Descendents of the first horses to reach the Great Plains are still running wild at Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. Their ancestors are thought to have escaped from a forlorn expedition to find the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola, by Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando Coronado somewhere in Kansas in 1542.
These feral horses thrived and were highly valued by the indigenous people of the plains. The Comanche are believed to be the first tribe to tame the horse and its use quickly spread across the continent.
You can get a glimpse of present day free, wild horses at Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range near Grand Junction, one of only three wild horse havens in the United States. The 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act called for the creation of these havens through administration by the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service.
Wild Horses – An area of 36,000 acres provides ample habitat for the horse herd which ranges in size from 90 to 150 head. A wide range of colors including bays, sorrels, roans, paints, palominos, and black and white horses offers photographers plenty of choices.
The area is heavily visited and the horses have lost much of their fear of man, so viewing and photographing these images of the Old West are often spectacular. The long shadows of afternoon light, along with the soft light of early morning provide the best viewing and photographic opportunity.
Other Wildlife – While viewing the horses visitors often see elk, mule deer, big horn sheep and occasionally black bear, mountain lion and bobcat. Quail, chukars and wild turkey are among the many species of birds that live on this vast preserve.
Hiking – A short trail from the parking lot at the trailhead provides hikers with excellent views of the surrounding area and often of the horse heard.
Camping – Primitive camping is also available at the preserve.
From Grand Junction – To reach this unique trip to the days of the old west, take Interstate 70 east from Grand Junction and take Exit 46 (Cameo Exit). There are markers for the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range as you enter Coal Canyon Road. Coal Canyon is a well-maintained gravel road and is accessible by any vehicle. After driving a mile-and-a-half there is a fork in the road, take the right fork. In less than a mile you’ll reach Coal Canyon Trailhead – Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area.
Address: 952 I-70, Palisade, CO 81526
Season: Year round