Safety and Etiquette
Trail conditions vary throughout the year. Visit our Trail Guide and Trail Advisories and Closures pages or check with park staff at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in person or by phone (415-464-5100) before your ride for current trail information and special closures. There are also some trails and areas of the park described below that are permanently closed to horses and pack animals.
Stinging nettle is a common plant at Point Reyes National Seashore and some trails may be overgrown with nettle at certain times of the year, especially during the spring and summer. Horses can react strongly if they are stung by stinging nettle's small needle-like hairs. Stung horses may begin to panic and leave the trail, thereby moving deeper into the nettles. In extreme cases, horses have died after extensive exposure to this plant. Both horse and rider should avoid this plant. The best way to do this is to stay in the center of the trail.
Horse riders should pay attention to signs at trailheads warning about yellow jackets, in addition to being alert for increasing numbers of yellow jackets. As a horse passes near a yellow jacket nest, it can shake the nest. Yellow jackets will then swarm out to defend the nest. If you are on a horse that is being attacked by yellow jackets, you will definitely want to promptly move out of the area. Some horses might panic upon being stung and may start bucking and bolting. Use your knowledge of your horse's temperment and your best judgment to resolve the situation.
Horse riding etiquette and rules for safety at Point Reyes National Seashore are much the same as at other parks:
- To help control the spread of non-native plants, please feed horses weed-free feed for a few days before visiting the park. Please do not shovel manure out of horse trailers in parking lots or elsewhere within the National Seashore. For more information on this issue, read Invasive Plant Species in Horse Manure (230 KB PDF).
- Carry plenty of water!
- Always take a trail map with you. Free maps are available at visitor centers. Study the map carefully before beginning your trip so that you will know the names and locations of trails. In the event of an accident, this will assist rangers in locating the injured party quicker.
- It is best not to ride alone. In case of an accident, send someone to the nearest visitor center or ranger station or call 911. Give a good description of your location and the nature of injury to both horse and rider.
- Allow plenty of time for your ride. Trails over Inverness Ridge can be steep and physically stressful for your horse. Plan adequate rest stops.
- Please share the trail. Horses have the right of way: hikers yield to horses and are asked to stand on the downhill side of slopes, and bicyclists yield to both horses and hikers.
- Remain alert. Remember that interactions can occur with little warning on curves and hills. Slow your horse to a walk when encountering other trail users.
- To control erosion and lessen impact, short-cutting trails or switchbacks is prohibited.
- Do not leave pack animals unattended for extended periods of time in campground areas, unless you are camping at the site and have obtained a permit for overnight use.
- Horses may only be tied to hitching rails, not to trees, faucets, picnic tables, etc.
NPSWilderness has produced three videos entitled Wilderness Calling: Point Reyes, Wilderness Motion: Point Reyes, and Wilderness Visions: Point Reyes featuring images and sounds from the Phillip Burton Wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore, in addition to two videos about and which horse riders and other visitors to Point Reyes may find of interest.
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