Category: Vacation Spots

Horse Travel Vacation Spots: Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area

Colorado has everything: hiking, skiing, fishing, kayaking, and—unbeknownst to many visitors—a massive feral horse population. Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is one of the best spots to view these majestic creatures; the area’s 36,000 acres of plateaus and canyons are home to between 120 and 150 horses. Local legend has it that these horses carry the genetics of the native ponies owned by the Utes, who lived in the area.

The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is managed for several uses, but feral horse conservation is a primary concern. The rugged landscape means that these horses are best accessed by bike, horseback, or the hiking trails winding throughout the area. For the best views, visit Indian Park and North Soda in the summer and Coal Canyon or Main Canyon in the winter.

The Little Book Cliffs wild horses boast a diversity of colors, band sizes, and ages. They include palominos, paints, grays, blacks, bays, sorrels, blue and red roans, and even a few appaloosas. Within the past few years, a curly was introduced to the herd and has since foaled. The incredibly photogenic herds are beloved by both locals and tourists. In fact, due to high public visitation, these feral horses are less skittish than others around the country.

Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area is just eight miles northeast of Grand Junction. The wild horse area is characterized by four major canyon systems. While here, do your best to spot elk, turkey, mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, quail, rattlesnakes, snowshoe hare, mountain lion, bobcat, and bear.

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Horse Travel Vacation Spots: The Virginia Range, Nevada

Nevada is home to nearly half of America’s free-roaming horse population. Though the state is expansive, many of these horses are part of the Virginia Range herd, which occupies a region in the western part of the state. This famous herd is often referred to as “Annie’s Horses,” after the decades-long crusade of “Wild Horse Annie,” or Velma Johnston. Johnston worked to protect free-roaming and feral horses across America, and she hailed from Nevada. These horses, allegedly, inspired her campaign.

Annie and these horses also inspired The Wild Horse Annie Act. Johnston became aware of the ruthless manner in which feral horses were rounded up in Nevada; ranchers, hunters, and “mustangers” were responsible for harvesting wild horses for commercial purposes, pointing up an important lapse in animals rights upholding. Johnston’s grassroots campaign, which primarily involved school children, worked to bring these topics into the public eye.

The campaign worked—the public became enraged by the issue—local and national newspapers published articles about the exploitation of the feral horses. Finally, in January of 1959, Nevada Congressman Walter Baring introduced a bill prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles to hunt wild horses and burros on public lands. The bill unanimously passed and became public law in September of 1959.

Visitors can see these magnificent horses by hiking the trails east of Reno. They gather around watering holes, so tread lightly near water. For more information about Wild Horse Annie and her spectacular mustangs, see the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros’ website. Travelers will delight in the hiking, beauty, and accessibility of this U.S. horse destination.

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Horse Travel Vacation Spots: Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague is home to America’s most famous wild horses. The Chincoteague Pony lives in a feral condition on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. This particular breed was made famous by its inclusion in Marguerite Henry’s book, Mist of Chincoteague. Chincoteague ponies exist in all solid colors and in pinto patterns. Though phenotypically horses, they are considered to be ponies because of their small size—on average, they stand at just 54 inches tall.

The Chincoteague Pony is almost mythic. Though many origin stories exist, the most popular posits that they are descendants of a stock released on the island by 17th century colonists seeking to escape livestock laws and taxes on the mainland. Though ponies live on both Chincoteague and Assateague islands, a fence divides them along the Maryland/Virginia state line. Around 150 ponies live on each side of the fence, and each population is treated twice each year for veterinary inspections. These feral ponies are some of the best-looked-after in the world.

If you travel to Chincoteague for the ponies, you will not be disappointed. Several avenues exist for pony-sighting. The Saltwater Pony Tours are among some of the most popular. The scenic cruise makes for a lasting memory for any horse lover; visitors board the boat and cruise around the islands, through the back-bay areas, and along beaches the ponies love.

When you visit Chincoteague, you may come for the horses but stay for the atmosphere. The island is proud of its colonial history, hosting a number of historic buildings and landmarks. Whether you love horses or history, this is an excellent horse travels vacation spot.

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Horse Travel Vacation Spots: Waipi’o Valley, Hawaii

Known colloquially as “Valley of the Kings,” Waipi’o Valley has more horses than hula dancers. Waipi’o Valley was the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian ali’I, or kings. The valley floor, which is at sea level, is almost 2,000 feet below the surrounding terrain. A switchback road leads down to the valley from a lookout point on the southern wall, gaining 800 vertical feet in just 0.6 miles. The main road is open to vehicles, but it is restricted to only four-wheel-drive cars. Adventurers can utilize the Waimanu foot trail, which leads down a steep path to the Waimanu Valley.

Tucked between the jungle trails of this lush tropical paradise are some of the most beautiful feral horses in the country. Though not very big, these horses are said to be very hardy—they need to survive traveling up and down the steep valley walls. Seeing these feral horses among the tropical forest and waterfalls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you’re a horse enthusiast, it’s within your reach.

Na’alapa Stables, a nearby ranch, offers guided horse tours of Waipi’o Valley. Their experienced guides take tourists and locals alike on journeys through the lush jungle trails, fresh water streams, taro fields, and waterfalls. Waipi’o Valley has an intensely diverse range of plant species and observing them on horseback provides a truly unique experience. What’s more—observing beautiful feral horses while on horseback is a horse lover’s dream.

Na’alapa Stables provides their tours six days a week, meaning you are guaranteed availability while on your vacation. For more information about their guided tours and the horses of the area, see their website.

Categories: Vacation Spots