Adventure Specialists Inc.
and Bear Basin Pack Trips

Organizing unique educational and adventure vacations in Peru, Colorado and Mexico's Copper Canyon

The Colorado Classic Lodge to Lodge ride


Riding on horseback to some of the best valleys in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, traveling south along the range, lodge to lodge, this is a five day trip that combines adventurous riding with all the comforts.
The adventure is for fit, beginning to experienced riders. The route travels south from Gibson Creek Trailhead via the Rainbow Trail and visits the spectacular valleys of North Taylor, Goodwin, Commanche, Venable and Horn Creek. Each night we arrive at a mountain lodge for hot showers, a sit down feast in the dining room and a comfortable queen sized bed.


DAY 1 We meet in Colorado Springs and travel to the trailhead (or you can meet us in Westclffe). 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 found and used by the white man for less than, maybe, 200 years. Over 12 feet of snow fell on much of the Wet Mountains this winter, and rain, hail, and snow can find riders in the Wet Mountains every summer. You will get the opportunity to learn how the Sangre de Cristo range gets its name (in English, the "Blood of Christ") if you see the morning sun strike the mountains and, for just a few moments, the snow-covered peaks turn the pink of snow brushed with blood. If you need to buy a fishing license, remember to ask your guide to stop before we pass through the town of Westcliffe. You will arrive at the trailhead mid-morning, where we begin with a detailed lesson on riding, saddling and care of your mount. Your luggage is carried in our support vehicle to arrive ahead of you to the lodge. We ride several hours up into the North Taylor valley, one of our favorites. This less used trail winds up to a flower filled meadow near timberline where we pull lunch from the saddle bags and lay out a nice spread. After lunch we’ll return to the Rainbow Trail and ride south to where the abandoned runs of the Conquistator ski area reach up to the Rainbow and provide access down through the timber to the former ski lodge now called Hermit Basin Lodge. The lovely rooms have 2 queen beds. Riding distance 8 miles.

Day 2 After enjoying a hearty breakfast in the dining room, we venture out to where the horses and assistant guide have camped for the night above the lodge. We saddle up and head south to Goodwin Valley. The Rainbow Trail runs 80 miles along the eastern base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains connecting the trails that head up to the many alpine valleys. Our destination is the lovely Goodwin Beaver Ponds. Besides fishing this is an 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 harebells, or if you're truly fortunate, a Calypso orchid, also sometimes called a fairyslipper, Venus slipper, or lady's slipper. If you climb above timberline, look closely at the 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 Dept. of Wildlife 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. We spend another night at Hermit Basin Lodge. Riding distance 8 miles- saddle time four hours.

Day 3 Morning breaks and we’re off for the next adventure- Commanche Lake. Each day we go progressively higher. Today we're riding to the beautiful Commanche Lake just at timberline. Keep your eyes open, and you may find signs of Rocky Mountain mammals. 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 are so many small forest critters as well as deer and elk, there are predators, and deep in the mountains we cross live both cougars and black bears. 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 give us a thrill when they howl as we tell tales on the porch of our cabin at our new accommodations at the Alpine Lodge. We have individual cabins with two rooms each with queen beds that sleep either two or four. Riding distance 9 miles- saddle time 4-5 hours.

Day 4 Our destination today is the high pass of Venable. The trail may wind through low-lying bogs, across downfall timber, through dark groves of evergreens, past fields of wildflowers, and ultimately will lead you above timberline to a spectacular 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 fellow 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' pass to our first glimpse of the vastness of the San Luis Valley framed by each peak and ridgeline descending sharply below us. If lucky, we have a quiet moment in the brilliant sun to enjoy a picnic lunch on top the world. These breath-taking, lofty views are perfect locations to watch for some of our air-borne 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, or to see him perched standing 3 feet tall! Exhilarated we descend back down to happy hour and another excellent dinner at the lodge to celebrate a great day. Riding distance 10 miles. Saddle time 5-6 hours.

Day 5 ) Sadly we pack up our bags for the last day. We’ll travel the Rainbow across the range clear south to Horn Creek. Deep in the trees you may see a sharp-shinned hawk, a Cooper's hawk, or the northern goshawk. We have the option for the gung ho to explore further up this valley or depending on time we may just need to descend to our waiting van. We're at the trailhead too soon. We drive you back to Colorado Springs in time for late evening flights or for a restful evening in a big city hotel. Riding distance 6 miles- Saddle time 3-4 hours.

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 Colorado Springs hotel sometime between 5:00 and 8:00pm. 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 8:30pm, to make certain you can make your flight.

RESERVATIONS: Call the Adventure Specialists staff at Bear Basin Ranch for booking
information. 719-783-2076 phone 866-244-9641 toll free fax
Or email us at: Visit us at our website for information on other Adventure Specialist offerings.

Time: 7:30 a.m. on the first morning of the trip. Place: Radisson Inn Colorado Springs Airport Location:1645 N Newport Rd Colorado Springs, CO 80916

Please meet in the lobby with your suitcase/duffel bag, and your day pack or saddlebags packed. You can travel to and from the Ranch in our van for an additional fee of $60/person round trip, or follow our van to the Ranch in your car.

Hotel: We recommend that you stay at the Radisson Inn Colorado Springs Airport Location: 1645 N Newport Rd in Colorado Springs. Call 719/597-7000 or 800/333-3333 for reservations and mention you are with Bear Basin Ranch to receive the special discount rate.

AIR: Most major airlines serve Colorado Springs daily. Call Earl Fox, 800-732-3023, 719-473-9800, fax 719-473-9921, for great quotes on air and rental cars.

BUS: Greyhound serves Colorado Springs on a daily scheduled basis. For information phone 719/292-6111.

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 where the trip is based. Let us know and we will send you details and a map, or you can meet the van in Colorado Springs and follow us to the Ranch.

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

Items listed on the equipment list, alcoholic beverages, and tips are excluded. (Tipping is at your own discretion, of course, and is certainly optional).

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 (There is no bar at Hermit Basin but there is at the Alpine Lodge. You may bring your own but there is a no drinking policy at Hermit Basin outside the room which applies for the first two nights of the trip.)
___ 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!


Bear Basin Ranch
Westcliffe, Colorado 81252