Wild horses are beautiful and fascinating animals. The most accessible herd to Salt Lake is the Onaqui Wild Horses. The BLM actually has 19 herd management areas with wild horses and burros all over Utah.
Onaqui Wild Horses
Early settlers brought wild horses to Utah and the BLM manage the herds, sometimes trading to increase genetic diversity. The Onaqui herd fluctuates depending on the highly debated round ups. In 2021 there numbers were dropped from 475 down to 135. In this photo below you can see a fence, but it isn’t keeping them in. It just parallels the road.
When I was back in 2023, the fences had been removed.
These photos make it look like I was standing tight next to the horses, but I was using a telephoto 600 mm lens.
Even though these horse are somewhat habituated to humans, remember they are wild animals and never get too close. They will sometimes wonder up closer and don’t seem to be aggressive towards people.
They do sometimes fight with each other and could hurt you if they felt threatened. Here are a few shots I got of a skirmish between two stallions.
Here are some more:
These fights sometimes leave them with scars.
The horses can also be sweet instead!
Wild Horse Foals
The little baby foals are my favorite to find if you go in the spring!
It was born so recently its umbilical cord is still attached and not dried out. It was wobbly on it’s feet and spent lots of time resting and nursing.
There were some other foals with the herds too. They are just so cute!
Directions to Onaqui Herd
Before going, recognize that there are very few services nearby and little cell service. You will want a full tank of gas, a spare tire, and all your food and drink for the full day. They can sometimes be hard to find, so be prepared for extra time searching dirt roads. Using something like Google Maps, download the map of the area between Dugway and Vernon so you can find your way back. I always go with a group so we can help each other out as needed.
The Onaqui Horse Herd is about 90 minutes southwest of Salt Lake in Toole County. The main route to go is to I-80 West or Pioneer Crossing/Cedar Valley Road to Rush Valley. There is an old recognizable barn you will pass on your way. One of the first Milky Way attempts was at that barn.
There are signs for Fish Springs Wildlife Refuge and the Pony Express Route. Go to Lookout Pass and then head towards Simpson Springs. This part is a dirt road, but it’s nicely graded so most cars would be fine.
Head towards Simpson Springs and watch for wild horses as you go. The herd is not fenced in to a particular spot, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open. They are often along this stretch, but may be beyond.
You may continue on to Simpson Springs. It is a historic station along the Pony Express Trail. This stop has pit restrooms.
They have a watering hole for the horses and a beautiful old west kind of scenery.
Here are a few more of the wild horses.
Stats: Distance – varies depending on start point
Difficulty – scenic drive
Bathrooms – Yes (at Simpson Springs)
Seasons to hike – March-November
Permits needed – None
Pets allowed – Yes (but be careful so they won’t startle the horses)