Hiking & Camping with Horses and other Stock

four horses hitched to a hitching rail
Hiking and camping with horses and other stock is a great way to experience the backcountry.

NPS Photo / David Restivo

For more information about camping in the National Park Service, please visit the Camping website.

Some parks allow the use of stock (i.e., horses, mules, donkeys, llamas) on trails and in the backcountry as a mode of transportation for you and/or your gear. It can be a great way to experience the backcountry and travel further than you could on foot. Regulations vary from park to park, so please plan accordingly.

General Considerations

  • Plan ahead - Always check park regulations regarding stock use.
  • Permits - Permits may need to be obtained before using stock in a park.
  • Grazing - Grazing of stock may not be permitted. Stock users may need to pack supplementary feed such as grain or pellets. In bear country, feed must be hung out of reach of bears or a NPS approved bear-resistant feed container must be used.
  • Noxious weeds - Due to problems with noxious weeds, feeding hay at trailheads or backcountry campgrounds may be prohibited.
  • Tethering - When not being used, pack and saddle stock should be tethered. Horses, llamas or mules that are nervous "diggers" or "pawers" should be hobbled when tied to prevent unnecessary damage to the terrain. Please tie at least 200' from streams or lakes.
  • Hitches - Always use hitch-racks where provided. Where there are no hitchracks, tie a rope between two trees, "a highline" away from the trail and hitch the stock to the rope. This avoids damage to the tree and trampling around the root system.
  • Right-of-way - Hikers are required to stand quietly on the lower side of the trail and yield the right-of-way to stock. Many hikers do not know and understand the need for this procedure, so stock users are encouraged to courteously coach them on proper meeting procedures.
  • Stay the course - Please stay on established trails. Check with Park Rangers regarding any cross-country riding or riding on paved roads.
  • Manure - As a courtesy to others and the park's resources, scatter manure after camping or stopping for long periods and smooth out any ruts or holes.
  • Leave it better than you found it - Campsites and their surroundings must be returned to a natural condition before you leave.

Last updated: April 30, 2018