Where to find equestrian trails on public lands in the PA Wilds
Horseback riding takes you back in time, providing an opportunity to connect with nature and disconnect from some of the stresses of modern life. For those with horses looking to explore the public lands of the Pennsylvania Wilds, it’s just a matter of learning where to go!
Between our region’s state parks, state forests and the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), there are miles and miles of trails open to equestrians in the form of forestry roads, designated equestrian trails, and shared-use trails.
Of course, day-use riding is popular, but there are also opportunities to consider horse camping within some state forests and the ANF.
Here’s a list of where you can take your horses for a remote ride.
ANF & Surrounds
Explore Pennsylvania’s only National Forest, the Allegheny National Forest, on horseback!
Allegheny National Forest: Horseback riding is allowed in most places across the ANF as long as riders do not mark, build, maintain, or tread-in a trail. Riders are encouraged, when riding cross-country, to spread out through the trees in order to keep from creating a trail. Horses are permitted on ATV and snowmobile trails, as well as on most forest roads. To see a list of where horseback riding is NOT permitted, click here.
Equestrian camping is available at Kelly Pines Campground, near Marienville.
(Photos above provided by the Forest Service at Allegheny National Forest.)
Cook Forest & the Ancients
Meander the woods under the old growth forest cathedral of the Cook Forest & the Ancients while surrounded by some of the tallest trees in the Commonwealth.
Cook Forest State Park: A loop trail begins at a parking lot on Forest Drive and connects to Old Logging Road. The trail winds through pine plantations. An additional 24 miles of trails are located downstream of Gravel Lick Bridge in the Clarion River Lands. More info here.
Clear Creek State Forest: Horseback riding is permitted on all state forest roads and trails, with the exception of those trails designated off limits to horses at the Kennerdell Tract. More info here.
Take your horse out for a ride, and then settle in for the night to take in the internationally-certified Dark Skies of the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Kettle Creek State Park: A 22-mile equestrian trail begins at Beaverdam Run and travels through the Sproul State Forest before returning to the trailhead. Overnight camping at the trailhead is by permit only. Contact the park office for information and trail maps. More info here.
Susquehannock State Forest: Over 80 miles of shared-use trails are available and most are suitable for horseback riding. The forest also has two areas that are open to camping with horses. Contact the forest district office for information and trail maps. More info here.
While on your trip, be sure to stop in to see the largest wild elk herd in the northeast by visiting Elk Country!
Elk State Forest: Equestrian camping areas are found along a loop of the Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail, which traverses roughly 30 miles in northern Elk County. More info here.
Moshannon State Forest: The Three Runs area has over ten miles of equestrian trails, and camping is available at the Reservoir Road Equestrian Camping Area and at the Benner Run Road Camping Area. More info here.
Sproul State Forest: A 15-mile equestrian loop begins at Kettle Creek State Park. Horseback riding is permitted on all roads and trails except the Donut Hole Trail, the Chuck Keiper Trail and any trails posted closed. A trail map is available at the district office at Kettle Creek State Park. More info here.
While on the fastest route through the Pennsylvania Wilds, the I-80 Frontier, consider taking a break with your horse and explore trails nearby.
Black Moshannon State Park: The Snowmobile Trail provides access to miles of equestrian trails in Moshannon State Forest (see above under “Elk Country”). More info here.
Pine Creek Valley & the PA Grand Canyon
Explore the Pine Creek Valley & PA Grand Canyon on horseback, and be sure to take a detour during your trip to witness the renowned views and vistas.
Tiadaghton State Forest: Horses may be ridden on all state forest roads and trails except those otherwise posted. For more information, contact the district office. More info here.
Tioga State Forest: A unique designated horseback riding trail runs 5.55 miles parallel to the popular Pine Creek Rail Trail, from Ansonia to Tiadaghton. There are also other opportunities in this forest district. More info here.
Before you go
Like any adventure on public lands, it’s important to be prepared and do your part to ensure you leave nature the way you found it. Plan ahead, travel and camp on durable surfaces and dispose of all waste properly. Minimize impact, especially in regards to fires, and respect wildlife.
Remember that not all trails are open to equestrian use, including natural areas, Keystone Hiking Trails and areas posted closed to horseback riding. Conversely, trails open to horseback riding are also used for other activities and users should be courteous to other users; to avoid potential hunting accidents, it is recommended that riders wear blaze orange or ride on Sundays during hunting seasons.
When camping with horses along permitted state forest trail systems, be sure to acquire a camping permit prior to setting out.
Do you have a favorite equestrian trail?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Information for this article was in part obtained from this flyer produced by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. For additional information on trails, camping permits or information regarding horse-trailer parking, contact the relevant forest district, state park, or national park office.
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