Ever felt like venturing into the backcountry but not carrying everything on your back? Do you want more of a “glamping” kind of backpacking trip? Or do you just simply love animals? Packing with llamas not only means you have to carry less weight, but you also get to experience the backcountry with these friendly and personable creatures. Llamas are gentle, intelligent animals whose sure-footedness and strength make your outdoor adventure easier and more enjoyable. They are quiet, low-maintenance, and agile, and their padded feet and ability to browse for food make them natural for backcountry excursions and the perfect environmentally-sound pack animal. A single llama can carry 75-100 pounds with incredible stability through challenging mountain terrain. Here are our top five recommendations for llama outfitters in Colorado, as well as favorite wilderness areas and trails where you can take your leased llamas for incredibly beautiful trips.
1. Antero Llamas LLC, Salida, CO
Antero Llamas is located in the upper Arkansas River basin in the central Rockies. The friendly owners give you an introductory llama lesson at the beginning of your rental before packing up the trailer and heading to your trailhead. All llamas are sociable herd animals, but llamas from this outfitter seem to be especially friendly and familial.
Suggested Backpacking Pairing: Two of my favorite trails are the Frenchman Creek or the Collegiate Peaks Loops. The 22-mile Frenchman Creek Loop strings together the Frenchman Creek, Pine Creek, and Colorado Trails into a stunning circuit combining marvelous views above treeline, peaceful strolls through conifer forests, impressive detours to Bedrock Falls, Missouri Basin, and Rainbow Lake, and the chance to bag a couple fourteeners. For advanced backpackers, the Collegiate Peaks Loop is an incredible 160-mile loop that provides a perfectly balanced two-week backpacking trip, which links the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. This circuit meanders through lush forests, meadows sprinkled with wildflowers that drape the flanks of rugged peaks, and craggy high-alpine vistas.
2. Northern Colorado Llamas, Livermore, CO
Northern Colorado Llamas leases llamas for the novice backpacker or serious trekkers. Packing with llamas in this area is very popular, therefore leasing with their company should be prearranged to make sure there are llamas available. Northern Colorado Llamas rents llamas for any length of time, and the friendly staff will help you with your packing.
Suggested Backpacking Pairing: Baker Gulch to Bowen Gulch is a 19-mile loop in the Never Summer Wilderness that delivers first-rate vistas of surrounding thirteeners, meadows knee-deep with wildflowers, high alpine lakes, and the solitude of your favorite rarely trafficked wilderness. Chapin Creek to Mirror Lake to Mummy Pass to Mount Dickinson is a spectacular loop in the Mummy Range. Although the whole loop is not officially named, this trip still delivers everything you dream about in a backpacking trip, including waterfalls, rivers, meadows, alpine lakes, bighorn sheep, moose, high peaks, and even the headwaters of the pristine Cache La Poudre River.
3. Redwood Llamas, Silverton, CO
Redwood Llamas has been raising and packing with llamas since 1984 and has been a commercial outfitter for the last 30 years. They offer a handful of ways to experience the Southwestern Colorado backcountry, including full-service guided pack trips, llama leases for do-it-yourself trips, day hikes, and introductory llama clinics.
Suggested Backpacking Pairing: In the Uncompahgre Wilderness, the 16.3-mile Wetterhorn/ Uncompahgre Loop circumnavigates fourteeners Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak, undulates through an expansive green tundra, wildflowers, and rugged peaks that are usually pock-marked with late season snow. In the Weminuche Wilderness, the Weminuche Pass/Granite Lakes and Continental Divide Semi-Loop is a 36.1-mile route that provides a high altitude backpacking experience with striking panoramic views, a smattering of wildflowers, and bighorn sheep to keep you company when there’s no other people on this rarely trafficked loop.
4. Paragon Guides, Edwards, CO
Paragon Guides’ excellent llama leasing program is just part of a smattering of other adventurous backcountry activities, including everything from backcountry skiing to climbing to mountain biking to fly fishing. Located close to Vail, the town of Edwards has excellent access to great trails and wilderness, which makes for stunning llama packing. Paragon offers transportation services to your trailhead of choice and will help you tack up your llamas and pack their panniers (saddlebags).
Suggested Backpacking Pairing: Popular wilderness areas near Paragon Guides include the Gore Range or Eagle’s Nest Wilderness. Snow Pass Loop, located in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, is a 13.3-mile circuit chock-full of pristine alpine lakes and craggy peaks without any of the crowds, more often than not allowing you your own personal wilderness. The Gore Range Trail is a 41.7-mile fantastic loop stringing together Eaglesmere, the Gore Trail, and Surprise Trail with a smattering of alpine lakes chock-full of trout that make for great backcountry fly fishing.
5. Llamas Colorado, Greenwood Village, CO
This llama-leasing company on the suburban skirts of Denver has athletic and well-trained packing llamas for rent or sale to Front Range folks who love to get into the backcountry. Llamas Colorado says that their llamas love to hike in the wilderness, and will carry your gear to a favorite high country fishing lake or pristine camp site. This outfitter trains their llamas to jump into the bed of a truck, so that they can be taken up 4-wheel drive roads in personal vehicles to shorten the hiking distance if you don’t want to bother with renting a trailer.
Suggested Backpacking Pairing: Since this outfitter is right next to Denver, the whole Front Range is your oyster for packing trip options. The 50-mile Grand Loop in Rocky Mountain National Park is a favorite 5- to 7-day route for the experienced backpacker, as well as being a long-forgotten trail. This loop crosses the Continental Divide, winds through high-alpine meadows, and up Longs Peak via the rarely climbed southern route. La Poudre Pass to Lake of the Clouds to Skeleton Gulch is a 21-mile loop in Rocky Mountain National Park that boasts lakes nestled in high-alpine cirques, lush valleys scattered with flowers, and craggy scree fields.
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