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Horseback Riding in State Parks and Forests

Horseback riding is an engaging way to explore nature. This enjoyable activity combines the majestic beauty of horses with the treasures of Pennsylvania’s natural environments.

From the saddle, riders soak in an abundance of fresh air and gain a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape in our state parks and forests.

Camping with horses is permitted along trail systems open to horseback riding. However, you must acquire a camping permit prior to your stay.

Camping with trailers is only permitted at state forest trailhead parking areas.

Horseback Riding in State Forests

Seventeen state forests provide inexhaustible opportunities for horseback riding throughout the state.

There are thousands of miles of trail riding open to equestrians in the form of:

  • Forestry roads
  • Designated equestrian trails
  • Shared-use trails

Day-use riding is popular and some state forests feature beautiful locations specifically designed for horse camping.

Equestrians should contact the forest district office for trail details, camping permits, and for information regarding horse-trailer parking.

Designated Equestrian Trails in State Forests

Two trails within Pennsylvania's state forests are specifically designed to accommodate equestrian use. They are the:

  • Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail, Elk State Forest
  • Bridle Trail, Loyalsock State Forest

Both of these trails offer many hours of excellent riding through a wide variety of landscapes and forest types.

Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail

The Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail consists of more than 26-miles of existing trails and two camping areas. Dark Hollow and the Gas Well Equestrian Camping Areas have direct access to the trail’s two separate loops.

The trail connects to 10-miles of Pennsylvania Game Commission trails. Watch for hikers and nonmotorized bicyclists who share both trail systems.

Bridal Trail

The Bridle Trail consists of two 25-mile loops, referred to as the East Loop and the West Loop, each beginning and ending at the trailhead along World’s End Road.

Horseback riders will find that both of the 25- mile loops offer many hours of excellent riding through a wide variety of landscapes and forest types and conditions.

The trailhead contains a small shelter, latrines, parking areas, and poles for your hitch line.

During the winter months, the trailhead is utilized by both snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. The year-round use of this area means everyone must exercise good judgment, common courtesy and concern for the trail’s environment.

Horseback Riding in State Parks

Thirty state parks offer hundreds of miles of horseback riding opportunities.

There are several bridle trails maintained for equestrians, and other trails or roadways that are open to this activity.

A few of the parks lie adjacent to other public lands such as state forest land or state game lands.

In these cases, riders can leave their trailers in the park’s day-use area and ride through the park to access other public lands:

  • French Creek State Park accesses the Horseshoe Trail
  • Kettle Creek State Park accesses state forest land
  • Prince Gallitzin State Park and Ricketts Glen State Park access state game lands

In all cases, it is best to contact the forest district or state game land area involved to get a list of their rules and regulations for the specific area in which you wish to ride.

Parking of vehicles and horse trailers is generally available near the bridle trails in the parks. Most are designated with an appropriate sign.

Big Pocono is the only park with limited availability for parking. The trail is very mountainous in the park, limiting the availability. Contact the appropriate park office for the most suitable parking location.

Most parks have access to water through streams, creeks, and lakes; however, the following parks have extremely limited water access so it is best to provide your own if it will be needed:

  • Big Pocono State Park
  • French Creek State Park
  • Nockamixon State Park
  • Tyler State Park

Horseback Riding Trail Rules and Etiquette

Read over the Pennsylvania Equine Council Ride Smart Minimum Impact Guide (PDF) to learn more about responsible horseback riding.

  • Know and follow all state forest and state park rules and regulations
  • Practice “Leave No Trace” minimum impact principles
  • Follow all camping guidelines
  • Ride only on designated horse trails
  • Do not tie horses directly to trees or shrubs -- horses should be hitched to a hitching post, horse trailer or in a manner that will not cause harm to park facilities and natural resources
  • Provide a drinking container for your horse and do not allow horses to drink directly from earthen stream banks
  • To minimize erosion, avoid riding on wet or soft trails
  • Learn to recognize harmful invasive plants and avoid riding through them
  • Do not move firewood when camping
  • Exercise caution where the trail follows state park and forest roads -- ride single file on the edge of the road; in the direction of traffic; and always be aware of approaching motor vehicles, especially on “blind curves”
  • Practice proper trail etiquette to preserve the quality of the trail; to protect the land and to help create a positive, courteous atmosphere

Horseback Riding Safety Tips

  • Wear a safety helmet
  • Make sure all equipment fits properly and is functional
  • Pack drinking water
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Dress appropriately and be prepared for inclement or changing weather conditions
  • Hunters also use areas that are open to horseback riding, so it is important to wear an appropriate amount of blaze orange or to ride only on Sunday