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Utah’s Colorful Mesas and Canyons from the Back of a Horse

I explored high places by horseback in Utah, looking out for miles and miles at amazing views showcasing the San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. We rode around parts of Boulder Mountain, the largest and highest plateau that is part of the Colorado Plateau. Those rides took us through stands of large aspens, spruce, and pines, stopping to admire views that looked into the colorful tablelands encompassing much of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona (the 4-Corners area). Be sure to check out the Doaramas at the end of the blog for amazing 3D timed views of these rides.

Where: Dixie National Forest
Distance: 50 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 7,556 – 10,066’
Date: September 2 – 7, 2018

I had taken a few horseback adventures in Utah, exploring the amazing colorful and oh so different landscape. From the back of a horse, I had ridden in the Grand Canyon, Bryce National Park, Zion National Part, Capitol Reef National Park, Dixie National Forest, and the San Rafael Swell. I had rode along the bottom of the creeks through walls that sliced through time with their colorful layers and I had explored the tops of the mesas, checking out arches and hondoos from the back of my horse. But I had never looked down at the sweeping country from a back of a horse up high and it was time to take that adventure. Hondoo Rivers and Trails is based in Torrey, Utah and where we started our adventure which led us to our base camp on Boulder Mountain in the Dixie National Forest.

They provided the horses, camp, food and guidance for this trip. They know this country like no other, having been doing this since 1975. Pat Kearney led us on our adventure, along with our Wrangler Cody.



I rode the same horse that I had ridden in May. Foster was wonderful on the trail and listened to me, doing what I asked of him. Foster was an Appendix, a first generation cross between a registered Thoroughbred and an American Quarter Horse or a cross between a “numbered” American Quarter Horse and an “appendix” American Quarter Horse. He is about 8 years old and was a perfect fit for my ride.


Oh, and I got to dress up and pretend I was a cowboy for the week.

Our basecamp was at about 8,800′ elevation. The coffee was always ready when we got up and Cody took wonderful care of our stock.






Over the 5 days, we covered about 50 miles, ranging from the 7,556′ to 10,066′ elevation.

We admired views that looked into Capitol Reef, San Rafael Swell, Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley and beyond into Colorado and Arizona.

Photo by Paul Spizman

In order to get to those awesome view spots, we rode through beautiful country, some of it wide open.

Sometimes the trail led us through huge aspen trees.

Many times we had glimpses of the views ahead of us.

Sometimes we tied our horses up and climbed high for the view

And what a view it was!

How can you not stop a while and just admire a view like this?

We saw the beginnings of some fall color.

We rode to some small high lakes.

And I am so thankful for Foster as he had sure feet, a good paced walk and he was a kind horse.

The 5 days of riding and camping out under the stars, with a bit of rain and hail just went too fast.

Photo by Candice Chevraiu

It was sad to say goodbye to Pat, Cody and the new riding buddies I met. I am already looking forward to my next ride but haven’t quite figured out the where and when part of that yet.

Paul, Candice, Mathilde and Me!


Boulder Mountain Horse Camping Day 1 September 3, 2018

Boulder Mountain Horse Camping Day 2 September 4, 2018

Boulder Mountain Horse Camping Day 3 September 5, 2018

Boulder Mountain Horse Camping Day 4 September 6, 2018

Boulder Mountain Horse Camping Day 5 September 7, 2018

Basecamp Location Map:

General Maps:



Hondoo Rivers & Trails

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Horseback at Capitol Reef in Utah: The Secret Life of Horse Camping May 27, 2018 May 27, 2018

Horseback at Capitol Reef in Utah: Petroglyphs, Spring Flowers and Native American Ruins May 20, 2018

Horseback at the San Rafael Swell in Utah: Riding through Merry-Go-Round and Poor Canyon November 12, 2017

Horseback at the San Rafael Swell in Utah: Fall Colors & Wild Horses November 5, 2017

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