'The Preserve was folded into the National Parks…the future of personal horseback riding is unclear.'
“…The Preserve was folded into the National Parks…the future of personal horseback riding is unclear.”
For the past 6 years, horsemen have been given special dates to bring their horses and enjoy this spectacular area in the Valles Caldera Preserve -- the Valle Grande. Typically, we have 3 or 4 ride dates each summer with some benefiting horse-related not-for-profits. As of now, there is one riding weekend open to everyone scheduled for Saturday, September 19th and the Banco Bonito trails on Sunday, September 20th. If you have a horse and transportation, this is a weekend you will not want to miss, as it could be our last.
The weekend of September 19/20 should be optimal weather for trail riding as the monsoon season is behind us so the footing will be ideal. Bring your own friends, ride as long or as little as you wish, and ride out in any direction your nose takes you on Saturday. On Sunday, the Banco Bonito trails will be open to equestrians. Ideally, this is NOT a hunting weekend, so we are free into ride the treed areas surrounding the Grande, as well as inside the Grande. As always, these are unstructured rides. For this weekend, there are 3 options: ride Valle Grande on Saturday, ride both weekend days (Sunday at Banco Bonito), or camp and ride Valle Grande Saturday and Banco Bonito on Sunday.
In December 2014, the Preserve was folded into the National Parks Service. While VCNP keeps its designation as a Preserve which means that hunting, fishing and grazing will continue within the Preserve, the future of personal horseback riding is unclear.
The fees have changed to match the National Parks Service program. Each vehicle will be charged $20 and each individual will be charged $10 for the day. If you have a National Parks Service Pass, the $20 vehicle entrance fee is waived. If you wish to camp and ride Banco Bonito on Sunday, the vehicle camping fee is $10, and the Sunday riding fee of $10 will apply as well. Remember that there are no corrals or facilities other than stock water and bathrooms at Banco Bonito.
There was discussion last year about bringing in an outfitter to run a string of rent horses which day guests could enjoy. This might aid or restrict the use by individuals and their horses. Big Bend National Park recently opened that park to individuals with their own horses with a backcountry pass, so hopefully that will set the tone for VCNP.
The plan for 2015 is to continue to open Banco Bonito to equestrians on weekends from May until September. Some of these weekends include the opportunity to camp overnight. To make your own plans to ride/camp Banco Bonito this summer, make your reservation on-line at the VCNP website.
Since this might be our last ride in the Grande, perhaps everyone can bring nibbles and drink to share as a picnic at 3pm to celebrate the day. At a minimum, for the Saturday ride, bring your own water, food, and stock water.
Riding and camping space will be limited, so save September 19/20, and reserve your spots for riding and camping soon by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More details will follow as September nears.
Valles Caldera Preserve website for reservations OTHER THAN September 19/20: http://www.vallescaldera.gov/comevisit/horse/horse_viewall.aspx