Wilderness Trails Ranch, CO

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Darley Newman
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Jan and Gene Roberts own and run Wilderness Trails Ranch, located about a half hour outside of downtown Durango in Southern Colorado. They run a great family ranch, with top notch riding, great food, a friendly staff and good horses.

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One of the things that attracted me to Wilderness Trails is that both Jan and Gene are certified riding instructors. They have over 30 years experience in running Wilderness Trails and a lot of repeat guests, some of whom we would meet upon arriving on day one of the guest ranch week.

Wilderness Trails is located in a valley surrounded by the San Juan National Forest, meaning there are ample trails for riding. We started day one with an orientation, so that we could get used to our horses for the week and the Roberts' style of riding.

I was impressed with the level of instruction for the orientation. We all split into groups based on our riding ability. Choosing a group above or below your riding level doesn't lock you in for the week. Riders could move from one group to another depending on their comfort level. Also, if they excel during the week and feel comfortable enough, they can move up to a higher level.

It makes sense. There were some beginners, who would be going out to learn Western riding basics and some more advanced riders, who would be working on their skills as well.

At Wilderness Trails, they ride with two hands holding the reins, use leg cues and post the trot. It's more like English, so I was pretty comfortable from the start. We rode around the ranch grounds. I was on Aspen, a beautiful and responsive Paint Arab mix. She is a 12-year-old mare, who is delicate and easy to ride.

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I worked on my steering, as we traveled up to a meadow that overlooked the mountains in the distance. In 2002, there was a devastating fire that came right up to the doorstep of Wilderness Trails. Firefighters literally camped out at the ranch and fought off the fire.

As we rode around, I noticed the new growth of Aspen trees, as well as the many trees that had been charred by the fire. The focus of Wilderness Trails is quality riding and communicating with your horse, so no matter what level of rider you are, you will enjoy a safe riding experience.

Back at the ranch, we feasted on chicken with a spicy green chile sauce, rice, beans, grilled vegetables and homemade cake with fresh berries. The chef at Wilderness Trails is a Le Cordon Bleu trained Executive Chef, so the food is wonderful. It's healthy and gourmet.

After dinner, we danced off the calories with line dacing and two step lessons. I danced with Derek, an older British man who was a lot of fun. We have a great group at the ranch this week. I can't wait for tomorrow's ride to Lookout Point to take in the views.

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Learn more about Equitrekking on PBS and the Colorado episode and learn about exceptional equestrian vacations, including ranch vacations, at EquitrekkingTravel.com.