There is nothing staged about this cattle drive, run by the Kerns family, who have been grazing cattle in Big Horn National Park for generations.
Every year from June through to September they move their herd of cattle (up to 648 cows & calves) from one pasture to the next. It’s remote, staggeringly beautiful, rugged and not for the faint-hearted. As we say, it’s legitimate, so it’s long hours in the saddle, a bush toilet, no showers, sleeping in tipis and unpredictable weather. BUT if you’re up for a once-in-a-lifetime, authentic riding adventure, then this is the ride you’ll remember on your death bed!
There is no denying that you’ll be fed like kings and queens on this ride – good ol’ western cooking. Considering that it’s all camp oven cooking, you’ll be astounded at the calibre of food dished up around the campfire. As for the horses, they’re a nifty mob of tough Quarter Horses born and bred to keep shifty cows in line on rugged terrain. You’ll ride alongside tobacco-chewing, wrangler-clad cowboys who can rope a steer quicker than you can blink and are happy to teach their trade as you hold the herd.
This is the real deal, globetrotters – there is no molly-coddling on the Big Horn Cattle Drive. You’ll saddle and unsaddle your horse daily, and beginner to experienced riders are all welcome. There are plenty of opportunities for experienced riders to canter after a breakaway beast, and for the not-so-confident to notch up plenty of hours in the saddle and go at a pace that suits them. If you love the idea of roughing it and getting back to nature, then sign up for this authentic 1880s-style cattle drive. You won’t regret it!
- Horse Breed:Quarter Horse and Quarter Horse cross.
- Pace:Variable depending on terrain. You will spend a lot of time walking behind the cattle, but there will be opportunities to chase after a breakaway beast.
- Weight Limit:Maximum of 102kg / 224lbs.
- Type of tack:Western saddles.
- Seasons:June through to September. The temperature can vary greatly in the Big Horn Mountains where in September it can snow.
- Group size:A maximum of 20 guests.
- Time in Saddle:On average 6 to 11 hours a day, depending on the cattle.
- Riding Ability:Caters for all riding abilities.
*As a beginner, you need to be physically fit and be prepared to spend up to 11 hours in the saddle when required.
- Accommodation:Guests stay in 2-man tipi tents throughout the cattle drive. Guests will share tents unless single supplement has been purchased. Long drop toilet facilities and no showers. On the last night on the Open Range Cattle Drive guests will stay in hotel accommodation and welcome a comfortable bed and hot shower. Hotel accommodation is not included on the Clean Up Ride.
- Ride Length:The cattle drive depending on the month of departure is either 5 day, 5 night or 6 day, 6 night itineraries. You’ll certainly get a bucket load of hours in the saddle!
- Inclusions:The ride price includes ground transportation to and from Sheridan, all food, soft drinks, saddle, tack, horse lease and guide service.
- Exclusions:The price does not include flights or travel insurance (compulsory).
DEPARTURE DATES & RATES
Please note: with all the above dates, the departing date is the day you MUST arrive into Sheridan. Accommodation that evening will be at your own expense. You’ll then be picked up around 8am the following morning to transfer to the cow camp.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
Ride price includes ground transportation to and from Sheridan, all food, soft drinks, saddle, tack, horse lease, and guide service.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
Prices do not include alcohol (BYO is welcome), international flights, travel insurance, transfers to and from the ride and tips. There is a guardians of the range fee of $25 US per person and recommended tip is $100 US per person.
Accepted payment is by credit or debit card only. There is a 2% surcharge on all card payments.
Why is the price quoted in USD?
With our riding destinations, the currency is dictated by our ride partner in that country. Therefore due to fluctuating exchange rates we have to quote in the same currency.
ItineraryExpand AllCollapse All
*Please remember, working with cattle and Mother Nature requires fluidity, so suggested itineraries don’t always go according to plan and is subject to change at the discretion of your guides.
July Cattle Drive
During this trip, you’ll trail the mother cows and their calves high to their summer range at the top of the Big Horn Mountains, up Little Horn Canyon and through the National Forest. The ride begins with a horsemanship clinic which allows your guides to make sure they have you mounted on a horse that fits your skill level. There are generally three different camps throughout the week ranging in elevation from 4,200 feet to over 9,000 feet. The camp will have to be taken down and set back up at the next campsite.
You’ll ride your horse close to 160 kilometres throughout the week. It’s a saddle-up, rain, hail or shine scenario and the day ends when you get to the destination for the day with the cattle. Breakfast for the first couple of days is generally around 4:00am and you’re in the saddle by 5:00am.Since there is no electricity in the camps to cook with, the cooks generally start preparing breakfast at around 2:30am. You won’t have a day of less than 6 hours in the saddle and could spend as many as 12 hours in the saddle.
Once you’re on the mountain with the herd, breakfast can be delayed to around 7:00am to allow you and the cooks to catch up on some badly needed sleep, and to allow the horses to get a full belly of mountain grass. It will be much cooler on the mountain, so layers are highly encouraged.
Come Friday, you’ll be exhausted, dirty, exhilarated beyond comprehension and desiring a hot shower and a real bed. You’ll head to Bear Lodge for the last night’s celebration. The following morning you’ll be transferred back to Sheridan for onward travel.
August Cattle Drive
These Open Range cattle drives take place entirely on the mountain and are one day shorter than all the other trips. The main emphasis is on moving the cattle to the next pasture in the rotation. This sounds pretty simple, but with just seven pastures covering over 60,000 acres of canyons, timber, high alpine meadows and countless rivers, finding the cattle is a huge challenge in and of itself. On one of the Open Range trips, a GPS reading was taken at the point where they started gathering cattle and then again at the destination where they arrived four days later. As the crow flies, it was 6 kilometres / 4 miles from point to point to point, but because of the impassable canyons they had to swoop around, they had ridden over 40 kilometres / 25 miles to get to the next pasture.
These trips start out at Lake Creek cow camp, where there is a morning horsemanship clinic to get you paired with a horse suitable for your ability. Your luggage will be picked up at that point and transported to the camp where the cattle are grazing. After the horsemanship clinic you’ll ride your horse to the camp, which is about a 4 to 6 hour ride. The following morning you’ll enjoy breakfast at around 7:00am and then start gathering the herd. Your riding posse will head in different directions with the idea of gathering the cattle in a common place for the following day’s push. On all of the trips, you’ll have a saddlebag-packed lunch and if you’re lucky you’ll get a chance to get off your horse and sit among the wildflowers to eat it. However, on some days there is no time to stop, so you’ll eat as you ride. Again, this is a real cattle drive and work needs to be done and completed.
You’ll generally ride back into camp sometime in the late afternoon with a wholesome dinner waiting for you. All of your meals are cooked in a 16-inch cast iron dutch oven, using the hot coals for heat. The food is excellent and there will be plenty of it, as hard working cowboys (and globetrotters) work up a real appetite. You’ll generally move camp once during the week, but again, everything is dictated by the livestock and Mother Nature.
In the evenings after dinner it’s great to sit around the campfire and listen to fellow riders yarn about the day. There is a tonne of laughter shared as the challenge sets in. These two rides in August are the most popular for riders who re-book. The reason? The weather is the most stable and the riding is very real. On the mountains you’ll generally have highs of 30 degrees C and no humidity, so there really is no summer heat to talk about. The trip finishes with a hot shower, a real bed and lots of laughter at Bear Lodge before you’re transferred to Sheridan the following day.
September Cattle Drive
This trip is wide open as to the plan of attack. By September the weather has generally cooled off to highs of around 15 degrees C, with nights sitting around 1 degree C. The trip starts at Lake Creek, which is above 9,000 feet, so you must come prepared for cold weather. It’s highly recommended that you bring a sleeping bag that is rated below zero! It’s not at all uncommon to have a day of snow. Past trips have generally been very lucky with the weather, but there have also been three different days over a period of 20-odd years when, due to white-out blizzard conditions, the group had to sit in camp all day as the visibility just wasn’t high enough to safely go out in.
Like all the rest, this cattle drive starts with a horsemanship clinic. You’ll be in two different camps throughout the week, and the ride will probably involve gathering a herd of cattle on the mountains before trailing them down to the valley. Grazing conditions on the mountain and in the valley determine the number of cattle that you’ll take.
Although the riding on this trip can be the most hazardous, it is one of the most popular cattle drives and sells out first. The leaves are all changing and the wildlife is rutting, which makes for great viewing opportunities. By this time of year the days are noticeably shorter, so it’s not uncommon to ride into camp just ahead of dark. At 9,000 feet, you’ll notice a shortness of breath as the air is much thinner. If you are a heavy smoker or have any breathing issues, this elevation might be more than you can handle, depending on the elevation you normally live at. The promise remains: you’ll not be disappointed with the riding hours or challenges on this trip.
Clean Up Cattle Drive
On the last trip of the season, you’ll be riding the entire mountain allotment, bringing any remaining cattle back down to the valley. You’ll start the ride above 9,000 feet and end up in the valley at around 4,200 feet. You’ll generally ride the entire 60,000 acres during this week – that means lots of saddle time. Just like the September trip, you need to be prepared for snow, with highs of around 10 degrees C and lows below freezing each night.
There can be as many as three different mountain camps on this trip, often centred around the Kerns family’s historical log cabins. The history and stories entwined in these places will transport you to a bygone era. As with all of the cattle drives, you will be sleeping in tents every night, but the smaller group size allows for a faster pace during the week. Each day you’ll head in different directions in order to cover all the areas that might hold stray cattle. On the last day you’ll head back to Sheridan in the early evening, where the trip officially ends.
*Please remember, working with cattle and Mother Nature requires fluidity, so suggested itineraries don’t always go according to plan.
For international guests we recommend you fly into either Cody, Wyoming or Billings, Montana a day or two before the ride begins. So you’re not suffering from jet-lag when it comes time to throw a leg over the saddle. If you’re happy and comfortable to hire a car (driving on the other-side of the road) its a straight- forward two hour drive from Billings to Sheridan or a three hour drive from Cody to Sheridan. Otherwise there is an airport pick up and drop off from Billings for $275 USD, round trip, this service is only available one day before the trip and one day after the trip.
Please note, all guests MUST arrive and stay in Sheridan (at their own expense) the night before the ride begins, so that you’re ready to be picked up around 8am on day 1 and be transferred to the cow camp.
‘I was matched to a high energy horse named Crackerjack, and we had a fantastic time going up and down the mountain. He looked after me and our match up was perfect. I got to see different animals native to Wyoming, and it wasn’t too cold. There were laughs around the campfire at night and I stayed in a tent with two other girls which quickly become known as the party tent due to all the laughing. The Kerns were very accommodating and I had a once in a lifetime experience.’
‘Recently I was lucky enough to go on the Big Horn Cattle Drive in Wyoming, USA and it was, simply put, magical! I fulfilled a childhood dream of driving cattle, cowboy style, through Wyoming. The scenery, the horses, the people and the experience will be etched on my heart for the rest of my life.’
‘This was the trip of a lifetime. The scenery was stunning, the horses were spectacular, the cattle work was challenging and exciting, but what made it really special was the people. They were the most gracious and patient hosts full of stories and jokes. Everyone was made to feel welcome and valued. This was a special place on the planet and one of the best experiences in my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.’
‘The special beauty of Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountains are showcased in an unforgettable way on this ride. You will be challenged to the max with long days in the saddle, and learn a lot about the American West. The Kerns family is very hospitable and does a great job of weaving in storytelling about the history of the area. The campsites showcase some of the most beautiful spots in Wyoming, as well as some of the most historic. The other riders and professional wranglers make the trip a real bonding experience – and the sturdy horses really earn your trust in the mountains.’
‘I don’t even know where to begin, what an absolutely amazing adventure! Words or photos don’t even do it justice – just breathtaking. I’m 100% booking in again for next year. The food is absolutely amazing, and your hosts Dana and Alice and their family are just beautiful. I honestly had the time of my life.
Things I’ll take next year: my own Drizabone, two thermal water bottles as it’s quite hot, chaps, riding gloves, and three back-up battery phone chargers because I love taking photos!’
‘This ride is every thing you imagine it to be. Starting at about 9,000 feet up in the mountains, we were tasked with gathering the cows and calves from their summer pastures and moving them back down off the mountain so they could be better tended to over the winter. We teamed up with keen riders from Israel, Austria, Norway, and the U.S. Our horses were tough and surefooted, well adapted to the altitude and terrain. The level of service from our hosts was first class. The wranglers were friendly and knew their trade, and a warm and friendly atmosphere pervaded for the entire week. The evenings were always full of shenanigans and merriment and, on our trip, a colourful exchange of accents. For me, the highlights were the full days of riding along pine tree ridge lines, across lush valley floors and flowing streams, filling our water bottles up from icy cold springs, descending steep mountain trails and enjoying the novelty of riding in the snow.
This has been our first Globetrotting adventure and I can guarantee it won’t be our last.’