Bringing Your Own Horse
Shenandoah National Park offers over 180 miles of trails open to horse use. Some of these trails are relatively smooth, wide, gravel paths, while others are steep, narrow, rocky mountain trails that will challenge the experienced horse and rider.
Whether you are new to this area, or are looking for a new place to ride, this website plus a good map will get you started on your Shenandoah adventure.
Rules and Best Practices for Bringing Your Horse
- Read, download, and print the Park's Horse Use Regulations (669kb pdf) to bring with you on your ride.
- Yellow-blazed trails are the only trails at Shenandoah designed to accommodate horse use. The Horse Use Regulations above contains a list of these trails. Trail crews do their best to keep the trails clear spring through fall. However, if you encounter a tree completely blocking the trail, please return the way you came rather than leave the trail.
- Trails may be muddy after a rain or during the winter. If hoof prints are visible, please restrict your riding to graveled trails such as those indicated for winter use.
- Be prepared to encounter others including other horses, hikers, backpackers, vehicles, and wildlife (including bear, deer, bobcats, and snakes) while riding in the Park.
- Make sure both you and your horse are in excellent physical condition before attempting long, rocky, rough, or strenuous rides. Allow for more time than you think you will need.
- Remove or scatter waste from parking areas, high lines and trailheads. Please remove rather than scatter if you have not been using certified weed-free feed prior to your trip.
- Grazing is not permitted.
- Be aware of backcountry safety while riding and be prepared with a good topographic map.
- Always Leave No Trace.
Winter Riding Cautions
Winter brings added challenges to your trail rides, the park trails, and to road access and parking availability. Be aware of the following factors if you are looking forward to a winter ride. Learn more about winter in Shenandoah.
- 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.
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.