strong sun and thin mountain air!
The voltage is 110V in the USA and you will need a flat blade plug and possibly an adaptor depending on the appliance. Check the voltage input required for mobile phone and digital/video cameras before leaving.
Take along your camera with plenty of film/batteries as there is no electricity at night and therefore no chance to recharge any batteries or cameras.
Please keep in mind that spring and autumn weather can be a bit cool, especially at night. This list of suggested items will help keep you warm and comfortable during seasonable weather.
• Warm sleeping bag (4/5 season recommended)and warm, comfy sleep wear; optional extra blanket and/or pillow
• Warm, wind or weather-resistant coat, hat, gloves, warm socks, neck scarf; optional rain poncho. Note: coats/raincoats should be slim-fitting and not 'flap'.
• Dark quilted or thick warm shirt that’s easy to brush off
• Cowboy boots or slick-soled boots with good, safe, stirrup heel; an extra pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes for camp
• Chaps for comfort
• Riding hat, wide-brimmed hat and/or billed cap
• Water bottle with nylon pouch and easy tie options
• Small, non-floppy saddle bag or nylon zip bag to carry water and snacks
• Flashlight, lantern, batteries, candles, matches
• Light, inexpensive throw rug for tent floor
• Towel, wash cloth, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, mirror, comb
• Solar-heated shower bag (can be bought cheaply at camping shops/Amazon or in the US from camp stores or shops such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc. usually cost around £5.)
• Sunscreen and lip screen
• Wet wipes, Kleenex, two plastic bags for laundry and rubbish
• Camera, film and lots of batteries!
• Special personal items such as diet foods, snacks, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, or personal first-aid items
• Duct tape! Many uses, including protecting sore leg areas
A basic first-aid kit may also be helpful, with items such as painkillers, plasters and blister packs as well as your own usual medication.
Should you find it difficult to find any of these items, Billings has several camping, western wear and ranch outfitter stores.
• Connolly’s Saddlery: provide free transportation to and from their store, no obligations! 877-252-3312; 406-252-3312; www.connollysaddlery.com
• Big “R” Store: 406-652-9118
The ranch weeks operate Saturday to Saturday from April to October. Please see the website for more dates of the Spring and Fall cattle drives.
2019 High Season: 6, 13, 27 Jul; 3, 17, 24 Aug; 14 (FULL), 21 (FULL) Sept.
2020 Low Season: 25 Apr; 2, 16, 23 May
2020 Mid Season: 13, 20 Jun
2020 High Season: 4, 11, 25 Jul; 1, 15, 22 Aug; 12, 19 Sept
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,475|
|2019 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,435|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,345|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,429|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,515|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,599|
|2019 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,555|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,455|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,549|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,639|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,805|
|2019 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,755|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,645|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,749|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,849|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||17,249|
|2019 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||16,759|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||15,725|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||16,709|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||17,695|
There are no set activities as this is a working ranch. Take along a good book to read or perhaps take a hike in the surrounding countryside when you are not riding. In the evenings the cowboys are always happy to show you how to rope!
Here you may see antelope, mule deer, coyotes, possibly bear off in the distance, mountain lion (though you may not see one) and maybe elk or moose. There are also golden eagle, red tailed hawk and many small mammals to keep an eye out for.
The USA has 4 main times zones - Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST) and Pacific Standard Time (PST).
Vermont is on EST, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are all on MST, California is on PST.
Weights and measures are imperial although weight is always expressed in pounds, not stone. The US gallon is 3.8 litres in contrast to an imperial gallon which is 4.2 litres.
Mobile telephone: In 2015 3G is widely available throughout the US in cities, towns, villages and along main highways with AT&T having the best overall coverage and T-mobile offering better speeds in cities. 4G is beginning to be available in cities. There are still a few rural areas which have no GSM reception but do have the older CDMA telephone networks. To be able to call from these areas we recommend buying a cheap Verizon phone from eg Walmart (from $13) and topping up with credit. Almost all hotels and airports offer free wifi connection.