riding holiday on working ranch USA
calves for branding on horse riding holiday in USA
cattle drive from horse back in Wyoming, United States of America
cowboys riding at sunset in America
driving cattle on horse riding holiday in America
horse riding holiday in Wyoming, USA
gathering horses for wrangling in Wyoming
family riding holiday on working ranch in USA
autumn fall cowboy horse riding Wyoming
riding holiday on a ranch in Wyoming
cowboy relaxing with his horse on holiday in Wyoming, USA
riding through grasslands on working ranch holiday in America
cowboy wrangler on horse riding holiday Wyoming
horse ready for working ranch holiday
riders on a horse riding holiday on a working ranch USA

With 1,000 cattle in 10,000 acres of land this is the perfect place to experience life on a real working ranch. The pine forested mountains, grassy meadows, red-rock canyons and clear spring-fed streams make this a coveted destination for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers.

Family-run for over 30 years, the comfortable accommodation and home cooked food at the ranch allow guests to relax amid the breathtaking scenery. In the evenings at the dining table the wranglers tell stories from their fascinating lives and really build the anticipation to get mounted and get riding! Choose between trail riding and cattle wrangling on horseback and various other activities including fishing and kayaking, to create the perfect holiday in the Black Hills of Wyoming.

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 HS of LINCOLN on 21/10/2019

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday
Amazing, lots of variety, beautiful scenery, great people and horses.
Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify) Patience with indecisive customers     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Additional Comments
The Riding and other activities were well managed. Vic's knowledge of history of the ranch and the surrounding area is immense.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments
Horses are fit, well trained and even tempered.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Good communication from Unicorn Trails staff to answer questions.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

What could we do to improve this ride?
If you travel in the autumn the weather graph is very much an average. We had 22°c sunshine one day and -5°c and 15cm of snow the next! Clothes you can layer and warm gloves are very useful.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
The ranch can cater for riders of all levels. Cattle work is slow and requires the ability to work together, positioning your horse as directed. I ride regularly and was able to head out on some steeper trails and faster rides.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments:

Unicorn comments:

This is an example of a weekly stay, but each stay is customised to the holiday you’re looking for! Whether you’re interested in participating more in the working ranch holiday, or you prefer to relax and explore the outdoors at leisure, the ranch is flexible to suit your needs. Devils Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and many more attractions are also close by and visits can be arranged (entry fees additional). Please note there are no activities on Sundays!

Day 1
Welcome to the ranch! You will be met at the airport and transferred to the ranch, getting your first impression of the stunning surroundings. You will be greeted with a homemade treat and glass of iced tea before being shown to your cabin. Dinner will be served family style in the Ranch House, while we discuss your interests and plans for the week. After dinner and some tales from the wranglers, there is time to explore the ranch before helping with the evening chores, like shutting the chickens in and collecting eggs.

Day 2
Breakfast is a social affair and a great opportunity to discuss the plan for the day. At 8:00am you meet up at the barn to gather the horses. To start with you will learn some basics about the horses and you’ll learn how to prep for saddling. Once paired up, you get the rest of the morning to familiarise yourself with your mount and get comfortable. Lunch will be served in the Ranch House, followed by an afternoon ride. In the evening you can try your hand at some cowboy lawn games; roping steer heads, throwing horse shoes and the bucking barrel.

Day 3
After breakfast and the morning chores, you head out on horseback as part of the wrangling team. Today will mostly be fixing the fences in preparation for the moving the cattle. It’s a good idea to keep your camera to hand as this can be a great time for spotting wildlife. The afternoon is free to do any of the other activities on offer, perhaps fishing or floating on the pond, or hiking some of the beautiful canyons. In the evening there is a barbeque cook-out followed by more stories around the campfire.

Day 4
There is an early start today to get the horses in and saddled before setting out on the cattle drive. Lunch is packed and eaten on the go as you and your team move the herd to their new pasture. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax and prepare for another evening of good food and company.

Day 5
In the morning you will head back out to round up any strays that got left behind on the old grazing. After lunch you can show off the new skills you’ve learned in the arena team penning and barrel racing, a good opportunity to get a few more classic cowboy photos! Enjoy one final evening around the campfire swapping stories with your new friends and hear some cowboy poetry.

Day 6
You can take a last ride in the morning, or just relax at the ranch and enjoy a homemade breakfast before you transfer back to the airport.

 

Other Activities
Aside from the working with the wranglers there are many other activities available on and around the ranch. Guests can ride out on trails all around the 10,000 acre ranch (minimum age 6yrs), or for those wanting a break from the saddle there are also hiking, ATVs and 4-wheeler tours. There are two lakes for fishing (especially rainbow trout), swimming in the early season and kayaking. For a more relaxing experience guests can watch the local wildlife, doze on the deck by the creek and enjoy the hot tub.

Children
Children 6 years and over are welcome to join the trail rides. If a child wishes to join the wranglers on cattle drives it is up to the head wrangler to assess their experience. Children aged 4-5 can have riding lessons with one of the wranglers in the arena. Children (under 16) will not be allowed to ride the ATVs.

Specialty Weeks
Throughout the year there are several weeks where special activities are available on and off the ranch.

Branding week – Each May, guests are invited to join the ranch as they brand the years’ new calves along with any newly purchased cattle. As well as the branding, guests can learn how to sort cattle and help vaccinate those needing it. This also happens to be the best season for fresh Rocky Mountain Oysters!

Hulett Rodeo – This rodeo occurs across the weekend of the first full week in June each year. Stay at the ranch in the week leading up the rodeo to learn the skills of a cowboy and test out them out at the weekend! Please note that not all rodeo events are available at the ranch – bull riding and saddle bronc are entered at your own risk!

4th of July - Always a great time to visit the States, this is also the week of the Black Hills Roundup Rodeo in the nearby town of Belle Fourche. The first evening is a ranch rodeo, with all the rest being PRCA rodeos. The week will usually involve two visits to the rodeo in the evenings, although more can be arranged on request (entry fee is $20pp). Enjoy the impressive fireworks show at Devils Tower and dancing at the end of the show!

Sturgis Bike Rally – In the first full week of August you can witness the sight of hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists on the roads around the ranch as they make their way to Hulett and Devils Tower. This week cabin rentals are offered to those wishing to attend the rally alongside all of the usual activities. Your hosts are happy to arrange outings to visit parts of the rally as well. This is a very popular week, so we recommend you book a year in advance if you are interested in this option.

Annual Roundup – At the end of the summer the ranch has their final cattle drive and it’s a big one! The week is spent riding across the whole ranch rounding up the 1,000 cattle ready to be loaded onto trucks and moved to their winter home. It is important that every head is found and gathered in, so there are plenty of hours in the saddle as you'll visit every corner of the ranch. You really get to appreciate the vastness of the pastures and the stunning surroundings doing this job!

Please note: A range of helmets are available on-site for guests to borrow free of charge. If you wish to ride without a helmet then you will be asked to read and sign a release of liability form.

Please note that all our ranch prices are fully inclusive of taxes, charges and gratuities. Extras commonly charged locally at ranches, and which we include in our prices are: state taxes (2-8%), local town taxes (1-5%), accommodation tax ($1-5/night) and gratuities (12-15% is commonly expected as the staff are paid largely via tips). Our prices include all of the above and are guaranteed not to be affected by currency fluctuations once booked.

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.

Horses & Riding

There are 30 horses on the ranch, mostly Quarter Horses with some Draft crosses, ranging in size from 14.3hh to 16.2hh and aged from 6 years to 24 years old. Most of the horses are smart, gentle cow horses and some are only used for trail rides. Horses are categorised according to their suitability for different riding abilities: suitable for anyone; intermediate; advanced. Advanced horses are still calm but may be quicker and have more cow sense, so the rider must be ready to move with them.



All horses are ridden using neck-reining. Western saddles and wool pads are used and most horses are ridden in a snaffle. Some horses have specialised tack such as breastplates but mostly tack is fairly simple.


Please note there is no riding on Sundays!

Rider requirements

All riding abilities are welcome on the ranch. More experienced riders will have opportunities to join the head wrangler on daily tasks on the ranch. Riders wishing to join the cattle drives should be able to mount and dismount unaided, although there are often rocks and stumps if riders need a boost.

Guests will be shown how to groom and tack up the horses on the first day. Following this, riders will prepare their own horses for riding, although aid will be given when required.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 255 lb/116 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in one of three cabins on the ranch, all with private bathrooms, a lounge and a kitchen. Food is all home-made on site and served family style with everyone sitting around a large dining table. On longer rides a packed lunch will be provided, otherwise lunch will be taken in the dining room. This is beef country, so expect some hearty meals! Meal times are flexible according to what activities are going on, but breakfast us usually between 7am and 8am, lunch around midday and dinner between 6pm and 7pm.



Home On The Range: This double cabin is made of two units connected by an internal adjoining door making it perfect for families or groups. Each unit has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, kitchen and dining room. There is also a porch with access to the hot tub just a few steps away! Sleeps up to 6 in each unit.



Cabelas Cabin – With a great view across the valley, this cabin has a bedroom with queen sized bed and two ‘lofts’ (low ceiling attic rooms) with single beds. There is also a bathroom, living room and kitchen. Sleeps up to 5.



The Cowboy Bunkhouse – This quaint cabin was once a part of the original homestead and has been remodelled in recent years. There is a bedroom with queen sized bed, bathroom and an open-plan kitchen/living/dining room. The furniture is representative of cowboy living in the 1970s! Sleeps 2.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

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.

General information:

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

Climate Summary

In May and June the weather is mild and precipitation changes from rain showers to thunderstorms. Storms typically develop over the Black Hills during the afternoon and move onto the plains in the evening. However, Rapid City still sees an average of 20 clear to partly cloudy days and 65% of its possible sunshine in June.Temperatures warm rapidly as summer approaches. Overnight temperatures are still chilly, especially in Black Hills.
Summer is warm, dry, and sunny. July and August are the warmest months of the year. Breezy winds and low humidity levels help make the hot days comfortable. Early mornings are cool, so a jacket or sweater may be needed for outdoor activities. Thunderstorms produce less rainfall, and drier conditions. Rapid City receives 75% of its possible sunshine. The sun is very intense because the elevation of the Black Hills are between 4000 and 7000 feet.
Sunny, mild days and cool nights are characteristic of September and October weather. Temperatures begin to cool the average first freeze in Rapid City is the 4th October and late August through September in the Black Hills. The area’s first snowfall is usually in October, although higher elevations sometimes receive snow in September. Occasional cold fronts moving through the area bring blustery northwest winds.

Climate Chart

Health

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

Health (ride specific)

There are no specific health requirements although do remember sun block. There are not many midges but if you are sensitive, take protection. There can be a lot of bees in the area so anyone with an allergy should remember to take antihistamines.

Electricity

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.

Film and Camera Equipment

Each cabin has mains plugs where you can charge cameras and batteries. There are no shops close by to the ranch for buying additional batteries. We recommend guests take spare batteries and memory cards with them.
Wi-Fi is available in the common areas of the ranch.
Mobile phone signal at the ranch is quite poor - ATVs can be taken to better service areas or there is a landline which can be used with a prepaid phone card.

Packing List

Comfortable jeans/jodhpurs
Long sleeved shirt for riding
Riding boots (Cowboy boots or boots with slick bottoms and a heel)
Chaps
Riding helmet (there is a range available to borrow on site)
Rain gear
Evening clothes - comfortable shoes and trousers, warm fleece/jumper
Hiking boots
Insect repellent
Swim suit
Sun hat
Sunscreen
Flashlight

Programmes

This programme is available for a minimum of 3 nights between May and September. Please note there are no activities on Sundays.

Departure Dates

2019: May to September, Sunday or Monday start days
2020: 1 May to 30 October, Sunday arrivals suggested

Pricing
A single room can be booked for no extra supplement when available.

No single supplement for Bunkhouse or Cabela's Cabin. If requested for single use, Home on the Range cabins have single supplement (not applied if this is the only remaining accommodation available).

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights729
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights369
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights439
2019 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night245
2019 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night125
2019 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night149
2020 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night309
2020 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night155
2020 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night179
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights849
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights429
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights499
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Double pp 6 nights1,505
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Child 4-12 years 6 nights789
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5non rider 6 nights995
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights825
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights419
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights499
2019 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night279
2019 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night145
2019 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night175
2020 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night359
2020 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night179
2020 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night209
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights989
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights499
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights579
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Double pp 6 nights1,745
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Child 4-12 years 6 nights919
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5non rider 6 nights1,149
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights955
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights485
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights575
2019 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night319
2019 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night165
2019 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night195
2020 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night405
2020 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night205
2020 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night239
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights1,115
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights565
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights655
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Double pp 6 nights1,965
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Child 4-12 years 6 nights1,035
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5non rider 6 nights1,299
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights9,105
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights4,605
2019 - 3 night 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights5,505
2019 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night3,025
2019 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night1,565
2019 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night1,855
2020 - 1 night per night1Double pp 1 night3,879
2020 - 1 night per night1Child 4-12 years 1 night1,939
2020 - 1 night per night1non rider 1 night2,265
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Double pp 3 nights10,645
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3Child 4-12 years 3 nights5,379
2020 - 3 nights 4d/3n3non rider 3 nights6,255
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Double pp 6 nights18,775
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5Child 4-12 years 6 nights9,885
2020 - 6 nights 7d/6n5non rider 6 nights12,399
Recommended Reading

E. Annie Proulx’s three books of Wyoming short stories (“Close Range”, “Bad Dirt”, “Fine just the way it is”), Mary O’Hara’s “Flicka” triology. “The Virginian” by Owen Wister (a classic one) and Zane Grey’s Western novels. I love the detective novels (contemporary) by C.J. Box (i.e. “Open Season”) and Craig Johnson (i.e. “The Cold Dish”). Cowboy poet Baxter Black … he writes the column on the last page of the biggest Western riding magazine “Western Horseman”. “Where Rivers change Direction”, a memoir by Mark Spragg about life on an early dude ranch. And “Where the Rivers Run North” by Sam Morton, a historical novel. “The Meadow” by James Galwin. Brand new: Dan Simmon’s “Black Hills”.
Movies: Brokeback Mountain, Shane, Cat Ballou, Did you hear about the Morgans? (from 2009), Dances with Wolves, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Latter one is a science fiction movie but Devils Tower plays a major role in it as the landing place for UFOs.

Other Activities

Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are all close by. Visits can be arranged for an extra cost.

Wildlife

White-tailed deer, elk, wild turkey, red-winged blackbirds, antelope, bobcats, porcupines, skunks, raccoons, prairie dogs, turkeys, eagles, beavers, coyotes, snakes, mountain lions

Other Country Information

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.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Rapid City Airport (RAP)
Transfer:
2019: From Rapid City or Gillette airport $100 per person return payable on-site (2hrs). Guests should arrive before 7pm and depart after 8am.
2020: From Rapid City or Gillette airport $150 per person return payable on-site (2hrs). Guests should arrive before 7pm and depart after 8am.
Flight Guide:
London to Rapid City from £607
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