Horseback riding is a popular way to experience Joshua Tree National Park for those who bring their own horses. However, because of the special requirements for horses in this environment, care should be taken in planning your trip. The lack of available drinking water is both a challenge and a limitation.
The Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan provides for 253 miles of equestrian trails and trail corridors that traverse open lands, canyon bottoms, and dry washes. Many riding trails are already open, clearly marked, and ready to be enjoyed. Other trails are in various states of development. Trail maps for the west entrance area and for the Black Rock Canyon area are available.
Camping and Backcountry Use
Ryan and Black Rock campgrounds have designated areas for horses and stock animals. A $15 per-night fee is charged at Black Rock. Reservations for Black Rock horse camp may be made by calling 1-877-444-6777. A $10 per-night fee is charged at Ryan; water is not available. Call 760-367-5545, Mon–Fri, 8 am to 4 pm, to make reservations for camping at Ryan. Reservations are not required for day use.
A permit is required to camp with stock in the backcountry. You can arrange for a permit by calling 760-367-5545. Grazing is not permitted in the park. Stock animals are restricted to pellet feed. Manure must be removed from campgrounds and trailheads.
Stock use is limited to horses and mules and is restricted to designated equestrian trails and corridors, open dirt roads, and shoulders of paved roads. Riders should travel single file to reduce damage to soil and vegetation. Stock animals are not permitted within ¼ mile of any natural or constructed water source. Horses and other stock are not permitted on nature trails, in the Wonderland of Rocks, in campgrounds, in picnic areas, or at visitor centers.
Access and Staging
In the Black Rock Canyon area, riders may enter at the Hi-View Nature Trail, Machris Wash, Long Canyon, and Little Long Canyon.
Staging for horses is available at the Boy Scout trailhead in Indian Cove, the west entrance borrow pit, Lower Covington Flats picnic area, Twin Tanks, Geology Tour Road, north entrance, as well as Black Rock and Ryan horse camps. Trailers may also be parked in other areas as long as they do not obstruct traffic.