Owens Valley Horse Drive

California USA: (HDCA01)
URL: https://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/ca_owens_horse_drive.aspx

California USA
Drive 80 head of horses and mules over 80 miles between the winter range in the Owens Valley and the summer headquarters in the High Sierra. The drives start early in the morning in order to move during the cool of the day. Camp is made early afternoon. The cook and camp crew have a comfortable camp set up in advance of each arrival. There's all the good food you can eat served chuck wagon style and a place to swim at most every camp. Tents are provided, but many prefer to sleep under the stars. Just bring your sleeping bag and personal gear. The riding groups consist of people from many different walks of life and location, but all share a love of the out of doors and a good horse to ride. Each guest will be fit to their own horse and saddle for the duration of the trip. Bring your own saddle if you wish.

This is one of the slower horse drives we offer, but you should have some prior riding experience to join this trip.

All participants are required to fill out and sign a Release Form before starting the trip!


This is a pack trip and all nights are spent camping.

We have a wide variety of tents available (single, double, or family), so please let us know what type you prefer if you have not already. There is a solar shower and privy with toilet seat and tent at the campsite. There is no generator on our trips -- no electrical source is available.
We do not provide ground mats or sleeping bags, so you must bring your own! 

Spring Drive Accommodation Itinerary - subject to changes based on availability
Night 1: Camp near Independence
Night 2: Camp at Keough's Hot Springs
Night 3: Camp near Millpond (shower facilities)
Night 4: Camp in Jeffrey Pine Forest (swimming pond to rinse off )

Fall Drive Accommodation Itinerary - subject to changes based on availability
Night 1: Camp in Wells Meadow (solar showers)
Night 2: Camp at Keough’s Hot Springs
Night 3: Camp near Taboose Creek (solar showers)

Food is typically sourced from local establishments. We strive to provide a deluxe dining experience and tailor our menus to reflect the tastes of our guests. The Pack Station does not boil or treat water. Campsites are remote enough that we feel safe in using water. If you want to purify water, please bring your own filter pump or purification tablets.

Alcohol is not included in this trip, but guests are free to bring their own.

Spring Drive
All meals from dinner on Day 1 to dinner on the last night are included.

Fall Drive
All meals from breakfast on Day 1 to lunch on the last day are included.

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to vegetarians with prior notice.

This trip includes and can accommodate special dietary requests.


Riding experience is considered when fitting you for a mount. There are plenty of horses and mules to choose from to fit your expertise. Our crew will help you get comfortable before we leave the pack station. We ride as few as 2 hours or as many as 6 hours in a day. Although you don't have to be an excellent rider to participate in the horse drive, some time in the saddle is beneficial. The pace is faster (lots of trotting) and there are a number of hours in the saddle.

Approximately 130 horses and mules are the backbone of the operation. Pack mules carry the provisions for trail riders, hikers, and those wishing to have their gear packed to a wilderness campsite. Mules typically carry 150-240 pounds of equipment, food and dunnage and work from June through September. During the off season, livestock graze fields in the Owens Valley.
Horses and mules come to the pack station as four to five year old green broke. After a couple of years of training they spend up to another twenty to twenty-five years working in the Sierra.

Each year young men and women bring youth and enthusiasm to a crew of senior packers and cooks. Most of the crew come from ranch backgrounds and once they start packing with us, they have a hard time ever leaving. Every member of the crew carries on the traditions of the talented men and women who started the business in the 1940s. New employees learn the trails, traditions, and develop skills to serve another generation of guests. Only the most able, hard working and those with exceptional people skills succeed as staff.


Sample Itinerary: Spring Drive - subject to changes

Day 0 (Friday): Arrival
Arrive by 4:30pm on Friday in Rock Creek. Meeting is at the Lower Corral of the Pack Station (where the drive ends). A van will take you to camp, 10 miles northeast of Independence, the horse's winter range. We have dinner together and go over the trip itinerary.
Meals included: Dinner
Camping near Blackrock

Day 1 (Saturday): Thibaut Field to Big Pine
Breakfast at dawn and we leave the corral at 7:00am. The riders head out for the first 4 miles along the aqueduct and get used to their horses. When the horses catch up with us, we keep the horses held back as we ride east of the Owens River. There is alkaline grass meadows, tules, sage brush, camel thorn and plenty of dust. We stop for lunch at 10:30 to 11:00 am alongside of the Owens River. Those wanting to get off and head to the hot springs and camp on Baker Creek can take the afternoon off. The afternoon ride is approximately 4 hours past Tinnemaha Reservoir and up the Valley. Its tough riding in the heat over 100 degrees...its the real thing. We swim in the huge pool at Keoughs Hot Springs and camp alongside Big Pine Creek.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Big Pine Creek

Day 2 (Sunday): Zurich to Bishop
We start at dawn and spend 4 hours riding along the base of the Inyo Mountains. Spectacular views of the Palisade Glacier and the Sierra Nevada. We follow the old narrow gauge railroad and ride through the ruins of the old farms and ranches of the Owens Valley. After lunch, we cross highway 395...always one of the highlights of the trip. Those wanting to head to camp early can get off at lunch. We ride for 3 more hours in the afternoon and skirt the southside of Bishop. We celebrate the evening with fiddlin, guitar playing, and plenty of ice cream and cake.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Millpond

Day 3 (Monday): Bishop to Swall Meadows
We travel the stock drive route through Round Valley and start to climb up Old Sherwin Grade on the original wagon road. The sagebrush gives way to pinyon pine forest. We spend our last night  in Jeffrey Pine Forest alternating with meadows and Alders alongside of streams that come out of springs just above camp. We have a panoramic view of the White Mountains and you can see where we rode up through the Owens and Round Valleys.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Swall Meadows

Day 4 (Tuesday): Swall Meadows to Upper Rock Creek
We climb up Sand Canyon and follow the original wagon road into Rock Creek Lake. In less than two hours, we are at 9-10,000 ft riding through high mountain meadows with the snow covered peaks surrounding us. After a leisurely lunch, we ride to the East Fork of Rock Creek and take the trail down to the Lower Corral. Expect to be at your cars by 3:00pm. We host a celebration banquet at 6:00pm in Bishop. Some people leave that afternoon before the banquet. If you stay (we recommend you do!) you should book a room in Bishop for that night.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Sample Itinerary: Fall Drive - subject to changes

Day 1 (Saturday): Arrival & Ride to Wells Meadow
Arrive by 6:30am in Bishop in the parking lot North of the City Hall and Fire Station. Entrance to the parking lot is directly across from the Wash Tub coin-op laundry at 237 North Warren Street. We then take you to Rock Creek for breakfast and leave from Lower Corral at around 9:00am. Leave Lower Corral at the pack station (9,000ft) and then climb to the old wagon trail and then descend to Round Valley. There is approximately a 4,000 ft elevation drop as we come down the Sand Canyon and hit the old stock trail.  We camp at the base of Wheeler Ridge. We get into camp at about 4:30pm.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Wells Meadow

Day 2 (Sunday): Wells Meadow to Keough’s Hot Springs
We skirt Round Valley and Bishop.  Some of the roads are paved and the majority dirt roads beneath the power lines. We leave at 8:00am and have lunch on Bishop Creek at noon and then take another 2 hours to the corrals at Warm Springs. We van guests to stay at Keough’s Hot Springs. This is an easier day. In September--temperatures are often in the 90’s in the afternoon.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Keough’s Hot Springs

Day 3 (Monday): Warm Springs to Aberdeen Station
We leave the corrals and ride for an hour down Warm Springs Road and cross the Owen’s River. Another 4 hours of riding on the eastside of Owen’s River takes us through salt grass meadows and the alkaline sage flats of the Owen’s Valley. Lunch at Zurich. Another four hours in the afternoon brings us to our third night’s camp. We encourage guests that are tired to get off at lunch, and we take them to Taboose Creek.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Camping at Taboose Creek

Day 4 (Tuesday):  Aberdeen Station to the Thibaut Field
It is about 4-4.5 hour ride along the Owen’s River and aqueduct to the pasture where the stock are left for the winter. After lunch, we transport the guests back to Bishop to their cars. We host a celebration banquet at 6:00pm in Bishop. Some people leave that afternoon before the banquet. If you stay (we recommend you do!) you should book a room in Bishop for that night.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Note: This tour is operating under permit with the USDA Forest Service through Special Use Permit on the Inyo National Forest.

Rates and Dates for Owens Valley Horse Drive

Rates include:

Tent accommodations, All meals, Transfers from base & 4 riding days
The Spring drive includes dinner and overnight the day before the ride.
Saddle bags are provided

Packages and Options

  • SeasonYearDescription US$
    20214 day spring horse drive, AP$1450
  • B
    20214 day fall horse drive, AP$1450

Tax 1: 3 % Tax 2: 8 %

Rates Note:

3% charge for USFS fee 8% charge for regulatory taxes

* prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy
Tax: 3 %   additional Tax: 8 %

Rates Note:

3% charge for USFS fee 8% charge for regulatory taxes

Transfer and Other Charges:

2021 Spring Drive: Arrive by 4:30pm on Day 0
2021 Fall Drive: Arrive by 6:30am on Day 1

Season Tour Dates  Min / MaxReserve
A 2021 06/18 - 06/22 4d / 4n 4 day spring horse drive, AP 10 /25 Reserve
B 2021 09/18 - 09/21 4d / 3n 4 day fall horse drive, AP 10 /25 Reserve

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Sleeping bag and mat, Alcoholic drinks, Gratuities, Taxes & Transfers to meeting point


Due to COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic and certain travel restrictions we are applying some temporary policy changes to some of our tours.

For Owens Valley Horse Drive (HDCA01):

Trips are running again since June (business received a stamp to prove that it complies with state requirements for safe operations).
We won't transfer money for Covid concerns or smoke.
Our reservation policy is firm. If people sign up, they will lose their deposit if they cancel.

We are following CDC guidelines. Social distancing & food service according to California standards. Guests should bring their own masks. 

For more information please visit our COVID-19 Updates page at https://www.hiddentrails.com/article/covid19update.aspx

Other Info
Meeting: Spring Drive: Lower Corral of the Pack Station Fall Drive: Bishop
Airport: Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH)
Transfer: --

                                                Bishop area














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Source: NOAA

Weather in the mountains can change rapidly during all seasons of the year. You should be prepared for ALL types of weather year round! And keep in mind that it can get quite cold at night, even when hot in the day time! Even in May and into the beginning of June, it can get down to 45-50° F at night, while in the daytime it can reach 70-80° F and be very beautiful and sunny!

The elevation plays a major role in temperature and precipitation. Sierra summers are typically warm and dry. However, clouds can build up during the summer to produce spectacular thunderstorm activity!  July and August are normally the warmest months.

What To Bring:
Information on What to Pack for the Horse Drives
Dunnage limit is 40 lbs. per person (this includes sleeping bags,liquor, etc.). There will be a surcharge of $3 to $10 per pound on dunnage in excess of the 40 lbs. Bring personal belongings in stout canvas or nylon duffels, ideal size approximately 14" x 32". It is a good idea to use a large plastic bag INSIDE of the duffle to protect contents from external moisture. Sleeping bags can be in separate duffels. Attach name to dunnage, camera, canteen, etc. Tent provided, however, you may bring your own private tent if under 10 pounds, which is not included in 40lbs weight limit. 

You provide your own alcoholic beverages (if desired). When possible, it is a good idea to transfer alcoholic beverages to sturdy plastic bottles with well fitting caps - it will save weight and protect against breakage. Place all cosmetics, soaps, medications, etc into small plastic containers with close-fitting caps, THEN into sturdy resealable plastic storage bags. If anything breaks or bursts from altitude changes, the plastic bag will contain the spill. 

You will be given a small saddle bag that goes on your saddle horn to carry your lunch and a few personal items. (Weight limit 3 lbs - including lunch). Please do not bring your own saddlebag unless it is pocket size. We have helmets to borrow. Please let us know at time of booking.

Remember - try to minimize the weight of your dunnage by packaging only the amount of any item you will need (like soaps, lotions, and medications).

Recommended Items
- Sleeping bag with a comfort range of 20 to 60 degrees and a moisture proof ground cloth.
- Air mattress or small 1/4"-1/2" foam hip pad recommended - your night's rest will affect your next days enjoyment. Bring the best sleeping pad you can manage.
- Broad-brimmed hat is essential for protection from sun at high altitude. It must have strings to keep from blowing off.
- Sunglasses (RX glasses) - high altitude sun is BRIGHT!
- Coffee mug (plastic for camp)
- Pint water bottle for your horn bag
- Pocket knife or small multi-tool
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Camera and film (sturdy strap)-- if using digital - don't forget an extra battery and card
- Rain jackets and pants or slicker (rolled up you can tie them to the back of your saddle)
- Hat protector (to keep your hat dry)
- Light jacket (windbreaker)
- Wool or fleece pullover/sweater (layers will keep you comfortable)
- Heavy jacket
- Bandana
- Woolen cap (evenings can be cold)
- Gloves (recommend gloves for riding, you may want warm gloves for evenings)
- Socks
- Riding boots
- Shoes for camp (moccasins, athletic shoes, etc)
- Shirts and pants (long sleeved shirts offer sun, bug and branch protection)
- Underwear
- Bathing suit
- Bath towel/wash cloth/soap (try a multi-use bar or liquid for use on hair, body and laundry. Biodegradable choices are available.)
- Insect repellent such as Cutters
- Toothbrush/toothpaste
- Comb/brush clips/pins/ponytail holders
- Shaving kit (a small mirror is helpful)
- Sun Screen (lotion, cream or stick)- use liberally for sunburn and chapping prevention.
- Chapstick with sun protection SPF 15 or better
- Moisturizer (cream or lotion - altitude and sun can be dry and chap skin)
- Prescription medicine (if required - if you have any allergies, remember to bring appropriate medication)
- Band-aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, eye drops, moleskin for any blisters
- Baby powder/Talcum powder (helps to relieve any raw or irritated areas from boots, clothes or saddles)
- Kleenex
- Jogging suit (sweats are comfortable for after-swim and campfire lounging)

Optional Items
- Small notepad and pencil
- Collapsible plastic wash basin
- Liquor (be sure to check in with the packers to see that your liquor is packed safely)