Family adventure, high in the saddle

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 9-15, 1997
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Family adventure, high in the saddle
Question: Is there an adventure vacation that is fun and safe for a family with kids ages 9 and 12?

Suzanne Morris
Greensboro, NC
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: If your kids are game for long days in the saddle--and cringe at the thought of hauling backpacks twice their size--think about signing the family on for a summer backcountry horsepack trip through the northern Rockies. Quite simply, these may be the best solution for pleasing everybody on a family adventure vacation, thanks to the kid-friendly guides, mountain-wise horses, comfortable camps, and absolutely no freeze-dried glop. Most outfitters take kindly to kids as young as 6, but kids a few years older will likely have a better time.

A few operations worthy of a closer look: Lass and Ron Mills Outfitting out of Augusta, Montana, throw a healthy dose of conservation ethic into their five- to eight-day wilderness trips through Montana's million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness. There's plenty of wildlife to gape at--bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bald eagles, and moose--as well as old homesteads, fossil sites, trout-laden streams, and short hikes to occupy you out-of-the-saddle. Rates are $185 per day for adults and $150 per child; call 406-562-3335 for details.

In Wyoming, Allen's Diamond Four Ranch Wilderness Outfitting trips roam the rugged Wind River Range from June through September; a big hit with kids is the ride to Cirque of the Towers, a ring of 12,000-foot granite peaks above Lonesome Lake. Standard group prices are $160 per day per adult and $120 per child; call 307-332-2995.

A good bet for Colorado is A.J. Brink Outfitters, a 30-year veteran that guides eight-day pack trips into the high terrain above 10,000 feet in the Snowmass Wilderness. Expect to spend about five hours a day in the saddle, with lots of side hikes and picnics to break up the ride. You'll also usually get a minimum of three layover days, which means you'll have a chance to trek to nearby peaks and lakes or just laze around the plush canvas sleeping tents with a good book. Cost is $880 per person for eight days; call 970-435-5707. Finally, for other kid-friendly travel ideas, check out Outside's 1996 Family Vacation Guide.

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