Wilderness. It speaks to something different in each of us, something elemental that’s hard to get at in the over-protected and all-too-virtual world of civilization. A pack trip puts wilderness within your reach. Consider a wilderness pack trip can be your all-access pass to secret trout streams and hidden fishing holes, to trails into some of the most pristine areas left in the world, and perhaps even to a wilder part of your soul.
Fall is prime time for pack trips, for not only hunters and anglers, but for those hunting up crisp, cool days and photographs of dazzling autumn colors. A pack trip can make it a lot easier to reach those remote rivers alive with fat trout, and hills and vales that hide bears, coyotes, elk and deer.
Traveling to high mountain lakes, river gorges, through mountain passes and meadows, pack trip vacations do not always involve dude ranches, but many extraordinary pack trips originate from dude ranches or are offered in conjunction with dude ranch vacations. Pack trip vacations can be an overnight trip, a weeklong holiday or longer. Generally the packers, or outfitters, pack supplies on sturdy mules and horses and trek into the back country.
Choose a trip that’s fully guided, or a spot pack trip (where your ggear is ferried to a pre-arranged spot and dropped off, then picked up at trip’s end).
The Ranchweb site lists links to 43 ranches and outfitters that offer pack trips. Here’s a quick sampling:
Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch
The Cow Camp adventure is a for many a vacation highlight, a true Old West experience (no electricity, no plumbing). Cow Camp is a rustic log homestead from the late 1800s, set in the aspen trees along Cedar Creek. On this overnight pack trip, you’ll enjoy the open air, mountain stillness, and starlight, and who knows, you may just see your friends, family, or co-workers in a whole new light.
Triple Creek Ranch
Whether you prefer extreme sports, a true western adventure or simply the serene beauty of mountain fishing, there is no more scenic backdrop than the Bitterroot Valley. Enjoy a guided trip into the Selway River country, perhaps the most pristine fly-fishing river in America (available through October).
Take a pack trip as part of or separate from a traditional week-long dude ranch vacation. Guests can go to the CM’s base camp at Union Lake, and find glacier-fed lakes are just a short ride away. Or choose a progressive trip and camp next to a different lake each night. They also drop gear for hikers and backpackers who wish to see the area on foot. Call ahead for pack trip schedule.
The Hideout Lodge & Resort
“We see trophy deer and elk, fox, coyote, lynx, big horn sheep, mountain lion, black bear, and moose,” says the Hideout. They’ve made efforts to enhance their habitats to ensure the stability of game herds on the Flitner Ranch properties, and hunting is one of the tools used to accomplish this goal. Their motto: “Every management decision made on the ranch takes our hunting habitats into consideration.” They partner with Powder Horn Outfitters, based out of Sheridan, Wyoming, for pack trip through November.
Triangle C Ranch
For a pack trip in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and a real western backcountry experience, Thunder Mountain Outfitters at the Triangle C Ranch can take you there from June through September.
Triple Creek focuses on cowgirls during “100 Klicks for Chicks” and artistic passion
Known for its spectacular setting in the Montana Rockies, its luxurious accommodations and superb, personalized service, Triple Creek Ranch is an award-winning member of Relais & Châteaux. Set under the Montana Big Sky, the ranch is rated the number one US inn in Travel + Leisure’s 2010 World’s Best Awards. This month’s events: Klicks for Chicks: Venture into deep canyons, over mountain passes, past crystal-clear lakes and through open meadows to discover the true frontier of the Rocky Mountain West. Cowgirls are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind horseback riding adventure, created and led by Triple Creek Ranch owner Barbara Barrett. The first annual Klicks for Chicks 100-kilometer ride is the flip side of the existing all-male 100-mile Los Caballeros and Bohemian Grove endurance horse rides. The ride is for women only and cowgirls will ride rugged all day but return to the luxury of the Rocky Mountain resort at night. Gourmet evening meals are followed by crackling fires in Triple Creek’s luxurious cabins; a relaxing outdoor hot tub is your reward for a long day in the saddle.
Artists’ Workshop Weekends: (Oct. 7-10, Oct. 14-17, Oct. 21-24) and David Stoecklein Photography Weekend¸ (Oct. 28-31). Arts-loving guests will have an opportunity to fine-tune their skills alongside some of the West’s most accomplished professionals. The series of four-day/three-night workshops each features three celebrated artists leading morning and afternoon hands-on workshops. The all-inclusive weekends include luxurious accommodations in a mountain cabin with wood-burning fireplace and hot tub (in cabin or nearby), gourmet meals and complimentary house wine and spirits, ranch activities, artists’ welcome reception, a guided tour of the Ranch’s art collection and farewell art exhibit.
Mountain Sky focuses on food
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch
This month’s Flavors Out West event (Oct. 15-19) promises to be a world-class culinary experience. Head chef Brian Bielen and pastry chef Pam Comstock open their kitchen for the first time to share the secrets behind thier cuisine. Learn the how-to’s of each gourmet dish, or let the sommelier guide you through the perfect pairing of wine with each dish.
Join in on hands-on workshops, or simply revel in luxurious accommodations, cast a line into Big Creek, take a hike through Paradise Valley’s fiery foliage or follow the wranglers to the ‘top of the world’ on horseback.
Details: Flavors Out West; October 15 – 19, 2010; $1475/person. Package price includes: lodging, all meals, on-ranch activities, use of all ranch facilities and amenities, and complimentary wines with workshops. For more, go to