The History of Horseback Riding in Estes Park
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Estes Park has a deep connection with horses. So much so that it once was called “The City of Horses.” Griff Evans came in 1867 and built what came to be called the first Rocky Mountain horseback riding operation in the area. This was the first chance for a tourist to enjoy horseback riding in what would later become Rocky Mountain National Park.
Soon after Evans, the Earl of Dunraven arrived and wanted to take over the valley for his own private use. Ultimately the call to share these Colorado mountains reached the Earl’s ears and he opened the first resort called The Estes Park Hotel, and of course, there would be horses at such a place in Estes Park.
In 1873 Isabella Bird visited Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the greatest heroines to come to Estes Park borrowed a horse to head toward Longs Peak. Thanks to Isabella, the guided horse trail ride business in Estes Park was born. She rode a horse “like a man” head-on, not side-saddle, and traveled countless miles. This was so revolutionary that it made the newspaper. Every female horseback riding guide in Colorado should tip their hat to that courageous woman.
Soon after Isabella Bird documented her horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains Alex and Clara Macgregor arrived and homesteaded Estes Park. The MacGregors were cattleman and horseback riding wasn’t done just for pleasure but as part of a working ranch. The Macgregor ranch still shares a fence with Sombrero Stables trail riding operation, and although one was a working ranch and the other a trail riding operation, they always admired each other’s horses. The MacGregor ranch lived on horses but in 1874 they incorporated a company to build a road from Lyons. Prior to that horses near Boulder Colorado were the only way to traverse up what is now Highway 36.
The rooftop rodeo and all the horses in Estes Park over the next 100 years earned Estes Park the nickname of “The City of Horses.” Horseback riding in Estes Park became one of the “must do’s” on any vacation to the Colorado Rockies! To not just see but to live the vast scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park requires horseback riding. Horses, the Colorado Mountains and Estes Park have traveled history hand-in-hand. So even today, guided horseback riding in Estes Park is among the best horse riding experiences in the country! We hope to see you visit Sombrero Stables soon for a ride!