If you’re interested in experiencing the incredible sight of wild horses up close and personal, Colorado is one of the best places to do so.
You can experience these wild horses thanks to Congress passing the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, a program initially designed to protect wild horses from being taken for commercial purposes that today works to preserve and manage these same herds.
In Colorado, wild horses now roam freely in designated areas as a preservation of the living history of the American West — as most of these horses are descendants of the animals of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, ranchers, and U.S. Cavalry.
Today, horse enthusiasts can visit these herd management areas and see the truly spectacular sight of wild horses in their natural habitat. You’ll be able to spot a range of different horse breeds and colors, including mustangs, pintos, and palominos.
There are four herd management areas in Colorado that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) where you can enjoy this magnificent spectacle. Let’s break down these areas so you can start planning your trip to see wild horses in Colorado today.
1. Spring Creek Basin HMA
Located in Disappointment Valley in Southwest Colorado (but far from disappointing), the Spring Creek Basin HMA is home to a range of bays, sorrels, grays, and pintos.
Legend has it that the free-roaming horses here are descendants of a herd brought to the area a century ago by a rancher from Montana who hoped to sell them. When the locals discovered he had actually stolen the horses, he fled town and the ranchers of the area took over his herd.
The landscape here is also worth a visit, with hilly terrain, rugged mountain scenery, and pinyon-juniper woodland on the slopes and higher elevations. The herd management area itself is 21,932 acres, making it the smallest on our list but still plenty spacious enough for the wild horses to roam freely.
2. Piceance-East Douglas HMA
In the Piceance-East Douglas HMA, located in northwest Colorado to the southwest of the town of Meeker, you can see many horses that are similar to quarter horses in size and behavior. The wild horses here are also a range of colors and patterns, including bay, gray, black, and sorrel.
This herd management area covers an impressive 190,130 acres, and the landscape here consists of beautifully sage-covered hilly terrain.
3. Sand Wash Basin HMA
In the Sand Wash Basin HMA, visitors can experience wild horses of all kinds, although they’re mainly to be found in gray and sorrel. A genetic analysis showed that this herd is mainly descended from Spanish Iberian ancestry, but there is a mix of heritage, including gaited breeds and Arabian breeds.
You’ll find the Sand Wash Basin HMA in Northwest Colorado, 48 miles west of the town of Craig and totaling 157,730 acres in size. Aside from the wild horses, the area also offers plenty of opportunities forhiking and exploring the surrounding woodlands, mesas, and ridges.
4. Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range
In the Little Book Cliffs, you’ll find wild horses of multiple colors, band sizes (groups that range from 2 to 10 horses), and ages. This is a particularly diverse herd genetically, which means you’ll be able to see palominos, mustangs, paints, sorrels, appaloosas, and even a curly.
To reach the Little Book Cliffs, it’s only an 8-mile trip from Grand Junction, and the area itself spans over 36,113 acres. Learn more about the wild horses at the Little Book Cliffs, including how to get there and how horses came to be in this area.
Experience Colorado’s Horses from Grand Junction
Grand Junction’s proximity to sites like the Little Book Cliffs makes it a great destination for anyone hoping to encounter Colorado’s herds of protected wild horses. The beautifully rugged terrain here also makes for excellent hiking, and there are many other fun things to do in Grand Junction while you're here.
While viewing wild horses is an incredible adventure, you can also experience horses and nature in a different way on a horseback ride. Download the Grand Junction Visitors Guide and check out page 6 for horseback riding adventures!