Get ready for a unique Western adventure: horsepacking in the rugged mountains and deserts of Wyoming. Learn to travel and camp with horses as you explore the glacier-carved Wind River Range, sweeping plateaus of the Absarokas, or the striking Red Desert.
Your course begins at the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch in Boulder, Wyoming, learning basic skills such as catching your horses, grooming, saddling, riding, and packing and loading panniers. For the first few days, you’ll sleep out in the ranch’s campground to solidify your outdoor living skills. You’ll learn to pitch your own tent and cook your breakfast and dinner on camp stoves. On the morning of the fifth day, you’ll pack up and head for the trailhead.
Your route will vary depending on the time of year. Early summer courses traverse Wyoming’s spectacular Red Desert at the foothills of the Wind River Range. This land of multi-colored arroyos, sagebrush, and low grasses is home to herds of wild horses, antelope, elk, and deer. Early wagon trains bound for Oregon, California, and Utah skirted the edges of the Red Desert, and you can still see the ruts left from their passing.
Late summer courses head into the Absaroka or Wind River Mountains. The volcanic Absarokas are carved into deep, lush valleys walled by crumbling cliffs and high plateaus. Elk, moose, bighorn sheep, deer, bear, and wolves make their home there. The Wind River Mountains are a rugged, glacier-carved range renowned for their sheer granite walls and trout fishing.
With these opportunities comes hard work. Your days will begin early with tending to the horses, breaking down camp, and saddling and loading the animals. During the day, you’ll typically travel between five and ten miles in a variety of terrain. You’ll end the day with a routine that will become familiar: unloading, unsaddling, and caring for your horses and yourself. You will learn to pick camps with appropriate parameters and resources for horses and humans. You can expect early mornings, long days, and to do a healthy amount of heavy lifting. Even though you won’t be carrying gear all day the way you might on a backpacking trip, you’ll be surprised to find that your body will be sore from long days in the saddle and the nearly constant work of managing the horses you travel and camp with.
A foundational course goal is building an inclusive community with your peers. Learning the value of teamwork, you will tackle group challenges and achieve common goals. With the guidance of your instructors and plenty of daily practice with leadership and outdoor skills, by the end of this trip you’ll have the experience necessary to visit the mountains on horseback long after the end of your expedition.