Ever wonder if you can go horseback riding in a national park? You can! Here’s a list of the top 10 U.S. national parks for equestrians.
Each national park in the United States is unique. Though access is controlled to preserve their beauty, most permit horses and horseback riding. Ready to enjoy some of these stunning parks on horseback? We’ve prepared a list of the top 10 national parks to visit with your equine companion.
1. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located in northeast California, this park is dominated by Lassen Peak, named after a Danish blacksmith who guided settlers through the region. The last volcanic activity here was in the early 1900s when lava and ash were released to create a new crater, and have made this volcanic area beautiful to explore. You should head to this park if you’re interested in hydrothermal features like boiling pools, steam and volcanic gas vents, geysers and more. There are more than 100 miles of trails that are open to horseback riding, and horse camping facilities are an option here as well.
2. Yosemite National Park
In central California, this park is very well-known for its immense wilderness areas, beautiful waterfalls, meadows, and sequoias. Here you can see landscapes carved out by glaciers like granite domes, sharp peaks, and canyons. This 1,200 square mile park is more than 95% designated wilderness and there are many trails to choose from depending on what interests you most – stunning valley views, giant sequoia trees, and more. There are overnight boarding facilities and campsites available year round for equestrians.
3. Bryce Canyon National Park
This park in southwest Utah is perhaps best known for immense natural amphitheaters called hoodoos. Bryce Canyon was formed by frost and stream erosion and is a stunning red, orange, and white color that has wowed visitors for years. The best time to view this park is at sunrise or sunset, but although you can ride your horse in the park, there is no overnight horse camping allowed. Instead, camp nearby on national forest land.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park
This Colorado park is an alpine park with elevation changes from 4,000 feet to over 12,000 feet. This is the destination for you if you love high mountains, huge forests, and lakes and rivers. If you’re lucky, you can spot bighorn sheep, elk, and hundreds of birds here, as well as carpets of wildflowers. There’s about 260 miles of trails available for horseback riding and you can camp in specifically designated backcountry campsites.
5. Yellowstone National Park
Located in Northwest Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the world. Here you can spot herds of elk or bison, amazing viewpoints and waterfalls, as well as geyser eruptions. You can ride your horse here in spring and fall as well as early summer, although there are no overnight camping spots in front country campsites – you’ll have to make your way to the backcountry for horse accommodations.
6. Grand Canyon National Park
Located in Northern Arizona, this is perhaps the most famous U.S. National Park. You can view the canyon from the South and North Rims, and can ride along either of the canyon rims. Just don’t ride inside the canyon unless you apply for special permission! There are campgrounds on both rims with equine accommodations.
7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
This park is in northeastern Ohio and has 33,000 acres of trails, a railroad, and an interesting variety of flora and fauna. You can expect to see waterfalls, thick forest and hills, rivers, and caves in this park. Horses are a major part of this area and there are trails of all difficulties here in addition to overnight accommodations.
8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You’ll find this park in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. It’s known for its breathtaking mountain peaks, interesting flora and fauna, and its many stunning waterfalls. You can explore these old-growth forests on horseback on 550 miles of trails and stay overnight at drive-in horse camps.
9. Shenandoah National Park
This Virginia park has majestic views, impressive waterfalls and beautiful groves. There are about 180 miles of trails to explore on horseback that are extremely varied in length, terrain, and difficulty.
10. Acadia National Park
Last but not least, Maine boasts over 2 million visitors every year due to its mix of mountain vistas, ocean shoreline, deep forests, and lakes. You can ride your own horse on these hiking trails and there are fully equipped overnight camps for horses.
So, now that you are aware of the most beautiful, horse-friendly national parks, you should schedule out some time to visit them. However, keep in mind that all of these parks have a ‘leave no trace’ policy, meaning that you shouldn’t harm the nature you enjoy!