It’s easy to get swept up in the Twin Cities’ fairs, concerts, and general surplus of summer cultural activities. But I urge you to drive to a plot of land about 2.5 hours northwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul for a quieter, peaceful outing.
Outback Trail Rides, Inc. is a dude ranch of sorts, offering beautiful rides on well behaved horses amid The Pillsbury State Forest—our oldest—located in Pillage, Minn. (near Gull Lake Resorts and Grand View Lodge, or just outside Baxter).
When I traveled there a few weeks ago, the forest was just waking up, with snow still on the ground in some places, and lots of brown and branches around from the early spring storms. Their winter sleighs were in storage and gracious owner Sheree was itchin’ for Mother Nature to lighten up before opening public rides for the season. Our call was apparently just the prompting she needed to lead her first organized trip!
Any riding experience is welcome; the guides will pick a horse that’s suited. That was a comfort to me, since I hadn’t hopped on a horse in years and only had childhood memories to guide me.
But the riding a bike adage is true, and it was as safe and relaxing an experience as I hoped. Sheree led us all around her grounds, with the ranch’s dogs swirling around for the ride, and kept up a steady stream of friendly chatter. We learned that Outback is a family-owned ranch that began in the 90’s, but has a team of employees who lead trail rides often at the same time, during the busiest of seasons. The name comes from Sheree’s beloved experience traveling through Australia.
A one-hour trail ride (which felt just perfect) is $28 per person for those 6 years old and over; it’s $40 per person for private rides; $42 for 1.5 hour rides; $55 for two-hour rides.
Outback also boards horses, hosts riding lessons and a regular Junior Wrangler Program for kids, and can arrange private event-based group rides or picnic and camping options upon request.
Get out there—nature and a friendly steed are waiting.
Outback Trail Rides, Inc.
12210 Pillsbury Forest Road SW, Pillager, MN