Equestrian camping is simply camping with your horse. This can include anything from regular tent camping to luxury glamping. People know little about the possibilities of camping with horses; it’s a great way to travel to new places, enjoy different locations and scenery, and get in some training sessions at the same time. You can travel to a faraway destination, or just do it with your friends at home, equestrian camping can be whatever you want it to be!
Most people assume equestrian camping would be quite rustic and basic, and it can be if that’s what you’re after. However, camping with horses can also include facility use, and help from trainers on site. Some equestrian camping centers provide an entire glamping experience for you and your equine companion.
Throughout this article, you can discover some of the best trail systems and natural areas to visit for some horse camping, as well as plenty of things to consider when planning your trip. Read on to discover the very first thing you’ll need to know- how to camp with horses in the first place.
How do you camp with horses?
The first thing to consider regarding camping with a horse is whether your horse has the right temperament. Is your horse more likely to become excited by a new place, or overwhelmed and upset? Does your horse have any vulnerabilities to consider regarding age and health? Remember that you may be too far away from your usual farrier or veterinary practice if something goes wrong.
We suggest taking a veterinary first aid kit along with you, along with the details of local vets and other support you may need. You will need to research this before the trip so you’ll always be prepared, no matter where you are on the road. Try using social media to find recommendations, getting in touch with knowledgeable locals is always helpful.
An additional consideration should be any dangers to your horse’s health that you may come into contact with during your trip. Make sure your horse is appropriately vaccinated (and carry documentation to prove it) as well as verifying the vaccination status of any other animals you might come across.
You should take into account your horses current routine, and ask yourself if a camping trip will be too big of a change? For example, if your horse is stabled 24/7 then it’s probably not appropriate. On the other hand, if your horse happily lives outside during the summer months, a trip away to a different field should be no problem.
Things to consider for an equestrian camping trip
There are so many different options and so many elements to consider when planning an equine camping trip, so here are a few inspirational ideas and factors to consider:
- Would you prefer to ride independently each day, or are you interested in some tuition? You could take advantage of special events such as local show jumps, or a cross-country course. We recommend creating a mix of different activities to keep your vacation fun and interesting for both you and your horse.
- Do you want to ride daily, or take in some new sites on foot leaving your mount with a little time off?
- Do you want to stay within your home region or travel to a completely different area?
- Would you prefer to return to a base camp each night, or ride horseback from one site to the next? Some equestrian campgrounds have provision to send your luggage to your next destination, so you can ride unencumbered and have it waiting when you arrive.
- If you don’t have your own horse but you’re still interested in equestrian camping, or your horse isn’t suitable for a trip, some riding centers can provide both camping and a suitable mount.
- Do you want to stay in a totally specialized equine camping center? This would offer you a groom and stable as needed. Or another option is a traditional campsite which offers an equine camping area if you can look after your house yourself.
- If you’re not a huge tent camping fan, hitch up a caravan or even take a motor home to ensure you have your creature comforts. You could also arrange for a luxury bell tent to be pitched for you, known as “gallamping”.
- If you have a horsebox that includes living accommodation, this is a great solution for both your horse’s transportation and your bed for the night. All you need is an electric hookup.
How much does equestrian camping cost?
As with all other aspects of horse riding, costs can add up fast. Staying in a center with lessons or facility hire will be more expensive, but your budget can be totally controllable. Staying in basic accommodation such as a spot to pitch your tent in a farmer’s field can be as little as $30 a night.
If you plan to visit established trails in National Parks, or ride in Park areas featuring phenomenal natural beauty, check first whether you need a temporary permit, or if any charges apply.
Think about the climate and terrain that’s expected at your destination. How does it differ from what your horse is used to? Consider insects and ground conditions- do you need to have a set of shoes fitted? Just as you would take special preparations for a vacation to a new place, you must do the same for your equine companion.
The best way to prepare for an equine camping trip is to speak to a friend who’s done it before. Experience is more valuable than anything else in these situations and having someone knowledgeable to ask can help prepare for things that may not have occurred to you.
Best horse trails to try out
Many roads and trails used today by bikers, backpackers and hikers would have begun as paths for horseback riders. There are hundreds of horse-friendly trails all over the USA, even including the legendary Pacific Crest Trail. Some states, for example, Texas, have a strong culture of horse riding embedded in their roots, so most state parks feature horse trails and facilities for staying overnight with a mount. Here we’ll list some of the very best places to go equestrian camping, featuring our favorite horse trails.
This trail is in Arapaho National Forest, Colorado. It’s quite a busy trail, about 4 miles long, located near the town of Evergreen. We recommend visiting between March and October, to see some of the numerous attractive features on offer.
The Maxwell Falls Lower Trail is rated as moderate, and is a loop that takes you past two small waterfalls. It’s a forested route and ideal for a family trek. Well marked and maintained, the path is steep at first, and then flat throughout most of the second half other than a few steep, slippery spots. Keep in mind whether these conditions are appropriate for your riding level and your horse’s capabilities.
The Mission Peak Loop from Stanford Avenue Staging Area is a 5.8-mile loop trail, located near Freemont in California. This trail offers a number of activities year-round and features some of the beautiful wildflowers of Mission Peak Regional Preserve. This trail offers spectacular views of the South Bay when climbing up Mission Peak, the steep slope is worth it for the rewarding views of the Bay Area. On a clear day, riders and hikers might see the skylines of Oakland or San Fransisco.
This trail is rated as moderate to strenuous, with it being a constant uphill climb until the summit is reached. However, there’s a well-maintained gravel base until the last half-mile, where it turns to hard-packed dirt and is quite rocky. It’s worth noting that the difficulty of this trail would likely increase during the rainy season.
The Stanford Avenue Staging area is the western access point to the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, which is a 29-mile hiking and horseback riding trail. This passes through southern Alameda County’s most beautiful wilderness and provides access to Mission Peak Regional Preserve’s 2,999 acres of land. Be aware that although these trails make an ideal destination for equestrians, there is little shade and few water points. Take along plenty of water for you and your mount, and sunscreen too.
3. The Loch Lake Trail, via Glacier Gorge Trail
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the very best National Parks in the US. It features plenty of horse-friendly trails, our favorite is the Loch Lake Trail near Estes Park, Colorado. This trail is 5.4 miles long and is rated as moderate, and offers breathtaking surroundings including a view of Andrew’s Glacier.
It’s a highly recommended route, running right onto the Glacier Gorge trail, and starting from the Bear Lake parking lot. This is another very popular destination, so we recommend getting an early start, and ideally traveling it during the week.
Horses have always been an integral part of Rocky Mountain Park’s tradition, ever since its designation in 1915. As well as horses, this National Park also allows mules, ponies, donkeys, and llamas on its trails. There are two stables located in the park- Glacier Creek Stables and Moraine Park Stables, with many more outside the park’s boundaries.
Rocky Mountain offers so many equestrian trails, so we recommend booking a place in one of these so you can see more of the spectacular views on offer across multiple days. Approximately 260 miles of trails are open to horse use, making this National Park a top destination for equestrian campers.
Best equestrian campgrounds for horseback campers
Most campers know what to expect from a standard campground, with hookup sites for RVs and places for tent campers to sleep under the stars, but fewer campers are familiar with the joys of equestrian camping. Equestrian campgrounds offer special facilities for horses and their riders, and usually, have easy access to horseback riding trails and equine amenities. This can include horse washing stations and stables, and other such horse-related facilities.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite equestrian campgrounds from all over the country, for your consideration on your next horseback camping trip.
1. Northrup Creek Horse Camp, Oregon
Located in Clatskanie, Oregon, Northrup Creek horse camp is specially designed for equestrians. There are eight specialty corral campsites, each with parking available for a horse trailer. There is also a large parking lot near Northrup Creek which has plenty of room for large vehicle and horse trailer parking.
A whole network of horse-friendly trails begins at the parking lot, with plenty of options to choose from. This campsite offers basic amenities, with vault toilets, a hand pump for potable water, and manure bins. The biggest selling point of this campground is its beautiful location amongst the Douglas Firs, making for a magical camping experience.
There are picnic tables to enjoy as well as a trail loop system that crosses a wide variety of terrains. They pass through forests of varying ecosystems, from densely grown conifer trees to huge western red cedar trees, measuring up to eight feet in diameter. Most of the trails are gentle to moderate, making them early passable for even novice riders, however, there are also some shorter and steeper segments to provide a challenge for more seasoned equestrians.
2. Crow Hassan Park Reserve, Minnesota
Minnesota’s State Parks offer over 1000 miles of horse trails! Minnesota is a popular choice for equestrian camping enthusiasts, with its rolling hills and glades of trees making the perfect environment for an equine camping trip. The Crow-Hassan Park Reserve alone has 15 miles of summer trails and 5 miles of winter trails, and also offers two different campgrounds within the park which are horse-friendly.
3. Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Only 45 minutes from Houston, this park is a popular destination for hiking and fishing as well as horseback riding. There are 19 equestrian campsites at Brazos Bend, located under a grove of pecan trees, and right by a trailhead leading to 13 miles of equestrian trails.
There is water available for horses at the campsite, however, there is no potable water, and the bathhouse is 12 miles away. A huge positive of this campsite is that it offers Equestrian Primitive Camping, which could present a fun new challenge to riders getting bored of the same old trails.
4. Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia
This one is a local favorite for equestrian campers, offering more than 24 miles of wooded trails for horseback riding and hiking. The on-site equestrian campground has 11 horse campsites and 40 stalls, with the campsites well-equipped with electricity and water hookups.
This is a valuable feature, as these amenities aren’t often available at equestrian campsites. This park, located near Rutledge, is most commonly known for its golf course, however, there’s also a beautiful lakeside beach making it popular with swimmers during the summer months.
Some rules of equestrian camping
As with all different types of camping, there are some specific rules applying to equestrian campers. These should be respected at all times, to ensure the trails remain enjoyable for all. Specific rules vary from state-to-state, from national park to national park, so you should always look up the specifics of the area you decide to visit. Here are a few basic regulations which are good to keep in mind:
- Pack out all trash
- Remain on the trails, traveling off-trail and cross-country may not be permitted, so check with a park ranger first
- Ride at no speed greater than a trot
- Make sure you maintain full control of your mount
- Equine waste should be cleaned up and deposited in manure bins
- Age limits for riders may be in place
So what is equestrian camping? In simple terms, equestrian camping is just camping with a horse, but it’s also much more than that. Equestrian camping can be an enriching and very enjoyable experience. It provides a unique perspective from which to observe the great beauty our National Parks have to offer, whilst strengthening your bond with your mount and with nature.
Now you know some of the benefits and limitations of equestrian camping, with plenty of information to consider. Horseback riders will find equine camping to be an excellent choice, as it combines two of our personal biggest outdoor loves.
As a final reminder, make sure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date before setting off, and remember to bring along the paperwork- you may need to show this upon entrance to your campground. When in doubt, look up your chosen National Park online, there should be plenty of information for equine campers there.
You can always ask a park ranger if you’re struggling. Trail rides on horseback are something we think everyone should experience- once you try it you’ll never want to go back to using your own two feet. Horse camping is so much fun, so why not give it a go!
Bonus tip: Watch this video to find out a bit more about what equestrian camping is all about!