Horseback Riding on the Eastern Plains

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Written by Madison Valois posted on Saturday, January 16th, 2010

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by Michelle Kadison

One of the best ways to sight see in Colorado is on the back of a horse. With the wind in your hair and your steed ready to follow your every whim, you can enjoy a trot or a leisurely walk through some of the most majestic prairies teeming with wildlife at every turn. Your editors at canadianrockies.org have put together a list of horseback riding trails that offer some of the best vacation rides in the state.

John Martin Reservoir State Park: Red Shin Trail

With its abundance of water, this 2.5 mile trail passes by the Arkansas River and Lake Hasty. As you ride this beautiful route, you will come to a waterfowl viewing blind, where you will see the wide variety of creatures that call this area home. Continue along the north shore of the reservoir, where you will come to the Santa Fe Trail marker, commemorating the route used by early settlers to cross the plains for a new life in the West.

Directions: Located between the towns of Lamar and La Junta on Hwy 50. From Hwy 50, turn south on School Street.

Lake Pueblo State Park: South Dam Trail

This 16.5 mile ride will take you through some of the most plentiful wildlife and wildflower-adorned areas in the region. Because the trail is paved, you will be sharing it with runners, hikers, and bikers who will also be enjoying the wonderful views of deer, foxes, rabbit, beaver, and birds.

Directions: From the town of Pueblo, go east on Hwy 96.

North Sterling State Park: South Shoreline Trail

With a 3,000 acre reservoir, this three mile trail is an easy one, both for you and your horse. There is not a lot of traffic on the trail, though the occasional mountain biker or hiker surfaces now and again. Stop for a picnic and some picture taking in this verdant reservoir that provides a contrast to the surrounding dry plains.

Directions: From I-76 take exit 125 to Sterling. Turn left at the stop sign and continue until you arrive at Chestnut St/Hwy 6. Take a left onto Platte St. and then a right on North 3rd St. Drive for four blocks and then take a left on Broadway, a left onto North 7th Ave/C.R. 39. After 12 miles you will arrive at North Sterling State Park.

Pawnee National Grassland: Pawnees Buttes Trail

Here you will follow the same route traveled by the early western pioneers. Through continuing development in the region, much of the native plants and grasses have given over to dry plains due to continuous ranching. But here you will find lush terrain that is yet untouched. Pawnee National Grassland is a protected area, overseen by the National Forest Service in order to preserve the natural grasses native to the area. With the unadulterated prairie and the Pawnee Buttes Trail providing 1.5 miles of ideal birdwatching opportunities, you can watch the falcons and hawks ride the overhead thermals in search of prey. As you continue alongside the Pawnee Buttes, rising 300 feet into the sky, you will feel like one of the early pioneers traveling through these sandstone formations that create a truly western landscape.

Directions: From I-25 take Hwy 14 east for 50 miles to C.R.103. Going north from here, follow the signs to Pawnee Buttes as you go through the town to Keota.

Trinidad Lake State Park

For a day of tranquility, follow the 2.5 mile trail through open prairies, stretches of wildflowers, and then on to the serene lake that stretches across 800 acres. Take your fishing gear as the lake is filled with brown and rainbow trout, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. With abundant wildlife all around, you will most likely spot elk, deer, beaver, geese, ducks, and herons nearby.

Directions: From Trinidad, head west on Hwy 12 towards Cokedale.

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