Winter Horseback Riding
Winter brings added challenges to your trail rides, to the park trails, and to road access and parking availability.
Ground Hazards: Virginia winter weather brings rain, freezing rain, ice and snow – and sometimes all of these at the same time. If you begin riding from the boundary and head up the mountain, you could start in rain and progress up to snow (if you make it safely past the ice). Much of the winter, the ground will be wet, soft, and soggy. Please only ride graveled trails during these conditions (eight of our trips are on such routes). Riding soil trails on steep mountainsides in wet conditions erodes the trail tread and may result in the need to close the trail to horse use.
Tree Hazards: Our trail crews generally work from mid-March through mid-November. Thus, while you may encounter a fallen tree at any time, you are much more likely to encounter fallen trees in the winter. If the tree completely blocks the trail and you cannot get over it, please turn around rather than leave the trail tread (see the exception in the last paragraph below). You are less likely to encounter trees on some of the graveled trails which may be cleared of trees occasionally, even during the winter.
Roads and parking: The county roads leading to boundary parking areas, Skyline Drive, and the parking areas themselves may be blocked for several days to several weeks after a snow or ice storm. Skyline Drive is closed and gated until snow and ice are cleared. Before driving to the park, call the park’s automated information line to see if Skyline Drive is open. The phone number is 540-999-3500.
If you are up for the challenge, you can still enjoy a winter ride in Shenandoah National Park. If the ground is frozen hard (whether covered in snow or not), you are welcome to ride on any of the horse trails if you can safely do so. In frozen conditions, you may even be able to carefully lead your horse off trail around a fallen tree, if it is in a fairly level place. If no dirt is churned up and the only hoof prints are in the snow, you are riding in a Leave No Trace manner. If the ground is not frozen, the graveled trails are a great way to get out and enjoy the park.