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

Bear Basin Pack Trips LLC

“A memorable wilderness journey through some of the most remote and spectacular mountains in North America…with comfortable camps, world class guides and Colorado’s best mountain trained horses!” Designed specifically for the horse enthusiast and high country lover who wants to disappear completely into a lost mountain world, this five day ultimate horseback vacation takes you far from the crowded trials and backpacking hoards and through the forgotten valleys of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area.
For intermediate to experienced riders.


This adventure is for fit, experienced or confident riders only. We cross 12,000 ft high passes, riding up to six or seven hours almost every day. Some traveling is along rough, unmaintained trails that may require moving rock slides or chopping a fallen trees blocking passage. We sometimes cross valleys over old herder’s tracks above timberline where it is necessary to dismount and lead our horses over rugged terrain. We work together to make it the most rewarding and beautiful trip you can imagine. We believe strongly this trip is the best of its kind in the country. Definitely the staff favorite.

Our standard route crosses over the top of the Sangre de Cristo Range into the wilds of the Rio Grande National Forest. Traversing the very spine of mountains, we steer clear of roads and habitations until we descend on the last day. The group works as a team. Everyone participates in saddling, care of horses and in setting-up & breaking-down camp. The staff cook, clean-up, and pack horses. This is an expedition, lightweight and mobile, utilizing all hands towards the ultimate goal of reaching the next pass, or catching sight of the moving forest of elk. We work together to make it the most rewarding and beautiful trip you can imagine.

ULTIMATE PACKTRIP ITINERARY – Sangre de Cristos (high-rugged mountain terrain, beautiful and stark)

DAY 1: We meet in Colorado Springs or at Bear Basin Ranch and travel to the trail head. This route takes you from the eastern plains below Pikes Peak, traveling back into western history up Hardscrabble Pass through the Wet Mountains, across the Wet Mountain Valley, to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These locations are aptly named. Hardscrabble is just that—a narrow, steep, twisting canyon. Over 12 feet of snow fall on much of the Wet Mountains in a typical winter, and riders in the Wet Mountains may encounter rain, hail, and snow in the mountains on any given afternoon – all summer long.

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 will ride about four hours to our first camp in a lush meadow amongst the aspen at the base of the valley that will lead us up and over the Range tomorrow. We set up tents, picket horses, and soon the scents of a mouthwatering feast mingled with wood smoke entice us to gather round the fire for drinks and dinner.

Day 2: After breakfast with a bracing cup of cowboy coffee, we saddle up, load the packhorses, and begin the ascent up South Brush Creek. The trail winds through low-lying bogs, across downfall timber, through dark groves of evergreens, past fields of wildflowers, and ultimately above timberline to the craggy and windswept pass. Here you may hear strange whistling sounds warning others we’re coming—we’re the invaders here. If you look closely you may see this whistler—a rotund, waddling funny-looking fellow known as a yellow-bellied or mountain marmot. He’s a friendly rodent who lives in the rocks, subsists entirely on the greens of summer, and then hibernates through the harsh winter. (That’s “marmot,” not “varmint.”) It’s an incredible day of riding over a 13,000 ft. pass to our first glimpse of the vastness of the San Luis Valley framed by each peak and ridge line descending sharply below us. Ask your guide to point out our route for the next four days from this incredible vantage point. We ride down and establish camp amongst the aspen in Horse Thief Basin for a well-earned restful evening, another gourmet feast around the campfire, and a peaceful night.

Day 3: Morning breaks and while easing a few stiff muscles we work as a team to break camp after enjoying a traditional pack trip breakfast and lots of cowboy coffee. Today we’re riding totally on the west side of the range. Depending on our Forest Service permit, we either cross another 13,000 ft. pass above Cotton Lake and make camp along Rito Alto Creek, or go over two passes to settle in San Isabel Creek. Keep your eyes open, and you may find more signs of other Rocky Mountain mammals. When we drop into Elk Valley, we hope to see the larger cousins of the mule deer we spotted earlier. Unlike mule deer, who are more territorial, the elk are nomadic – constantly searching for food and a warm thicket to bed down in during the day. A bull elk, who stands about one and a-half feet taller than a mule deer, can run up to 35 mph, and during the rutting season you may hear them “bugling” as they call to their potential mates and warn off other bulls.

Where there is so much wildlife there are bound to be predators, and deep in the mountains we might cross paths with both cougars and black bears. Like the marmots, the black bears have a very short season to store enough fat to feed them all winter while they snooze in some dark den, so they munch all summer on whatever they can find. It’s not unusual to see tracks or scat of these fat, lumbering old fellows where they have stepped in some mud near a creek for a drink. If we’re very, very lucky, we may see one from a distance casually crossing our trail on a path of his own. The cougar, or puma, are even more reclusive, and few guides in these mountains have yet to see more than sign that one of these big cats have passed our way—but, you never know. . . The smaller predators, such as bobcats or coyotes, are more often seen and heard, and the coyotes have been known to gives us a thrill when they howl as we tell tales around the campfire after delighting in a delicious classic pack trip dinner.

Day 4: We lay over for the day to allow us time for hiking, fishing, or just relaxing—enjoying the day basking in the beauty to be found around camp. A hiking trip allows you the time and opportunity to enjoy the wildflowers close up. There are an amazing variety of wildflowers, especially at the peak of their seasons if there’s been sufficient water. In addition to the ever-present small yellow composites, you may find larkspur, elk thistle, monk’s hood, mountain bluebells, scarlet gilia, Colorado blue columbine, Parry primrose, wild roses, wild geranium, and hare bells, or if you’re truly fortunate, a Calypso orchid, also sometimes called a fairy slipper, Venus slipper, or lady’s slipper. If you climb above timberline, look closely at the Indian Paintbrush. Something unequaled at lower elevations happens here; often the paintbrush bloom in startling shades of fuscia or even a delicate off-white.

If you choose to fish, in these high waters it is a true delight. There are indigenous trout, but the State also stocks many of these alpine lakes and streams with Pikes Peak Native fingerlings, a hybridization of Greenback and Yellowstone or Colorado River, and purebred Greenbacks. You may also find Brookies or a Rainbow in some of the creeks and beaver ponds. These waters are not specially restricted, so pack your favorite gear: flies, lures, or hooks for bait, and come prepared to enjoy and share your catch for dinner if there’s enough! That night, after a sumptuous dinner, as the fire dies down and you drift off to sleep, you may hear the calls, hoots, and flight sounds of some of our spectacular nocturnal birds of prey: great horned owls, screech owls, and night hawks.

Day 5: After breakfast we break camp and cross over our last two passes (or three! depending on where we had our layover) and descend back to the trail head, arriving by 4 – 6 p.m. This is truly the most spectacular day yet. These breathtaking, lofty views are perfect for watching airborne predators: large, swift, powerful hawks and eagles who swoop to dine from the skies. You may see Swainson’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, and, most majestic of all, golden eagles. Imagine what it is like to look down from your perch on high to see a golden eagle soaring with a wing span of over seven feet below, or to see him perched standing 3 feet tall! Deeper in the trees you may see a sharp-shinned hawk, a Cooper’s hawk, or the northern goshawk. We are back at the road too soon, and talk and reminisce about our adventure as we our horses neigh softly, awaiting transport home. We drive you back to Colorado Springs in time for late evening flights or for a restful evening in a hotel.

Alternate Sangre de Cristos Route
There are times when the snow is so deep at the top of the Sangres that the horses’ bellies would drag through drifts… but we still can’t resist the call of the Sangre Wilderness. Our alternate route allows us to traverse the eastern slopes of the Sangres in the San Isabel National Forest. The description of this trip closely parallels that of the Standard Route, but this trip runs from south to north instead, and we ride and explore on the sun-facing slopes, leaving the deeper snow in the darker, hidden valleys for warmer days.

ULTIMATE PACKTRIP ITINERARY – Grape Greek Canyon (warmer and gentler high alpine terrain, fishing intensive)

This ultimate pack trip takes place in the lower elevations of the Wet Mountains and canyons of Grape Creek and allows for spectacular trip when the Sangre de Cristos’ are still clogged with snow. Days 1 & 2 are spent up amongst the peaks of Tanner and Curley in the San Isabel National Forest. Laying over at one camp allows for a great day-ride with spectacular views of the canyons and the front range peaks covered with snow. Day 3 moves us from the peaks to Grape Creek along a scenic and little known valley trail. We momentarily pop out onto the remote Grape Creek access road, a point at which we may meet others coming in to fish. We spend the next two days crossing and re-crossing the creek and exploring the canyon (now a BLM designated wilderness area) with its stories of old west mining and homestead history. We allow time to fish and relax in the contrasting lush green of the creek bottoms and the wild craggy country towering above us.

** 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.


Ultimate Adventure Pack Trip – Grape Creek Canyon Route – $1395 ($200 per person surcharge if only 3 people are signed up by launch date)
Ultimate Adventure Pack Trip – Sangre de Cristos Route – $1395 ($200 per person surcharge if only 3 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:
Grape Creek CanyonMay 27, June 17. Other dates may be available upon request.
Sangre de Cristos – July 22, July 29, Aug 12, Sept 19. 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.
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.

In order to best acclimate to our higher altitude, we recommend that you begin increasing your water intake to 8 or more glasses of water per day at least 24 hours before you are due to arrive — this will help your body to adapt to the higher altitude.

___ 2 pr. long
___ 2 pr. shorts
___ 1 heavy long sleeve (cotton is cold when wet) sweater
(wool or synthetic)
___ 1 lightweight long sleeve
___ 1 short sleeve
___ 3 T-shirts or tank tops
___ Underwear
___ Long underwear bottoms (to combat saddle sores)
___ boots for riding (lightweight narrower hiking boots are more versatile)
___ tennis shoes or tevas (for around camp)
___ Socks — 4 or 5 pairs of heavy wool, liners also help prevent chaffing
___ Bandana
___ Warm parka or jacket
___ Windproof outer jacket (optional)
___ Two piece rain suit (poncho or slicker with rain pants – they’re
not called the Wet Mountains for nothin’)
___ Gloves (for warmth)
___ Wool hat (for warmth)
___ Hat with brim (for sun, hail, and snow protection – must have some
form of stampede string if wearing while riding)
___ Day pack or saddlebags (to carry things during the day)
___ Sunglasses (all glasses must have string/elastic strap)
___ Pocket knife
___ Flashlight
___ Canteen or plastic water bottles
___ Toothbrush and toothpaste
___ Sun screen
___ Lip balm
___ Comb
___ Hand lotion
___ Shaving kit
___ Personal medication
___ Insect repellent (few bugs at the ranch but sometimes near water)
___ Candy, gum or tobacco items
___ Camera and extra film (you may wish to include a disposable
waterproof camera for wet days)
___ Note pad, field guides & field glasses
___ Cocktail liquor
___ Cash for incidentals, fishing license, tips, alcohol, etc.

Pack your gear into your suitcase or rolling duffle and daypack or saddlebags. Your duffel bag will not be available during the day. Your daypack or saddlebags should hold rain gear, water bottles, sunscreen, 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 day bag with a garbage bag or ziplock. We will be glad to keep it for you at the ranch until you return. 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 Sept 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.