Where The Wild Horses Roam

4 places to spot mustangs in the Rocky Mountains

Wild horses, often called mustangs, still roam in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains. The issue of wild horses is not without controversy. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operates million of acres in the west, and as of March 1, 2018, wild horse populations on this land was approximately 81,950 animals. The BLM claims that this is triple the number of horses the land area can support.

For an in-depth look at the issue, I recommend “The Future of America’s Wild Horses: the Options” from National Geographic online. It’s one of the best articles I’ve found on the topic.

In the meantime, there are several areas where you can find horses in the wild, right here in the Rocky Mountains.

Book Cliffs – Western Colorado

Photo courtesy of Visit Grand Junction

Northwest of Grand Junction is a place so beautiful it has a winery named after it. The Book Cliffs (aka Bookcliffs) are the desert mountains and cliffs that stretch nearly 200 miles across western Colorado and eastern Utah (rmhp.org). Near Grand Junction, the Book Cliffs are an intrinsic part of the landscape and a wonderful place to take a day trip. The area encompasses 36,000-acres and is accessible for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Photo courtesy of Visit Grand Junction

The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse area is home to around 90 to 150 wild horses. It’s one of only three ranges in the United States set aside specifically to protect wild horses, but seeing the horses is not commonplace. When people do see them it tends to be from afar, although patience will pay off and the tip is to go early morning or in the evening for the best chance of seeing wild horses here. For more information go here.

Spring Creek Basin – Southwest Colorado

Between Norwood and Dove Creek, west of the San Juan National Forest, there are 21,000-acres where up to 65 wild horses roam. They are the descendants of horses stolen from a Montana rancher in the early 1900s. The BLM now manages the horses. Find maps and other information here.

Sand Wash Basin – Northwest Colorado

Photo by Aleta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT

This is the wild horse area I am most familiar with because we recently visited while on a trip to Craig. Located in the far northwest corner of Colorado, we saw hundreds of horses here. Most were far in the distance but others crossed the road in front of our pick-up truck.

Photo by Aleta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT

There are nearly 155,000-acres of land here and an estimated 700 horses. We visited in early May when the ground was spongy and wild grass grew rampantly. At this time, the horses were getting plenty of sustenance and we saw the proof in several healthy-looking foals.

It is wise to visit Sand Wash Basin in a four-wheel-drive as the roads are rough and it’s unlikely that a two-wheel sedan would have the proper clearance for parts of the drive.

Photo by Aleta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT

The day after our visit, I met volunteers with the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Advocacy Team (SWAT), a range support program of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary. Learn more about SWAT’s work here. This organization works with a variety of agencies with the goal of preserving the horses of Sand Wash Basin.

Piceance-East Douglas – Northwest Colorado

This area is southwest of the Sand Wash Basin and the nearest town is Meeker. About 135 to 235 wild horses call approximately 190,000-acres home. There is very little information online about this herd, likely because the area is so remote. Go here for BLM facts and figures on these wild horses.

Photo by Aleta Wolf and courtesy of SWAT


Would you like to adopt a mustang? Great Escape Sanctuary, an hour and twenty minutes east of Denver, has adoption paperwork on their website and runs adoption events.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary is located west of Laramie, Wyoming. They are one of only a few BLM sanctioned wild horse eco-sanctuaries in the country. Their ranch is home to around 350 mustangs. They are holding an open house on June 7-8. Bring home your own wild burro or mustang from this event. Learn more here.

Categories: The Heidi Guide