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. Taking into consideration it’s all camp oven cooking, you’ll be astounded at the calibre of food dished up around the campfire on this ride. As for the horses, they’re a nifty mob of tough quarter horses that are born and bred to keep shifty cows in line in 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 both beginner to experienced riders are welcome. There are plenty of opportunities for the expert 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 suitable for 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 Horses 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
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 card only. There is a 2% surcharge on all credit 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 note, this is a suggested itinerary only and subject to change at the discretion of your guides due to weather and other influencing factors.
July Cattle Drive
Each trip begins with a horsemanship clinic which allows your guides to make sure they have you mounted on a horse that fit’s your skill level. By being mounted correctly you’ll get the most out of the week.
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 broken down and set back up at the next camp. 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, that means the cooks generally are starting breakfast around 2:30am. You won’t have a day of less than 6 hours in the saddle and it could be as many as 12 hours in the saddle. Once 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 where the meal and lodging is all included in your trip price. The following morning transfer back to Sheridan for onward travel.
August Cattle Drive
These two trips take place entirely on the mountain and are one day shorter than all the other trips. The main emphasis with the cattle drives in August is moving the cattle to the next pasture in the rotation. This sounds pretty simple and boring but on a 60,000 acres filled with canyons, timber, high alpine meadows and water everywhere, finding the cattle is a huge challenge by itself. On one of the Open Range trips a GPS reading was logged where they started gathering cattle and then took a reading once they arrived with the cattle 4 days later. It was 6 kilometres as the crow flies but because of the canyons you have to swoop around, it was over 40 kilometres of trailing 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 mounted accordingly. Your luggage will be picked up at that time and transported to the camp where the cattle are grazing.
Part of the enjoyment of the week is being mounted on a horse that fits your skill level. After the horsemanship clinic you’ll ride your horse to where camp is which is about a 4 to 6 hour ride. The following morning you’ll enjoy breakfast 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 days push. On all of the trips it’s saddle-bag packed lunch and if you’re lucky you’ll get a chance to get off your horse, sit in the wildflowers and 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 ride back into camp generally sometime late afternoon with a wholesome dinner waiting for you. All of our meals are cooked using the hot coals for heat and a 16 inch cast iron dutch oven. The food is excellent and there will be plenty of it as hard working cowboys (and globetrotters) work up a real appetite. We 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 as the degree of difficulty sets in.
These two rides in August are the most popular for people 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 and no humidity, so there really is no summer heat to talk about. The trip finishes like with the last night (included in the trip price) with a hot shower, a real bed and lot’s of laughter.
September Cattle Drive
This trip is actually wide open as to what the attack plan is. By September the weather has generally cooled off to high’s around 15 degrees and the nights sit around 1 degree. This trip will start at Lake Creek which is above 9, 000 feet so you must come prepared for cold weather. It’s not at all uncommon to have a day of snow. In the past they’ve had some beautiful trips throughout the years but have also had three different days over a period of 20 some years, that due to white out blizzard conditions the riding group had to sit in camp all day as the visibility just wasn’t safe enough to go out in. It’s highly encouraged not to bring a sleeping bag for this trip that is rated above zero!
This trip like all of them starts with a horsemanship clinic and you’ll be in two different camps throughout the week. On the ride you’ll probably be trailing some cattle to the valley. Grass conditions on the mountain and in the valley determine the number of cattle that will go to the valley. Because of potential winter conditions the riding can be the most hazardous on this trip. However, this is probably one of the most popular trips and fills up first. The leaves are all changing and the wildlife is rutting which makes for rather unexpected wildlife viewing.
By this time of year the days are noticeably shorter so it’s not uncommon to ride into camp slightly ahead of dark. At the 9,000 foot altitude you’ll notice a shortness of breath as the air is much thinner. For any globetrotters with breathing issues or heavy smokers this elevation might be more than you can handle, depending on the elevation you live at. The promise remains you’ll not be disappointed with the hours or challenges of riding on this trip.
Clean Up Cattle Drive
On the last trip of the season you’ll be taking the herd from the summer pasture to the valley. This ride is limited to ten people. You’ll start the ride above 9, 000 feet and end up with the herd in the valley around 4, 200 feet. The goal is to gather all cattle that are still on the mountain and return them to the valley. 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 generally 10 degrees and lows below freezing each night. There can be as many as three different mountain camps on this trip. Like all of our trips you will be sleeping in tents every night but the smaller group allows for a faster pace during the week. Again each day you’ll head in different directions in order to get all the areas covered that might have stray cattle. On the last day you’ll head back to Sheridan early evening where the trip officially ends.
Please remember working with cattle and the climate is fluid 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.
‘The trip of a lifetime. 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. 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.’
“The Big Horn Cattle Drive is every thing you imagine it to be. This has been our first Globetrotting adventure and I can guarantee it won’t be our last.”
Stories from the saddle
A horse named after a hard liquor is my kind of horse and that’s why I’m thrilled to introduce you to Johnny Walker who is one of the guest horses on the Big Horn Cattle Drive in the US. And with any great name you expect one to have a great personality, and that’s exactly […]
Dana and Alice Kerns, along with their sons, run the Big Horn Cattle Drive in Wyoming. But it’s not just a commercial venture for them, it’s their way of life. This duo live and breath cattle, their family having started grazing cows back in 1887. Find out more about Dana, Alice and the incredible riding […]
Catherine Garrard is a fresh-off-the trail globetrotter who lived out her own real-life cowgirl adventure on the Big Horn Cattle Drive in Wyoming. And she loved it so much she plans to do it all again next year! We caught up with Catherine post-trek to get the low-down on what made this horse riding holiday […]