After 30 years of visiting guest ranches in the United States and experiencing horseback riding adventures in Europe, Africa, Mexico and central America, I can safely say that Rancho Los Banos has surpassed them all, offering the best riding of my life. The vastness of the land, the challenges and beauty experienced, and the unspoiled wilderness ridden through, in a very intimate setting, with great horses, offers riding the way it should be. If you can, riding at this ranch is not to be missed. I will be back.
--- Susan B., Boston
Horseback Riding at the Rancho
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I liked the fact that this place is so untouched by tourists. It was just the land, the horses and us. We loved the unlimited horseback riding and being in the bush away from technology further emphasized the pristine nature of this place. There are 30,000 acres of mountains, valleys, cliffs and canyons as far as the eye can see and beyond. Its so beautiful.
Our Mexican Roundup Week [Nov 6-13] is just around the corner. For more info on this unique week please click here
With 30,000 of the most pristine, remote and rugged acres as your personal playground, backcountry horseback riding offers almost unlimited hours of challenging, thrilling, awe-inspiring and fun-filled adventure riding in virtually secluded isolation, surrounded by sierras, mountains, hills, mesas, rock cliffs, ravines, canyons and some of the most unsurpassed, unspoiled wilderness you will ever see. Indeed, the sheer vastness of the land continues to amaze and inspire our guests. Together with a riding freedom that is seldom seen and a serenity that cannot be found anywhere else, riding at the ranch is a world-class, first-rate experience. It is not an exaggeration to state that the ranch offers some of the best riding experiences in the world.
Riding at Rancho Los Banos is as real as it gets, with you and your group joining old and new school Mexican cowboys, and European wranglers, in a setting that is far removed from artificial, manicured or tourist based group riding, far removed from your typical dude ranch riding experience. At the ranch, you become a vaquera or vaquero, discovering the land and its majesty, reading the contours of its ruggedness, spotting wildlife or cattle, herding and directing cattle home, seeing landscapes that go on for miles, surrounded by a wild and serene wilderness that can only be experienced and appreciated first-hand.
Our horseback riding was second to none and the most adventurous riding I've ever had the privilege of doing. Our horses were extremely surefooted and a dream to ride.
If what you seek is a riding challenge, or an opportunity to experience backcountry riding in pure, pristine wilderness, with scenery and landscapes virtually at every corner, in an intimate, private and secluded horseback riding experience, far removed from the typical dude ranch trail ride that choses quantity, and profit, over quality, then Rancho Los Banos might be the horseback riding adventure destination and vacation for you. Indeed, riding at Rancho Los Banos offers a high desert experience full of adventure and fun-filled riding, with pristine scenery that goes on for miles, immersing yourself in a wilderness that is pure and serene, in a place commonly called the "last frontier," "the time that land forgot," the "most rugged land you will ever see," and the "Major Leagues" of guest ranch riding.
Horseback Riding at the Rancho
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With no signs of civilization, you will immerse yourself in our high desert or riparian, canyon environments, whether riding inside boxed canyons, river beds, vertical, rugged mountains, high elevation terrains and/or rolling foothills dressed in golden colored grass. Riding at Rancho Los Banos will be an uplifting and reenergizing experience as you make your way through panoramas and scenery that are as exotic and beautiful, not to mention unspoiled, as anything in the Americas. While here, you will quickly forget about the life you have left behind as the land that envelops you displays its serene tranquility and calming energy.
The highlights of our stay were the vaqueros, dignified, elegant cowboys who escorted us on some amazing rides on horseback. The more experienced among us were able to go out with a single vaquero and set pace, direction and destination of the ride. All I had to do was think a direction and my horse would respond, said our 16-year-old daughter, commenting on how in tune she felt with her horse.
You will ride in comfort and security atop one of our three dozen well trained, well mannered, noble and experienced horses. Together with them, you will ride in synergy, as a team, conquering vertical mountains and rugged, rocky terrain. Born and bred at the ranch, our horses are well adapted to the rigors and ruggedness of Los Banos, having spent years learning and mastering their 30,000 acre home.
For beginners and experienced riders alike, our 80 miles of dirt roads, and our hundreds of miles of trails, present stunning vistas with challenges and thrills along the way. The ranch, through its various sections, offers diversity of flora and of the terrain itself and, together with the size of the land, you are virtually guaranteed to never ride the same trail twice, thereby having a different adventure, with different landscapes and sights, every day you decide to ride at Rancho Los Banos.
My husband and I came to Los Banos as experienced horse people who were interested in riding the ranch's backcountry and to experience ranch life. Los Banos did not disappoint! We had some amazingly scenic rides that were fun and challenging. We saw lots of country, gorgeous wet canyons, rugged mountaintops, rough, thorny desert, and wildlife too."
"The ranch's horses were tough and surefooted and very responsive, like good ranch horses should be. They were safe, but definitely not slow, dull tourist horses. We helped move cattle, shoe horses and even milk wild range cattle!
Riding at the ranch is truly an experience unlike any other, with the opportunity for peace, tranquility and serenity, working in tandem with one of our gentle, well-mannered, sturdy and experiences horses. With our old and new school genuine Mexican cowboys as your guides, riding at Rancho Los Banos will become an unforgettable experience through incredible country, whether you are an experienced rider or an eager beginner. In the end, you will see, like many riders already, that riding at Rancho Los Banos is an experience unlike any other, unsurpassed in beauty, in its exotic qualities, and in the complete serenity and tranquility one feels traversing the high sierra, box canyons or the unmistakable land that is the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts landscape.
"The trail rides were a real treat for me. Diego our trail guide took us on a couple of the greatest trails that I have ever encountered. This is high praise coming from someone who has been riding for the last 40 years. Words cannot describe how beautiful this rancho is."
"We rode on horseback over back roads, cattle trails and through river beds. What beautiful country! We took short and long hikes through scenic canyons, exploring caves and rock formations. Beautiful! Great time!"
Commonly Asked Questions:
Could you tell us a little about the rides? I was wondering what a typical ride was like?
Our rides and riding program are designed to provide thrills, fun, excitement and challenge for our guests. They are designed to showcase the land. They are prepared for our guests so that you can experience backcountry horseback riding at its finest. Our rides take you to virtually every corner of the ranch, 30,000 acres of preserved wilderness. Through them, you will see a diversity of ecosystems and flora that will challenge your conception of what a desert really is. Our sturdy horses will take you up sierras, down cliffs, through dirt roads and trails, into canyons and river beds, through hills and down ravines. Our high desert environment will offer vistas that go on for miles and offer scenic, National-Park quality landscapes.
Most rides start off in the morning, after breakfast. For about 5-6 hours, or shorter if you wish, you will immerse yourself into our diverse desert habitats, guided by our vaquero, with intimate knowledge of the land, together with one of our English speaking wranglers.
Ride inside majestic canyons in our Canyonlands full of box, wet, canopy-filled canyons, with similarities made to Zion, Bryce, Arches, Sedona and Moab, in addition to Copper Canyon. Ride our high desert back country with spectacular scenery amid vertical sierras, ravines and hills. With an elevation range from 7,500 to 3,200 feet, you will ride in some of the most stunning landscapes anywhere, with views of the Sierra Madres that are vast and stunning.
During the course of your ride, you will make stops for breaks, snacks, photo ops, etc.., whenever you feel you need to stretch or rest. Your guide will take you through trails based on your expertise level, or how much challenge and thrill you want. Our trails are designed with our guests in mind. Some will be through one of our seldom used dirt roads, offering relaxing, smooth rides while others, through thick brush where you will need chaps and long-sleeve shirts, or up to the high sierra or to our famous Badlands.
Overall, our rides are enjoyable, as easy or difficult as you want, and designed so that you never see the same trail or land twice. In fact, a guest can spend two weeks at the ranch and not see the same trail twice. Also, at the ranch you will never have nose to tail riding, meaning many riders on the same ride. At the ranch, we put quality over quantity, people over profit. Usually it will be you, your group and the vaquero, offering peace, tranquility, privacy and freedom.
What level of advanced riding is offered at the ranch?
In our experience, every guest and group brings with them a varied idea of what advanced riding should be. Without fully knowing each group’s experience and expectations, we can say that our riding program is geared and tailored to the dynamics both of our terrain and landscape. To begin, the ranch's 30,000 acres encompass very rugged, rocky, uneven and vertical land. Therefore, the opportunities for galloping [or trotting] are small to nonexistent, though our in-house cowboy canter is oftentimes needed and used for our longer, more advanced rides.
Additionally, the diverse and at times thick desert vegetation makes fast riding difficult. Having said that, however, our trails do take guests on a diverse set of challenges not offered at many ranches. If your idea of advanced riding is the challenge of climbing sierras through narrow passages, or descending ravines and steep trails into box canyons, or of climbing up rocky cliffs, then our ranch might be ideal for you. If you enjoy the stimulating challenge of circumventing boulders and big rocks, or of evading trees and bushes, and of working in synchronicity with your horse, then our ranch might offer what you seek.
What the ranch offers is trail riding, up to six hours per day [usually beginning in the morning], in true backcountry style, with trips to the outer reaches of untamed sierras and true wilderness areas. Using our network of trails, guests of all levels enjoy deep excursions to our backcountry, reaching elevations up to 6,000 ft. Our rides are vertical, narrow, steep, full of obstacles and offering a true opportunity to work with your horse as a team. The second slideshow on this page allows you to see the type of terrain our trails are on, and our overall landscape slideshows will show you the scenery and type of land you will see.
What we offer is riding, whether advanced or not [depending on the trail], that allows you to enjoy pure wilderness in a very stimulating, non-boring, non-generic way. On many of our rides, there is constant action, with all five senses being engaged, with your attention constantly required. There are challenges all along the trails system, and there is spectacular scenery all-around. Our trails rides are genuine, pristine and quite challenging, particularly those with great elevation gains. Offering rides from 3-6 hours in length, you will see, in the span of your full days of riding, a tremendous diversity of vegetation and of scenery, in the process being challenged in many different ways in riding that we, along with many past guests [advanced level riders] consider advanced.
In fact, of our returning guests, a great majority are very experienced and talented riders that fall in love with riding at the ranch. Many of these riders would be glad to speak with you about riding at the ranch.
Any chances for galloping or trotting? What about opportunities for cantering?
Given the nature of the wilderness and the land that surrounds us, and how rocky, rugged, wild, canyon-filled and vertical the terrain is, there is little room, if any, for galloping and limited time for trotting. The general pace of our horseback rides depends a lot on the abilities of our individual guests, as well as the difficulty of the particular trail to be taken on a certain day. The beauty of riding at the ranch is the land’s vastness, scenery, ruggedness and its diversity, offering challenges that differ from ranches that only offer flat lands, or limited acreage.
However, there are several opportunities for cantering during the course of a ride, depending where you are located during a trail and depending, naturally, on the length of the trail you will be on and the level of difficulty of the trail selected. Our in-house designed cowboy canter allows us to traverse long distance trails, allowing guests to visit our high country or distant sights in 5-6 hours, roundtrip. Due to the rugged, vertical and rocky terrain at the rancho, there is also, of course, normal trail riding. However, there is plenty of challenge and thrills with our many trails, and you will experience riding like never before, seeing landscapes that offer a vastness and uniqueness seldom seen.
What are some of the highlights we can expect on the trails?
At the ranch, besides our many scenic nature trails, you can also ride to numerous historical attractions. Our guests visit a 17th century abandoned Jesuit gold mine [at 6,000 feet of elevation with views that go for miles], by the name of San Jose, where many Native American slaves perished. Deep inside a scrub oak, canopy-filled canyon at the foot of 7,500 ft El Pinito Mountain, guests also visit the remains of a 19th century bandit hiding camp where both American and Mexican outlaws went to lay low. After all, the Wild West did not end at the border.
You can also ride to 2,000 year old pre-Colombian dwellings full of pictographs, deep inside El Cajon Canyon, or visit a 20 mile long lake, and its dam, built during the Great Depression by the architects and engineers that also built Hoover Dam [the dam is a smaller replica of Hoover]. You can visit the ruins of an early 20th century homestead, with a genuine Model T Ford skeleton gathering rust. At Cat Claw Cliffs, you will ride up to the top, with spectacular 360 degree views. These cliffs and its canyons, the story goes, hold the lost gold of an outlaw on the run, stashing his treasure after robbing a stagecoach.
If that is not enough, you can ride to magnificent views of famous El Tigre, a nearby Sierra Madre mountain that acted as Geronimo's [famous Apache chief] Last Stronghold. Indeed, to ride at the ranch is to ride in what was once prime Apache country, where the fierce warriors once rode, camped and lived. At the ranch, after all, you are riding, breathing and living through history.
Besides riding through history, you will also ride through a diversity seldom seen at a guest ranch. You will explore pristine wilderness and diverse habitats and have chance encounters with our wildlife, including mountain lion. Guests ride to our high country, passing through vertical sierras, to locations such as Los Toros, “The Bulls,” a mountainous region so remote and secluded few humans have ever seen. Indeed, so remote is this region, that feral cattle roam its mountains, seldom, if ever, having seen a single human being.
You will also ride to “El Sordo,” “The Deaf Man,” high country so named for the incredible, omnipresent silence and quietness one encounters when there. Down in our Canyonlands, you will ride through stunning, wet, box canyons full of life, with cliff walls hundreds of feet high. You will ride through rock formations, formed over eons, that are beautiful manifestations of nature as it artistically carves its way through time.
Throughout the ranch, you will explore habitats that are varied, diverse and exotic. You will see regions full of desert palm trees, organ pipe cacti, ocotillo forests, sycamore canopies and much more. You will ride through hills covered in knee-high, golden-colored grass, and see a vast collection of high country vegetation. With a riding elevation between 3,200 to 6,000 feet, your entire conception of what a desert is will be radically altered.
Overall, riding at the ranch will entice you to keep riding. It will bring you closer to nature. It will help you discover the dynamics of a desert. It will introduce you to some of the best horses anywhere. It will thrill, challenge, excite, entertain and captivate you. You will ride through history, through pristine wilderness and through some of the best trails you have ever ridden. And, in the end, an adventure of a lifetime will have been formed.