How would you like to ride in three national parks and one national monument in a single week? Add in superb food, gentle, surefooted horses and mules, competent, friendly wranglers, and guests so happy you’d think they’d died and gone to heaven. Welcome to the Red Rock Ride!
Located out of Tropic, Utah, the annual Red Rock Ride is a six-day riding adventure through Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Paria River Canyon in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the ridges of Red Rock Canyon.
This amazing horse-adventure package blossomed in 1992 when two successful business couples, the Houstons and Mangums, decided to merge their talents and create a scenic riding package for folks who are experienced trail riders, love the outdoors, and enjoy good food.
Their vision has proved successful. Today, riders from all over the world sign up for the Red Rock Ride to savor the breathtaking scenery and ride amenities.
Robert and DayLean Houston operate Houston’s Trail’s End Restaurant in Kanab, Utah, and have a mobile catering business. During their more than 34 years’ experience, they’ve catered meals for firefighters and film crews in remote locations all over the West.
Pete and Keela Mangum have operated trail rides in Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks for more than 37 years. The Mangums’ 200-plus horses and mules are kept in top-notch condition.
One special feature of the Red Rock Ride is that you’re allowed to bring your own saddle and/or horse. The wranglers will match your saddle to a select horse/mule, or will saddle your private horse for you.
We brought our 4-year-old Missouri Fox Trotters, Nate and Cowboy, on this ride.
Guests first go on a half-day ride in Zion called The Sand Bench Trail, the only park trail open to horses. Oohing and aahing occurred involuntarily as we gazed up at 3,000-foot sandstone cliffs softened with lacy patches of greenery.
The second day, we took a 15-mile ride in Bryce Canyon National Park. Layers of blue, purple, and lavender shimmered in the distance while we meandered around arches, hoodoos, spires, and mountains of stone that were wildly tie-dyed with streaks of orange, red, pink, and gold.
On the third day, half the guests rode Thunder Mountain and the other half rode the Butch Cassidy Trail in Red Canyon. This region is swabbed in various hues and has contorted, twisted rocks that stare silently as you ride along. Our ride here was approximately nine miles.
The fourth day, we rode about 15 miles on the Butch Cassidy Trail, guided by Rusty Rich, whose great-grandparents lived in this area during the time that Butch frequented these trails.
This terrain provided many natural “hidey holes” with its labyrinth of coulees, draws, and box canyons.
On the fifth day, we saddled our horses in the dark. We needed an early start, because we had an almost 30-mile ride through Paria Canyon, part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Paria Canyon is lined with sheer canyon walls, interspersed with smaller slot canyons. Some portions appeared lush with shrubbery and stately Ponderosa pines grow on shelves wedged in rock walls.
At the entrance to Paria Canyon, the cliffs hunch over like gray elephants. As we rode along, they began to reach for the sky. Red streaks, like blood, appear on the cliff walls. Gradually, the crimson streaks increase in size until the entire walls are inflamed in color.
The sixth day is the crown jewel of all rides, the ride down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. For this ride, all the guests ride Grand Canyon mules.
On Saturday, after the Grand Canyon ride, there was a farewell banquet in Kanab. Colorfully dressed wranglers served the prime rib dinner. We eagerly visited and shared experiences, knowing that this was our last meal together.
After dinner, Pete Mangum asked each guest to share which ride or experience was the most enjoyable. This was informative, interesting entertainment! It gave guests one last opportunity to express their thoughts and feeling about the past week’s experiences. It was at times funny, thought-provoking, and downright moving.
The scenery and riding on the Red Rock Ride are unforgettable, and will leave you breathless. However, the warmth, kindness, and friendly Red Rock family will grab a corner of your heart and stay forever.
For more information on the Red Rock Ride, call (435) 679-8665, or go to www.redrockride.com.
Seasoned trail riders and equine photojournalists Kent and Charlene Krone enjoy sharing their riding adventures in the United States and Canada.