Horseback Riding

Loading the horses with gear
Gearing up for a pack trip in the park.

David Snyder

There are plentiful opportunities for day and overnight riding and stock packing in the park. The most popular riding trails are located in the southeast of the park, along Bridge Creek (Pacific Crest Trail) and most of the trails throughout the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. There are some major west side stock trails that are popular as well, including the East Bank Trail, the west side of Ross Lake and Big Beaver Trail, and the Thunder Creek Trail.

All Wilderness party size limits apply: the maximum party size is 12, including all people and stock combined. Note that some trails are closed to stock, and that stock parties spending the night must stay in the designated stock camps.



  • Be well informed about the regulations and trail conditions in the area in which you plan to travel. For detailed trip planning information, visit the Wilderness Trip Planner page, which also includes a map of backcountry camps.
  • A safer more enjoyable trip can be had when you and your stock possess a high level of fitness.
  • For their well-being, condition your stock to the equipment and feed you plan to use, and the sight of 'unusual creatures' such as humans wearing large backpacks, dogs, llamas and other stock animals.
  • For more information on current conditions, permits, food storage and more, call the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount: 360-854-7245.



  • In the Park Complex, 'stock' are defined as horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas.
  • Goats are prohibited throughout the Park Complex.


  • Not all trails in the Park Complex are maintained to standards safe for stock use. See backcountry camp chart for trails and camps open to stock.
  • Hitch rails are provided as a convenience at selected trailheads and backcountry sites. Where they are not provided use a highline. Picketing is prohibited.
  • For sanitation reasons, stock are not permitted in tenting areas of campsites.
  • Be a role model for other trail users and stay on trails, regardless of mud, snow, or ruts.
  • Not all people know how to act when encountering stock. Greet other trail users and instruct them on how to allow your party to pass.


  • For overnight trips, backcountry camping permits are required.
  • Permits are issued at Ranger Station locations on a first-come, first-served basis, and no sooner than the day before the start of a trip. Review your trip with a ranger for campsite availability and trail conditions.
  • Campfires are prohibited in some areas, so plan to use a lightweight stove for cooking.
  • Keep camps and trails sanitary and tidy: carry a rake to scatter dung piles and fill in pawed areas.

Party Size

  • Note that the maximum group size for day use or camping, including animals, is 12 pairs of eyes.



  • Water animals at established fords where low gravel or rocky areas exist. Carry lightweight containers to water stock where clear access to water is hard to find.
  • Clean water is crucial to life; prevent stock from defecating directly into water or near a water source.


  • Sterile weed-free pellets (loose hay prohibited) are light weight and an excellent source of nutrition on the trail, especially where grazing is limited or prohibited (see below). Pellets also decrease introduction of non-native plant seeds into the backcountry. Non-native plants can wreak havoc on the health and diversity of native plant communities. For a list of weed-free feed suppliers in WA, visit this page.
  • Proper food storage is required at all times in the backcountry. This includes food, garbage, and any scented items, as well as stock feed. Keep wildlife healthy and self-reliant by not feeding them. Secure your food, garbage, and toiletries from resident rodents, deer, and bear to avoid potentially unpleasant or dangerous encounters. A list of food storage devices, including panniers, that have been tested and proved resistant to bears and other wildlife can be found at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee web page. If food and other attractants are not stored in an approved food storage device, they must be suspended from a tree limb, at least 15 feet from the ground and 5 feet from the trunk of a tree.
  • Use a nose bag, ground cloth, or container when feeding stock, so that the leftovers are easy to clean up and do not attract wildlife.


  • Grazing is prohibited in North Cascades National Park. See "Feed" section above for alternatives.
  • Grazing is allowed in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. However, grass and other forage is quite limited, so consider supplementing your animal's food with the weed-free alternatives listed above.
  • Grazing is allowed in certain areas of the Lake Chelan Recreation Area: Rainbow Meadows, Hidden Meadows, and 1/4 mile or more away from Juanita Lake in the Juanita Lake basin.
  • All grazing requires a permit, which can be obtained when you pick up your backcountry permit. Grazing permits can be suspended if conditions are too wet.
  • Grazing is prohibited within 200 feet of any water source, including lakes, streams, and boggy wetlands.
  • Stock must be attended while grazing; picketing is prohibited. Portable corrals, hand-holding stock, and loose herding are encouraged.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to do your part to help protect and preserve the Wilderness for today and for future generations. Enjoy your ride!

Packing on the Thunder Creek Trail
A packer and his string head up the Thunder Creek Trail.

David Snyder

Last updated: July 24, 2017

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810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley , WA 98284


360 854-7200

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