Horseback Riding

A group of horseback riders along a dirt trail
Horseback riding along the trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

NPS / Brad Sutton

Horseback riding has long been a popular way to access and experience Joshua Tree National Park. Two hundred fifty-three miles of equestrian trails and trail corridors traverse open lands, canyon bottoms, and dry washes throughout the park.

Desert ecosystems are fragile and require special care. Desert soils, when disturbed, take years to heal, so it is important for riders to travel on established trails.

The lack of available drinking water is both a challenge and a limitation for riders and horses. Care should be taken when planning your trip since stock animals may not use natural or man-made water sources within the park.
Designated Trails
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.
The two most popular areas of the park for equestrian users are Black Rock Canyon and the areas near the West Entrance.
Color photo of the trail system near Black Rock campground for horseback users. The trails make large loops and interconnect frequently through the mountains near Black Rock.
Black Rock Horse Trails
Color map of the interconnected horse trails near west entrance. These trails make large loops and parallel Park Boulevard all the way to Ryan Campground.
West Entrance Horse Trails

Camping and Backcountry Use

Ryan and Black Rock campgrounds have designated areas for horses and stock animals. Reservations are not required for day use.

Reservations may be made for camping at Black Rock horse camp by calling 1-877-444-6777. A $20 per night fee is charged.

Contact Jeannie Wilson at, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4 pm for reservations to camp at Ryan horse camp. Water is not available at Ryan and the camping fee is $15 per night.

Grazing is not permitted in the park. Horses and pack animals are restricted to certified weed-free hay or pellet feed only. Manure must be removed from campgrounds and trailheads.

Large fires, fueled in part by exotic grasses and weeds, have recently destroyed portions of the park’s watersheds. Please do your part to discourage the introduction of non-native grasses and weeds.

A group of horses with riders on a sandy, desert trail
Riders on the Fault Line Trail.

NPS / Tammy Freeman

Travel Restrictions

Park staff are in the process of stabilizing and rehabilitating the trails and installing improved signage. New trails are being constructed. In areas where trail construction has been completed, riders must stay on established trails.

In areas where trail construction has not yet occurred, riders should follow the existing footprints of trails defined in the BWMP and avoid trails that have not been designated.

Desert soils and vegetation are easily eroded. Most park trails are designed for single file travel. Travel abreast only in trail corridors. Be aware of riders traveling in the opposite direction and locate areas where you can pass safely.

Riders are not permitted to tether or rest their animals within 200 feet of any natural or manmade water source.


Access and Staging

Horse trailers may be parked at the following locations:

  • Boy Scout trailhead in Indian Cove
  • Lower Covington Flats picnic area
  • Twin Tanks
  • Geology Tour Road
  • North Entrance
  • Black Rock and Ryan horse camps
  • other pullouts along park roads near horse-accessible trails, so long as the trailers do not obstruct traffic

Near the West Entrance, mounted riders may come into the park at:

  • Quail Wash
  • Cactus Cove View
  • Burro Access
Near Black Rock, riders may come into the park at:

  • High View/West Side Loop Cutoff
  • Machris Wash
  • Little Long Canyon
  • Long Canyon

Last updated: December 5, 2022

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Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


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