Happy by Hoof: Top Rail-Trails for Horseback Riding

Many rail-trails that wind through rural parts of the country can be explored on horseback. Here are some of our favorite equestrian trails for enjoying America’s scenic landscapes.


1

Dawkins Line Rail Trail

Kentucky


Photo by: har1982

This 18-mile rail-trail runs through the rural counties of Johnson and Magoffin in eastern Kentucky. The crushed-stone pathway passes historical coal structures, traverses scenic trestles and heads through the Gun Creek Tunnel, which spans nearly 700 feet.



2

Pine Creek Rail Trail

Pennsylvania


Photo: Courtesy Tioga County Vistors Bureau

Stretching 62 miles through a pristine valley dubbed the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, the variety of trees heresugar maple, red maple, ash, oak, white pine and hemlockprovide ample shade. Horseback riding is permitted in this serene setting on the dirt path paralleling the rail-trail from Ansonia to Tiadaghton.



3

Great Shasta Rail Trail

California


Photo by: Christina Schmidlin, Great Shasta Rail Trail Association

The Great Shasta Rail Trail meanders through Northern Californias small towns and the natural beauty of the Lassen and Shasta-Trinity National Forests in the shadow of Mount Shasta, which rises more than 14,000 feet. The red cinder pathway is open for equestrian use and features the Stand by Me bridge made famous in the 1986 coming-of-age movie.



4

Katy Trail State Park

Missouri


Photo by: Danielle Taylor

The Katy Trail passes through some of Missouri's most scenic areas, especially the bluffs along the Missouri River. The trail includes other landscapes as well, such as forests, wetlands, remnant prairies and rolling farm fields. Equestrians are allowed to use a section in the middle of the trail between Portland and Tebbetts, as well as the western section from the state fairgrounds in Sedalia to Clinton. In the middle of this western portion is Windsor, where you also can connect to the Rock Island Spur for more horseback riding.



5

New River Trail State Park

Virginia


Photo: Courtesy Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Nestled in Virginias Blue Ridge Highlands, the New River Trail State Park offers 57 miles of green. With most of the trail running under a lush canopy of trees, and the presence of two invitingly dark tunnels, the low-grade, crushed-stone trail provides a pleasant summer equestrian ride. The parks headquarters at Foster Fallsnear the trails center pointeven offers guided horseback rides.



6

Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Oregon


Photo by: Joshua Zhu

Most of the 22-mile paved pathway is enveloped by tall trees as the rail-trail weaves its way between two peaceful towns in the foothills of Northwest Oregons Coast Range, less than an hours drive from Portland. For equestrians, a 4-foot-wide woodchip trail parallels the pavement for most of the route, from the Manning Trailhead northward through L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. In the park, there are also camping sites with corrals that can be used for those traveling with horses.



7

Rio Grande Trail

Colorado


Photo by: Rhonda Mock

Spanning 42 miles between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, the Rio Grande Trail is the longest rail-trail in Colorado. Following the course of the Roaring Fork River, the paved pathway offers views of sage brush and scrub oaks, richly scented forests of ponderosa and spruce, verdant crops, and ranchlands ringed in jagged mountains. The best section for equestrians is the 18-mile stretch through Pitkin County from Aspen to Emma on the eastern end of the trail. There, a crushed gravel shoulder alongside the pavement offers a soft-surface pathway for horses and joggers.



8

Withlacoochee State Trail

Florida


Photo by: lzika

The 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail is a must-do pure Florida experience for any trail enthusiast. Situated between Orlando and Tampa, it hosts a steady stream of visitors and locals on its paved path and adjacent equestrian trail. For much of its length, the trail parallels the Withlacoochee River, a state-designated paddling trail.



9

Chaparral Rail Trail

Texas


Photo by: traceyrumsey9

This 35-mile rail-trail connects four counties northeast of Dallas. It begins in Farmersville, where its first 2.5 miles are paved. The trailhead is located a block from downtown at the Onion Shed, a restored building from the 1930s that was once used as a loading dock for the onion industry. When the pavement ends, expect a crushed-stone surface suitable for horseback riding. Outside the city, the route feels remote and forested.



10

Iron Ore Heritage Trail

Michigan


Photo by: Ali Fulsher

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail traverses the Marquette Iron Range in Michigans beautiful Upper Peninsula. The trail shares and celebrates the areas rich mining history with interpretive signage, artwork and connections to museums along the way. On your journey, youll see many relics from a bygone era: mining shafts, forges, furnaces and other historical structures. The rail-trails westernmost 20 miles, from Republic to ski town of Ishpeming, has a dirt surface and is open for horseback riding.


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