Program Cost: $2,375
The Bitterroot Ranch has an ideal location for horse pack trips in Wyoming’s spectacular wild land.
The route of your pack trip takes you over spectacular Wyoming mountain passes of between 11,000 and 12,000 feet and through pristine valleys with little human presence. The mighty rivers of America have their beginnings here as tiny springs. Each valley has its own distinct character with meadows of lupine in one and craggy cliffs in another. We will stay in each camp for two nights to allow guests to ride out for the day, hike, fish, or just relax without worrying about packing up each morning. This wonderful adventure provides an opportunity to see the glorious, untamed western landscape which is unchanged since the early explorers first visited it.
Tuesday When you arrive at the ranch you will be greeted by your guides and meet your mounts. You are welcome to come to the ranch for breakfast, which is served 7:30 – 9:00. We ask that you be at the ranch by 9:30 am, so that we can get your items packed before the 10:30 am departure. Keep in mind that all of your gear will be carried by pack horses up the mountain, so it will need to be packed in stuff sacks that can be easily loaded (rolling suitcases don’t pack well). Sacks can be provided for you if you do not have your own.
The first ride traverses a large, open, watershed before climbing through several aspen groves en route to a riparian basin named Wayne’s Hole. After a leisurely break for a picnic, the group will follow an old logging road out of the basin that winds through a aspens and alpine meadows. When you reach the top, you will ride past springs feeding Wayne’s Creek which nourish the willows that feed all manner of wildlife ranging from moose to black bears. Picking your way down a small, timbered ridge, you will approach an old cow camp, your first campsite. It is located in a picturesque, creek-fed horse pasture that has been home to many generations of working cowboys responsible for caring for the cattle on their summer range. For you, it will be home for the next two nights.
Wednesday There are two options for the second day’s ride. Groups interested in a short cattle-focused experience can ride along with the guides as they check on livestock and look for predator kills. If cattle don’t pique your interest, the group can tour Bear Basin. This ride departs the camp across an exposed ridgeline. The views to the left and right showcase the ancient volcanic past of the Absaroka Mountains, which predate the Rockies. Straight ahead looms Castle Rock, and behind you will see the jagged, granite peaks of the Wind River Range. From here, your guides will follow a game trail with sweeping views of the basin as you descend towards its floor. After lunch beside one of the Bear Creek’s rushing tributaries, you will climb through a chain of meadows on your way out of the basin and back towards the camp.
Thursday The third morning is moving day. Your guides will prepare a quick breakfast and get to work packing up the camp for the next leg of the journey. Tents, sleeping bags, clothing, food, and cookware will be carefully loaded onto a string of sturdy packhorses. The ride from the Cow Camp to Tipi Meadows offers some of the most dramatic scenery and rugged terrain in the state. You will skirt the head of Castle Creek and ride up and over a ridge into the next drainage. Following the high contours of ancient lava flows; you will weave your way from the headwaters of one drainage to the next, taking in alternate views of the Absarokas. After riding through a stand of gnarled juniper trees, you traverse a bentonite wash before breaking into the open at the base of Castle Rock. From there you will zigzag down the face of an alpine bowl and follow the crystalline waters of Tipi Creek to your campsite.
The Tipi Meadows camp is nestled between two forks of Tipi Creek just upstream of a series of dramatic waterfalls. High timbered ridges teaming with elk and mule deer ring the meadows. Set deep in the Washakie Wilderness area, you will be miles away from any form of mechanized travel; if you are looking for a remote getaway, this is it.
Friday This day begins with a steep climb to the base of Steamboat Rock. After taking in the view above a series of crevasses, you will ride above the tree line to on a broad saddle between Steamboat and Castle Rocks. The rich alpine grass is a favorite summer food source for elk, and it’s not uncommon to see herds of 100 or more cows and calves chirruping to each other as they move away across the steep mountain slopes. You will break for lunch on a knoll with a commanding view of Tipi Meadows below. The ride back from the camp follows the opposite fork of Tipi Creek from the previous days’ journey and you will return to camp by late afternoon, with plenty of time to read, hike, or just relax.
Saturday The last ride is certainly not the least. Your guides will pack up the Tipi Meadows camp after a quick breakfast and begin the long descent to the East Fork Basin. The trail follows high above Tipi Creek from ancient lava flows that are popular elk lookouts to the creek’s terminus. The basin is a broad riparian bowl that feeds a latticework of watercourses making up the East Fork River. You will picnic on a sandy cut bank with large deposits of petrified wood and fossilized plants. The final leg of the trip will take you out of the basin and across a broad sagebrush plain with beautiful views of the Wind River Valley. After a well-deserved soak in the river for the horses, you will dismount at the ranch with memories to last a lifetime.