Top Places For

Top Destinations for Equestrian Recreation


Have you wanted to bring your horse camping with you, but you don’t know where to go? Are you looking to go riding through a wooded forest, rolling hills, or open meadows? Here are some amazing places to go horseback riding and equestrian camping right here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Don’t let your horse miss out on your outdoor fun! Saddle up, and rein in your family and n-e-i-g-h-bors for an equestrian adventure!


Cedarville State Forest, Brandywine, MD
Travel along Maryland's extensive 20-mile freshwater swamp and adventure through 19 miles of marked horse trails. At Cedarville State Forest the horse trails are relatively easy to ride since they are mainly flat with small hills and no rocky terrain. Be aware that if you visit in the springtime, areas of the park – especially around the swamp – can get slippery and extremely wet, so be cognizant of your surroundings. Cedarville State Forest is one of the top places for equestrian trails in Maryland.

Patapsco Valley State Park, Avalon/Hilton/Orange Grove Areas
Patapsco Valley State Park has over 200 miles of trails suitable for horseback riding in many different areas of the park, with 70 miles of maintained trails. These trails offer an abundance of different terrains and sights. The Avalon Area has massive rocks, and the Hilton Area’s Sawmill Branch Trail takes you across a rocky stream. Be cautious of the many stream crossings throughout the park’s many trails. One of the most popular trails takes you to the scenic Cascade Waterfall.

Gambrill State Park, Frederick, MD
Gambrill State Park is located in Frederick, Maryland, near the ridge of the Catoctin Mountains. This is one of the most favored parks in Maryland for its 16 miles of trails that are suitable for horseback riding. Either of the two sections of the park – the Rock Run Area or the High Knob Area – has attractive bridle trails that are moderate in difficulty. The trails vary from between one mile to seven miles in length. Visit Gambrill State Park to experience both its shady valleys and overlook views of the surrounding mountains.


Douthat State Park, Millboro, VA
Visit this state park to explore the mountainous terrain of Virginia. The park offers equestrian campsites with stalls available to rent separately. One horse is allowed per stall. There are 14 reservable covered stalls available and 14 equestrian campsites. There are approximately six miles of horse trails to ride within the park. In addition, the Alleghany Highlands Multi-use Trail is accessible from Douthat State Park for added length and variety. This park has stunning scenery in the fall and is a great place to recreate. Explore the park’s 50-acre lake and plan a getaway trip to Douthat State Park to go camping with your horse!  

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park is a great place to bring your horse along. Stretching 105 miles from Front Royal to Charlottesville, the park provides endless opportunities for horseback riding and numerous trails to explore. Every season brings new and different sights to Shenandoah year-round. There are about 21 horseback-riding trails you can choose from – each bringing a variety of scenic destinations: waterfalls, wilderness, former homesites, woodland trails, mountain streams, reservoirs, watersheds, and valleys. The Horseback Trail Rides Guide provides information on distance, terrain, and which trails are suitable for different kinds of weather conditions. Check out this link for more information regarding horse camping, backcountry permits and the camping regulations at Shenandoah National Park. You must bring your own feed for your horses, since grazing is not allowed. Visitors can also camp in the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area located along the east slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains which allows horseback riding and camping. 

Shenandoah National Park, Emilie Lahneman photo

James River State Park, Gladstone, VA
James River State Park allows you to view wildlife native to the Blue Ridge Mountains while riding its 15 miles of horse trails. The campground has water and electricity and 20 stalls available for equestrian camping. Bring your family and friends, too, and have a relaxing picnic by the James River after horseback riding. Trailer parking is available at James River State Park as well. 

Belle Isle State Park, Lancaster, VA
Belle Isle State Park is noted for its variations in topography – including upland forests, farmland, and tidal wetlands. It is also located on the Northern Neck's Rappahannock River, with eight kinds of wetlands scattered throughout the park. Belle Isle has close to four miles of trails suitable for horse riding. Take a leisurely ride through Belle Isle and observe the wildlife, wetlands, and versatility of the park's landscapes.

Pocahontas State Park, Chesterfield, VA
Pocahontas State Park is an ideal location for horseback riding. This park offers 13 miles of bridle trails and is a great place for multi-use recreation and outdoor enthusiasts. The park’s  Bright Hope Horse Complex is designed with a large parking lot, picnic tables, a single restroom, and two horse exercise rings for individual training sessions. The exercise rings  require a daily fee or group use fee and reservations. The Bright Hope Multi-use Trail is available from dawn to dusk.

Photo courtesy of Emilie Lahneman, Chesapeake Conservancy


Spruce Knob- Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, Seneca Rocks, WV
If you want to horseback ride in one of the most pristine sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, then come to Spruce Knob NRA. Spruce Knob NRA covers 100,000 acres of protected and preserved land. This National Recreation Area (NRA) is home to the highest peak in West Virginia and is located within Monongahela National Forest. Seneca Rocks Trail is well marked and managed, being moderately challenging. Here you can horseback ride through spectacular views of the rugged rock formations at the headwaters of the Potomac River.


Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton, PA
Ricketts Glen State Park is well known for its scenic beauty and contains portions of three counties. The park has natural wetlands, old-growth forests, and 22 waterfalls, making it fantastic for  sightseeing on horseback! Horseback riding at Ricketts Glen State Park is like no other! Horseback ride on a 12.5-mile loop using several trails, including Cherry Run Trail, Mountain Springs Road, and Mountain Springs Trail. While horseback riding on Cherry Run Trail – 4.6 miles long – you’ll see groves of cherry trees and railroads that are over 100 years old.
Keep in mind that riders must bring their own mounts, and horses are not for rent at the park.

Sproul State Forest, Renovo, PA
Sproul State Forest sits in the north-central part of Pennsylvania. This state forest offers horseback riding experiences through steep hillsides and along streams. You will never get tired of Sproul State Forest! At 305,450 acres, it is the largest in the state forest system. Sproul contains both ancient trees and areas that have been cut for lumber. Be aware that parts of Sproul State Forest are quite remote, with little to no cell reception. Be sure to take maps and check the weather before heading out on your adventure.

Belle Isle State Park

With seven miles of waterfront on the north shore of the Rappahannock, Belle Isle State Park features diverse tidal and nontidal wetlands, lowland marshes, tidal coves and upland forests.

Cedarville State Forest

The Cedarville State Forest is more that 3,500 acres of protected lands encompassing the headwaters of the Zekiah Swamp, Maryland forests, and agricultural lands.

Douthat State Park

Douthat State park is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains and features some of Virginia’s most outstanding scenery. In addition, a 50-acre lake offers swimming, boating and seasonal trout fishing.

Gambrill State Park

Gambrill State Park is a beautiful mountain park, located on the ridge of the Catoctin Mountains in Frederick County. Its most popular feature is the 16 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

James River State Park

The park offers more than 1,500 acres of rolling farm meadows and three miles of river frontage. The park offers opportunities to see wildlife and explore habitat native to the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley includes five developed recreational areas, providing hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking for individuals or large groups in the park's many popular pavilions.

Pocahontas State Park

Deep in the heart of a thick forest in Chesterfield County, Pocahontas State Park is only about 20 miles from downtown Richmond, Virginia's capital. Pocahontas State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities.

Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Pennsylvania that is comprised of 13,193 acres across three counties.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—plan a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family.

Sproul State Forest

Sproul State Forest is located in north-central Pennsylvania, primarily in western Clinton and northern Centre counties. The park features steep and rugged hillsides cut by the West Branch of the Susquehanna and its tributaries. The area provides hunting, fishing, picnicking, camping, and trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATVs.

Spruce Knob - Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

Spruce Knob--Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is located in Monongahela National Forest found in Central East West Virginia. Here you can enjoy spectacular scenery and outstanding outdoor recreation at the headwaters of the Potomac River.

Carly Sniffen

Carly hopes to share her passion for the environment with the community by working to develop and promote community engagement and working to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

November 1, 2020

Main image: Photo by Emilie Lahneman
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