Bear Basin Packtrips, LLC
473 County Road 271
Westcliffe, CO 81252
719-783-2519 (phone)
866-244-4691 (fax)
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Details Hotsprings Packtrip

A trip back in time and nature to seldom-visited natural hot springs in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area.
For intermediate to experienced riders.


Crossing the backbone of the continent on seldom traveled trails through the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, we descend into the broad San Luis Valley to camp two relaxing nights at the historic Valley View Hot Springs. The trails are steep and challenging; the camps camps remote and scenic. We may see any variety of wildlife, including hawks, eagles, elk, deer, and bear. Participants must have some familiarity with horses, and be in good health and physical condition. This is mainly a journey for experienced riders, though a confident beginner with some experience can enjoy the trip just fine.

The horses are sure-footed, no- nonsense and willing. We’ll assign you your own horse and teach you how to saddle, picket and care for it. Mountain riding techniques are taught as we travel. We’ll share our extensive knowledge of geology, plants, wildlife, and history of the area, as well as teach you minimal impact camping skills. Tasty camp meals are served around the campfire beneath a weatherproof kitchen canopy.

At the hot springs, we’ll have camp tables, chairs, a wood-fired sauna, and a heated bathhouse. There are numerous hot soaking pools in a natural setting of wildflowers, birds and wandering deer. These are not well-visited pools and have been only minimally ‘improved’ from their natural state. Be prepared: like most western hot springs, many soak without clothes. Bathing suits are optional, to wear or not is your choice!


DAY 1: Meeting at the Colorado Springs Hotel at 7:30 a.m., we’ll drive two hours to a trailhead on the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As our pack string is loaded with duffels and supplies, one of your two wrangler-guides will give you and your friends or family detailed instructions on riding, saddling and the care of your mount.

Setting out around midday, we wind up through Aspen groves, Gambel Oak and Lodgepole Pine, up and into a long glaciated valley. We then work around Englemann Spruce, fording the tumbling stream that gurgles down toward the Arkansas River and eventually the Mississippi. We stop to rebuild a section of trail that has slid away from a section of muddy down-sloping rock. A dark tassel-eared squirrel chatters indignantly as we pass. Higher up, a cow elk with ungainly calf in tow ambles across a meadow lush with purple larkspur and yellow composites. We set camp below a gigantic rock glacier just at timberline. The horses are picketed out. The tents are up in carefully selected flat areas well away from each other, and the small campfire is glowing cheerfully as we sip happy-hour spirits while awaiting dinner.

DAY 2: The aroma of brewing coffee and the fluttering of Steller’s jays signals the start of the day. After a leisurely breakfast, the packhorses are carefully packed with balanced loads, tightly secured by Gary Ziegler’s Bear Basin Hitch or perhaps an old fashioned diamond. The wranglers complete to tie the best load. If perfectly packed, the load should not have to be touched until we unpack at the end of the day. Not much is worse than a load sliding off on the steep pass, creating a scene from a Charlie Russell painting!

Leaving the last twisted spruce and bristlecone pine behind, our train winds up and over a wind sweep 12,500 ft. pass. Awestruck, we silently gaze over the immense, vast grandeur of the San Luis Valley… stretching beyond vision to the hills of Taos far to the south. Then, down, down winding switchbacks to lunch in an alpine meadow. A small herd of elk scramble past us into the dense timber below. Leaving the forest behind, we ride out over the open prairie, framed by towering peaks. While some might wait for the burst of orchestral music that Hollywood would surely furnish, only the quiet whisper of the afternoon wind disturbs the solitude. Evening finds us soaking peacefully in a warm pool, favorite beverage in hand, as the orange-red globe of the Sun settles behind the western mountains.

DAY 3: We camp among the aspen along a warm water stream, minutes from the pools. Valley View is a private, minimally developed resort with limited public access. (Of course, we are members.) The Springs were considered sacred by the Mountain Ute who came to revitalize and give thanks after a successful buffalo hunt. Although quiet during the week, we share the resort with other members coming to soak in this magical spot. The day is set aside to soak, take saunas, to relax. Numerous natural pools offer a choice of soaking with others or finding a private small pool. You may decide to hike or explore the old Orient Iron mine nearby, returning in time for another sunset soak.

DAY 4: Breakfast, a last early morning dip, then back in the saddle again. Relaxed and stress-free we ride quietly up into the silent pine forest to make a late afternoon camp at the base of the great pass. Around the evening camp fire, our wranglers share tales of the days when the Ute Indians hunted these high valleys or when John Fremont’s ill-fated expedition wintered here. A horse whinnies in the darkness, an owl hoots out a reply, the camp Winchester rests nearby as we drift off in restful sleep.

DAY 5: Up early, we help break camp, catch the horses, pack loads. Now a seasoned, trained outfit, we are soon moving across the meadow and up the pass. Thunderclouds threaten, so we hasten along, stopping only to check chinches and loads. Dropping easterly over the crest, we stay well above timberline to find the beginning of an old cow trail leading down past a series of blue-green glacial lakes. Finding a better trail below, we hurry into the valley as the high ridges erupt in claps of rolling thunder and electric display. We are back at the road too soon, and talk and reminisce about our adventure as we our horses neigh softly, awaiting transport home.

** THIS IS A SAMPLE ITINERARY. Based upon guests’ needs and experience, we have designed custom programs to offer more intensive instruction, additional days, more difficult routes, etc. We have designed programs for many groups and organizations and would be happy to work with yours.(PLEASE SEE CUSTOM TRIPS).

* Due to factors beyond our control, we occasionally find it necessary to change the order or the route of these activities.

At the end of your trip you will be brought back to the hotel sometime
between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. We recommend making prior lodging reservations if you plan to spend the night. If you must fly out that evening, please do not schedule a flight before 8:30 p.m., to make certain you can make your flight.

Five-Day Hot Springs Pack Trip – $2,450 ($250 per person surcharge if only 1 or 2 people are signed up by launch date)
Includes horses, guides, meals, tents, & instruction.
A 3% Forest Service Use fee will be added to the cost.

Start Dates: July 1st through September 23rd. Other dates may be available upon request.

Phone: 719.783.2519
Fax: 866.244.4691

Items listed on the equipment list, alcoholic beverages, and tips are excluded. Tipping is at your discretion, of course. Please direct your tip to the lead guide. Standard in the industry is 10-15% of the trip cost. We now require all guests to leave their pets at home for their safety and the safety of other guests.


    Time: 7:30 am on the first morning of the trip
    Radisson Inn, Colorado Springs Airport – 1645 N. Newport Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80916
    Please meet in the lobby with your duffel bag, and with your day pack or saddlebags packed.
    Transportation to the Ranch: Travel to and from the Ranch in our van
    Time: 9:00 am on the first morning of the trip
    Bear Basin Ranch; 473 County Road 271; Westcliffe, CO 81252
    Please meet at the ranch with your duffel bag, and with your day pack or saddlebags packed.
    Transportation to the Ranch: Drive to the Ranch in your car


Hotel: We recommend the Radisson Inn – Colorado Springs Airport on 1645 N. Newport Rd. in Colorado Springs.
Phone: 719.597.7000 or 800.333.3333
Mention you are with Bear Basin Ranch to receive the special discount rate!

Or, if you would like to stay somewhere locally in Westcliffe, we recommend the Westcliffe Inn
Phone: 719.783.9275
( or there are several other hotels and Inns if you go looking!) Westcliffe is 11 miles west on Hwy 96 from the Ranch.

Air: Most major airlines serve Colorado Springs daily.

Car: You can drive to the Radisson Inn – Colorado Springs Airport and, with prior notice, leave your car in the parking lot while on the trip. Arrangements can also be made to drive to Bear Basin Ranch outside of Westcliffe, CO. Let us know and we will send you details and a map.

Directions: Bear Basin Ranch is approximately 65 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.
Head south on Interstate 25 to the Tejon/Canon City Exit in Colorado Springs.
urn left from the exit over to Nevada Avenue (Hwy 115) and then right on Nevada heading south to Florence (about 35 miles).
In Florence turn left at the light (Carl’s Jr.) onto Hwy 67 again heading south to Wetmore.
At Wetmore turn right at the T-intersection onto Hwy 96 heading west.
Watch the mile markers. Our turn is at the 11 mile marker, turn right (north) onto County Rd 271.
Go one quarter mile to Bear Basin Ranch on the left. Check in to the office (first log cabin on the right).

** Map to Bear Basin Ranch.

Bus: Greyhound serves Colorado Springs on a daily scheduled basis.
Phone: 719.292.6111

TRAVEL INSURANCE: We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when you book a trip. This can reimburse you if you need to cancel last minute due to sickness or other trip emergencies.

___ 2 pr. long
___ 2 pr. shorts
___ 1 heavy long sleeve (cotton is cold when wet)
___ 1 lightweight long sleeve
___ 1 short sleeve
___ 2 T-shirts or tank tops
___ Underwear
___ Long underwear bottoms or biker shorts (to combat saddle sores)
___ Boots for riding (lightweight narrower hiking boots are more versatile)
___ Tennis shoes or something similar for around camp
___ Socks — 4 or 5 pairs of heavy cotton or wool
___ Bandana
___ Sweater (wool or synthetic)
___ Warm parka or jacket
___ Windproof outer jacket (optional)
___ Two piece rain suit (slicker with rain pants) NO PONCHOS PLEASE (essential!)
___ Gloves (for warmth)
___ Hat with brim (for sun, hail, and snow protection (must have some form of stampede string if worm while riding)
___ Wool hat (for warmth)
Other Items
___ Duffel bag or sea bag (to pack items onto packhorses — (must be soft-sided))
___ Day pack or saddle bags (to carry things during the day)
___ Warm sleeping bag (good at least to 30° F.) (We can rent bags for you if told in advance.)
___ Foam pad or air mattress (such as a CampRest or ThermoRest)
___ Sunglasses (all glasses must have string/elastic strap)
___ Pocket knife
___ Flashlight
___ Canteen or plastic water bottle
___ Towel & washcloth
___ Biodegradable soap
___ Tooth brush and paste
___ Sun screen
___ Lip balm
___ Mirror
___ Comb
___ Hand lotion
___ Shaving kit
___ Personal medication
___ Insect repellent
___ Candy, gum or tobacco items
___ Camera and extra film (you may wish to include a disposable waterproof camera for rainy days)
___ Note pad, guides & field glasses
___ Liquor / Alcohol (placed in unbreakable containers)
___ Cash for incidentals, tips, etc.
___ Fishing gear (collapsible rod is best)

Pack your gear into your duffel bag and daypack. The maximum weight allowable for your duffel bag is 40 pounds (for the sake of the packhorses.) Your duffel bag will not be available during the day. Your daypack or saddlebags should hold rain gear, water bottle, gloves and other items you will want during the day. Your guide will show you how to best strap it to your saddle. Line the duffel and day bag with a garbage bag or ziplock. The weather is unpredictable; it can snow even in August, so be prepared for anything. Use the layer system of clothing, where items can be added or taken off with changes in temperature. On May, June or September trips snow and hail are common. The most important thing to bring is your cheerful acceptance of whatever surprises the wilderness may hold in store!

** A 3% National Forest User Fee will be assessed to each participant.