These Scenic Sleigh Rides Across the Country Are Bound to Take Your Breath Away
Celebrate a joyous holiday season by hopping aboard one of the best old-fashioned rides across the nation—you'll experience the enchanting sound of sleigh bells and the whisper of runners on fresh snow.
These days, there are so many ways you can travel over the hills and through the woods—but none are as impressive as a horse-drawn sleigh. If you're dreaming of snuggling up in a warm blanket and joyfully whizzing through piles of fresh powder, you may want to travel off the beaten path. These destinations all offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear sleigh bells ring as you mount a real wooden sleigh in the heart of the wilderness, enjoying your very own ride through a wonderland of snow.
Expect more than just a pair of thoroughbreds and a seat aboard the sleigh. Some of the best sleigh rides in the United States offer a chance to see local wildlife in their habitat; in Wyoming, for example, you'll find yourself surrounded by thousands of elk as they gently saunter the snow-covered grasslands in Yellowstone National Park. Other experiences will get you up close and center with animals on your journey, including one experience where the sleigh is lined with treats for you to actually feed animals as you go. Most sleigh rides are simply one offering in the local attractions—tourists can enjoy skiing and snow sculpting, ice skating on open air, steaming mugs of cocoa, live holiday music and light festivals, or a hearty meal in front of a warm stone fireplace.
Every trip, however, comes with a sweeping scenic view of the natural world around you. Some of these sleigh rides are nestled in picturesque Christmas towns that are full of first-in-class resorts, while others take you beyond paved, car-lined streets into the forests and trails that wind up into the mountains. Climb aboard as we walk you through the best sleigh rides found across the country, from the Pacific Northwest all the way into New England.
Enjoying a fine four-course dinner at Elk Mountain Range in the heart of Colorado's ski country sounds exciting enough. What if we told you the only way you could get to the restaurant is by a horse-drawn sleigh? The Pine Creek Cookhouse is known for combining gourmet recipes with locally-sourced game (try the chef's selection of ten-ounce Rocky Mountain elk chop) and other ingredients. Even if you only stop by this charming log cabin for cocktails, you'll never forget how you traveled there in the first place.
This Bavarian-themed Christmas town is just two hours northeast of Seattle, and its main street is worth a visit all on its own (plus, there's a reindeer farm). There are four different farms and purveyors in town that offer daily sleigh rides for the whole family throughout the winter season. But if you head there on weekends in December, you'll catch a glimpse of the Christmas Lighting Festival and the 50,000 outdoor lights that are on display at the annual Christkindlmarkt.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If a remote excursion is what you seek, head out West. Far away from any resort or bustling city, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with local sleigh drivers in the Wyoming state area to take visitors through the National Elk Refuge, which is populated by thousands of migrating elk each and every winter. And if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of bison, trumpeter swans, or even a bald eagle. Purchase a ticket in person at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center or make a reservation for private groups.
Big Sky, Montana
While the intimate lodges that pepper the Lone Mountain Ranch are exclusive enough, the sleigh rides that are offered on their breathtaking grounds have become legendary since their historic homesteading began in 1915. During the day, you'll catch sweeping vista views of nearby Wilson Peak. And at night, you can be whisked off to an oil-lantern-lit cabin for a farm-to-table family-style dinner of prime rib. You can hitch a ride from December through March, by making a reservation.
North Lake Tahoe, California
California isn't synonymous with snow, but North Lake Tahoe is home to the largest alpine lake and many ski resorts in the Sierra region, and it comes alive with frosted peaks during the holiday season. You'll find horses trotting their way along the shores of the lake if you check out Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides, which has been operating in the area since 1967. The private tour is narrated as you weave through pine trees and snow-covered trails, observing the pristine beauty of the lake itself.
North Conway, New Hampshire
All of New England turns into a picturesque snow globe, but this area is home to Mount Washington, the largest summit in the Northeast. Alongside the Conway Scenic Railroad (which runs Santa's Holiday Express in November and December), visitors can hop on their own sleigh ride at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, which dashes across the grounds of the hotel at the base of Mount Washington. You'll even be served a cup of hot cocoa while you enjoy views of the mountain.
Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Ever wonder what happens to orchards and wineries when winter arrives? The whole family can get bundled up in their coats and take in a guided tour on the 100-acre grounds of Lautenbach's Orchard Country Winery and Market, which has been family-owned since 1955. The narrating driver will help you navigate the orchards, vineyards, and wooded logging trails of Door County. Afterwards, return to the market and warm up with their homemade spiced wines and hot apple cider.
It's already a ski destination, but Telluride provides fun for the whole family even when you're away from the slopes. Telluride Sleighs combines a thrilling sleigh ride beneath the stars (pulled by Bambi and Pearl, a pair of American draft horses) with a delicious culinary experience. Over the course of the evening, they will transport you to a Basque-inspired dinner in the luxurious yurt situated on the Aldasoro family ranch.
Located on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is one of the largest communities in the Upper Peninsula—and is packed with adventure. Snow is all a-flurry during the winter season, and Pond House Ponies takes area visitors through fresh powder on 33 acres of groomed trails that are adorned with holiday lights and décor. After you've been towed by a pair of Norwegian Fjord horses, you'll be able to warm-up by a bonfire in the middle of the property.
This sleigh is lined with alfalfa bales—not for your comfort, per se, but to encourage the herds of wild elk that guests see on their journey to actually approach the sleigh. There are over one hundred elk that normally feed along the Gold Fork River north of this small city, which means you'll have ample opportunity to watch as the elk eat right from the sides of your sleigh; you'll be able to join Hap and Florence Points Sleigh Rides throughout the winter season.
Government Camp, Oregon
A small alpine village below the slope of Mount Hood, Government Camp is about as wintry as it gets. Each year, there's an average snowfall of nearly 300 inches, and it's the base camp for a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures. Even though the town is at an altitude of 4,000 feet, the village's Mount Hood Outfitters saddles up a team of Belgian horses to pull visitors through the historic village with daily tours making their way past Christmas lights and trees on parade.
East Haddam, Connecticut
Just about two hours north of New York (and south of Boston), this sleepy Connecticut town is home to historic architecture, scenic panoramas, and the Horse Drawn Carriage and Sleigh Museum of New England at Allegra Farm. After you peruse the vintage carriages and sleighs housed at the museum, climb aboard one of their carriages through charming farmlands where fresh air and lush forests abound. You may even recognize your ride: Virtually every carriage, in addition to being a true antique, has a history of having transported famous actors in numerous movie or television productions such as Kate and Leopold.
Many visitors flock to Durango for a ride aboard the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which first ran in 1880 and is modeled after the Polar Express each December. At the nearby Purgatory Resort, a 45-minute sleigh ride through the base of the San Juan National Forest will allow you to see more of the forests than you would on the train. Along the way, there's an option to stop for an aprés ski at the Nugget Mountain Bar, where there is a full bar as well as gourmet food trucks ready to serve you.
Greenough is a well-kept secret locale enjoyed by many Northwestern locals, but one of the best experiences in town is actually held at a luxury resort for tourists. A whole team of Percheron Draft horses at the Resort at Paws Up pull guests through frosted forests and through powdery hills each and everyday, where guests can lean back and sip on hot cocoa and hot cider during their excursion.