Iron Equine

Trail riding guides and whatnot

Horseback Riding Guide: Glendale Lake (Prince Gallitzin)

Prince Gallitzin state park offers approximately 16 miles of beautiful equestrian trails up on the Allegheny plateau around Glendale Lake. Hopefully this up-to-date guide written specifically for horse users will give you accurate and thorough information you need to know for horseback riding there! Since quite a bit of information floating around is sadly outdated, we hope this helps.

BTW People are always asking about Glendale Stables. There is no horseback riding concession at the park where you can rent horses; it closed years ago.

Information Resources

The park trail guide is pretty good, better than average, and the brochure contains descriptions and distances for all the trails. You can view it from the webpage:

Hiking at Prince Gallitzin

Better yet, pick up a physical brochure at park headquarters on the south side of the lake (or stations at most parking areas) and disconnect from your stupid phone for a little while.

Also, openstreetmap seems to accurately represent and label the park’s trails.

Riding Areas

Broadly speaking there are two riding areas in the park:

  • North – Shomo Fields – north of Beaver Valley Road
  • East – Bater Patch trails – west of Fiske Road

Shomo Fields is north of Beaver Valley Road and Beaver Valley Marina. Bollinger Trail generally parallels the road and gives access to a number of loop trails into the Shomo Fields area. This is nice because it gives options for varying riding distance. The only downside is Bollinger Trail is kind of noisy because of the amount of traffic on the road. Be careful crossing the road and pulling out onto it with your trailer! In good weather it gets quite busy, visibility is terrible, and people often drive too fast.

Bater Patch is on the lake’s east side, and west of the villages of Fallen Timber and Fiske. It has longer trails, including some which were once part of a hire-a-horse concession at the park (which closed years ago). The main loop is Old Glendale Road and Hagarraty Trail; see below for more information. There is also a section of Shomo Run Trail which loops, but most of that trail is out and back.

Note: At the village of Fiske where you turn back to Bater Patch there is a small church where you might park to ride back the dirt road to the actual trailhead. Be warned that there is a house along the access road with large and obnoxious dogs which are not contained. It’s easy to mistake their driveway for the road. You were warned!

Parking

There are several areas for parking:

  • Beaver Valley Marina
  • Beaverdam parking lot
  • Bater Patch trailhead
  • Firing Range access road

Beaver Valley Marina is the “official” horse trailer parking area. It’s primarily for boat launching with lots of parking for boat trailers. The upper lot is gravel and grass and is best for horses. It is a bit close to the road, which can be busy, but there is a bank separating them a bit. There can be a lot of traffic in the marina, with boats and boat trailers coming in and out and many people about. Don’t expect it to be the quietest place on earth to get tacked up and on your way. On a Sunday in late October 6 horse trailers pulled in after us!

Beaver Valley Marina
Beaver Valley Marina

Beaverdam parking lot is closest to the actual dam, nice if you want to access trails at the east of the park (by crossing the dam). Officially it is said to be too small for trailers. In reality, the lot was extended (may not appear on all maps or aerial views) and could certainly take one smaller trailer in the slow season. Certainly at busy times you should not tie up this lot, as it seems like it is mainly for kayakers and fishy people.

Bater Patch trailhead is a tiny and remote dirt lot accessible via the village of Fiske on the east edge of the park. You might be able to squeeze in two two-horse trailers or a small goose neck, but not much more. This is a convenient access to Old Glendale Road and Haggaraty Trail, but just understand that it’s small, there are NO facilities there at all, and it is back a 1/2 mile long one-lane dirt road that’s not exactly smooth. If you get back there and it’s parked up, you may get plenty of practice backing your trailer!

The game commission Firing Range (southeast corner of lake) has a small gravel parking area just off Marina Road. It appears you could park there to access Shomo Run Trails from the south end, as it’s not the actual parking for the gun range. There is significant gun noise, so it’s not a particularly peaceful spot. It appears you can connect to Shomo Run Trail directly across the road from the parking area, but that’s not shown on maps.

Mounting

When you have a big horse, it’s nice to have easy mounting spots!

Most parking areas have at least one picnic table. But at busy times it may not be easy to find a place to mount your horse.

Picnic tables at Beaver Valley Marina tend to be in the congested area near the water, and not the greatest for mounting.

Grazing

There is plenty of grazing at Beaver Valley Marina, or any of the bigger access areas. Headache Hill would also be a good grazing stop with plenty of parking, and you can take in the view from the overlook.

Bater Patch is deep in the woods with little grass.

View from Headache Hill

Bridges

The biggest bridge issue is probably the dam itself: the overflow at the east end is crossed by a high span with a concrete deck and open chain-link fence sides. Moving water is visible on both sides, and it’s down pretty far. If your horse isn’t an experienced trail horse, this one could be interesting. There is one small bench on either side of the dam where you might remount if you have to walk this one, but the west one is quite a distance from the overflow bridge–the dam is about 1/3 mile long.

Glendale Lake dam
Where else does your horse get to see sailboats?

Another bridge crosses the overflow stream down off the dam breast to the north. It is intended for snowmobiles. It is wooden decked with NO sides at all! It is five feet wide, approximately 40-50 feet long, and about six feet above the stream. I don’t think my horse is going for that one without some practice.

Bollinger Trail has a small covered bridge west of Beaver Valley marina. It is 30 feet long with a wooden deck, and crosses Pickerel Pond. The roof is less than 7 feet high, not much for a rider on a tall horse! You can easily bypass it on land just north of the bridge.

Pickerel Pond covered bridge
Pickerel Pond covered bridge — maybe it’s a pony truss?

On our first trail we encountered a small and easy bridge with a wooden deck and steel railings. It appears there are a few of those scattered around, but they are in good shape and unlikely to be an issue for most horses.

Trail Conditions

We’ve not been on all the trails, but it seems like they are generally dirt or grass, with minimal rocks. Small gravel is in a few high-traffic areas like gates.

Expect to encounter a few swampy areas, but most are small enough to be skirted or bypassed easily.

Trail grades all seem easy. While online mapping shows grades up to 10-15%, these seem to be short. We were told Rhody trail down to the lake might be the steepest area, but still not really bad.

Trails are blazed (colors are listed on the website trail descriptions but not the brochure). Most trail junctions are nicely marked with posts indicating where each branch takes you. A+ to park management for doing such a good job on these! Other parks should be so good.

Woods tend to be a mix of deciduous and conifers. There are a few open areas, mostly along the lake, though most of them are grown up. It’s generally a really pretty place to ride, especially in spring and fall.

Bugs

We asked the park naturalist how bad horseflies and biting flies are in the summertime and got a noncommittal answer. Expect that they are probably bad due to all the wet areas. Since the park is high, there may at times be enough wind to limit fly problems, but spring and fall may be your best bets.

In the fall, I picked up a tick in just a short time walking only on mowed paths. So check you and your animals after a visit.

Loop Trails

As we explore, we will add info on some options for loop trails.

Beaver Valley Marina to Old Glendale Road is a popular loop. Start at the marina, follow Bollinger Trail northeast, cross the dam breast, and do a 3 mile loop of Haggaraty Trail/Krise Road and Old Glendale Road. Total distance is almost 6 miles, with 200 feet of vertical. Haggaraty Trail seems to have more up and down than Old Glendale Rd, so you might want to do it first. If you park at Beaverdam it will shave 2 miles off the round trip (but see notes under Parking).

Map of Old Glendale Road loop

Beaver Valley Marina to Gates Trail (east) is a nice easy loop. Start at the marina, follow Bollinger Trail northeast to pick up the east branch of Gates Trail. There is a bit of a climb up away from the road, but it’s not very long. After meeting the west branch of Gates trail continue west across Swartz Road and straight ahead onto Rhody trail. After climbing a bit you turn left on Herman Fields Road (it is a trail). There is a slight climb then it’s pretty level through overgrown pastures to an easy descent back to the road right across from the marina. There are a couple damp spots. About 3 miles.

Map of Gates Trail (east) loop

Trail Notes

Gates trail: Openstreetmap shows the trail jogging where it crosses Swartz Road; it actually continues straight across as the park map shows. Swartz Road can be a little busy, use caution when crossing.

Bollinger trail: Acts as a connector spine trail along Beaver Valley road and is unfortunately a bit noisy at times due to traffic. Be careful crossing the road! Openstreetmap shows sections of it along powerlines which were not mowed when we visited. Some stretches are a bit squishy, both in the woods and in open fields, thanks to poorly drained soils. Nearby Patton once had a massive brick and tile factory (Patton Pavers are all over the world), so you can guess that soils tend towards clay.

Bollinger Trail headed back towards the marina
Bollinger Trail headed back towards the marina

Water

Bring your own water, or at least a bucket to get water out of the lake or a stream. I had little luck finding a hydrant at any of the areas I checked. Water fountains are apparently due the the plague, and none of them seem to have faucets anyway!

At Beaver Valley Marina, volunteer hosts have a hydrant at their RV. If you ask nicely you can probably use it… assuming they are there and it isn’t turned off for the winter. Other areas may have similar hosts with running water.

Or there is the lake. With all the boat launches, you can probably wade your horse in and bathe except during busy boating times.

Hunting

Something that should be emphasized on the park website and is NOT: most of the park is open to full hunting. In pleasant fall weather you will likely encounter hunters and gunfire on your ride (and should obviously wear hi-viz orange!). Hunting in PA is prohibited on most Sundays, meaning Sundays may be pretty busy with horse users trying to avoid being shot by some careless dipshit.

Facilities

Beaver Valley Marina has real restrooms with running water which seem to be open even out of season. There are a modest number of picnic tables, some benches, and a peninsula with benches out in the lake.

Beaverdam has pit toilets and no running water. One picnic table.

Pickerel Pond has real restrooms, a water fountain, a playground, some pavilions, plenty of picnic tables, and a wide open field, but may be crowded in warmer months.

Bater Patch has no facilities. The east end of the park is undeveloped compared to the rest.

Supplies in the Area

Route 53 Country Store in the village of Fallen Timber east of the park has gas (no diesel), a small food menu, and Hershey’s ice cream. They have the mild/medium/hot hoagies which for some reason are a staple of the area–if you like onions! It’s just south of the intersection of Rts 253 and 53 and is open 7 days.

Pennywren’s Store has gas and diesel and food at the intersection of Beaver Valley Road and Rt 53, northeast of the park. This is very convenient if you are going to Beaver Valley Marina parking.

Noel’s Drive-In is southeast of the park at the intersection of Marina Road and St Augustine Rd. They have food and claim the “area’s best soft serve” but we have not tested that claim.

There are also options in the town of Patton west of the park, but the intersection of Glendale Lake Road and Rt 36 is very bad if towing a trailer. You may just want to support the local stores.

Horseback Riding Guide: Pennsylvania Rail Trails

Can I ride horses on a Pennsylvania rail trail?

This post is intended to help you quickly determine some of Pennsylvania’s Rail Trails that allow horseback riding. It’s often a real PITA trying to find this information buried on trail websites, and sometimes they can’t even be bothered to include it.

There are plenty of other options for riding, such as state and national parks, and some state game lands (during non-hunting times). Rail trails have the advantage of being easy, well maintained, and generally open year round.

This is not an exhaustive list. It will be updated as I look into new locations.

Useful link!
TrailLink: Horse Trails in PA

Horses and Horseback Riding Permitted

The following trails allow full or partial horse access. Please support them by making a donation or joining their support group.

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Trail)

Horses are only permitted on three sections of this 150 mile trail, two of which are pretty short. They are listed west to east…

SectionNotesDistanceMap
Boston PA (east of McKeesport) to Connellsville PANot the most exciting section of the trail, few bridges.39 milesmap link
Rockwood PA to Garrett PASegment ends west of Salisbury viaductabout 7.3 milesmap link
Frostburg MD to PA borderIncludes Borden tunnel but ends short of Big Savage tunnel. Parking at Frostburg seems tight for a horse trailer.about 5 milesmap link

Regretfully, riding sections do not include nearby major attractions of the trail, massive Salisbury viaduct and Big Savage Tunnel. The Frostburg section does pass through Borden Tunnel, which is about 1000 feet long and has lighting on motion sensors.

Whether my horse would actually go across Salisbury viaduct is another issue, but still… Personally, I’d be tempted to ride at least to the amazing overlook at the east end of Big Savage tunnel.

Info at TrailLink: GAP Trail

Lower Trail

Horseback riding is permitted on the entire 16.5 mile length!

See our Riding Guide or visit TrailLink: Lower Trail

Cumberland Valley Rail Trail

We are happy to see that this 13.7 mile (and growing!) trail permits horseback use over its entire length. It currently reaches from Shippensburg to Newville, and is planned to extend into Carlisle.

View info at TrailLink: Cumberland Valley Trail

Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

Riding is permitted south of Rocherty Road by the Lebanon Expo Center (about midway between the city of Lebanon and the village of Cornwall). The section north of that is pretty urban, so that seems like a reasonable limitation. That still leaves about 18 miles of scenic trail to the south!

Here is a GraphHopper map trimmed to Rocherty Road

View general trail info at TrailLink: Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

I’m not clear why part of this is still considered the Conewago Recreation Trail (in Lancaster county). It should just be one trail. Get it together, folks!

Swatara Rail Trail

This 10 mile trail is supposed to be really nice and offers horseback riding on its entire length. There is apparently a way to turn at least part of it into a loop trail, using an abandoned section of road. Eventually this trail may connect with the Lebanon Valley trail (above), which would be immensely cool!

I’m itching to take our first ride across a lenticular truss bridge 🙂

Read more at TrailLink: Swatara Trail

York County Heritage Rail Trail

One of the original “big” trails at 27+ miles, this trails extends all the way from the city of York to the Mason-Dixon line, where it continues as the Northern Central Trail in Maryland (now renamed for somebody I never heard of). Thankfully both trails allow horses, though you probably want to avoid the urban section at the north end in the city of York.

Notice that there is an operating steam train at New Freedom near the southern end. Train runs on tracks immediately adjacent to the trail, which might allow for some interesting desensitization opportunities! Or instant death 🙂

Details at TrailLink: York county

Pine Creek Rail Trail

This trail passes through the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” aka Pine Creek Gorge. The trail is 62 miles long, but there is one problem… horses are only permitted on 5.5 miles of it! Extremely disappointing. Since Pine Creek isn’t near anything, this seems like a lot of travel for a short ride. If you’re already headed there and have some horses in your trunk it might be fun to ride, but it seems silly to make a special trip.

The open section runs from the Ansonia parking area (north end) to the Tiadaghton campground (south end).

Info at Pine Creek Rail Trail horseback riding

Bells Gap Trail

This 6 mile section operated by the Lower Trail group is open to horseback use over its entire length. About 2 miles is well surfaced and the rest is rough stone. They created a decent parking area at the start, but in general it seems underdeveloped compared to Lower Trail.

Info at TrailLink: Bells Gap

Knox & Kane Trail

7.8 miles are open for equestrian use, between Route 219 at Mount Jewett and Kinzua Bridge State Park. But horse trailers are NOT allowed to park at the state park!

The trail group for this section has apparently developed an equestrian picnic area where you can park trailers near the state park, but information online is sketchy. There are supposedly signs for it on Lindholm Road.

Equestrian picnic area and parking location (as best we can determine):

  • unmarked road going north off Lindholm Rd
  • about midway between Mt Jewett borough boundary and the state park
  • approximate coordinates 41.744046,-78.602288

Supposedly you can also park behind the Mount Jewett borough building on weekends (of course they don’t describe where that is, but it’s probably at Center St and US 6).

This trail has the potential to reach 70+ miles. Hopefully additional areas will be opened to horses.

Montour Trail

Montour Trail around the west side of Pittsburgh is an amazing rail trail, which appears to have come a long way since I last biked it (quite a few years back), with many new bridges now open. Unfortunately, only a small section of its 60+ miles is open to horse use, but at least it is something.

According to TrailLink, the open section is far southwest of downtown Pittsburgh, in the area between McDonald and Canonsburg. It runs from the intersection of routes 980 and 50 (Venice) running east to Morganza Road and the “Georgetown Road” parking area in Hendersonville. This is Cecil township of Washington county. Length appears to be 5 miles.

The parking lot at Hendersonville (east end) appears quite large, while the one at the west end is very small and probably not suitable for a trailer.

Graphhopper map of this section

My only grumble is that some of their rules are a bit ridiculous. Dismount and lead your horse across bridges?? Umm, maybe not when you’re riding a 16.3hh horse, unless they have benches every 100 feet!

Horseback Use NOT Permitted

The following trails DO NOT allow horses or any horseback riding use. Take your money elsewhere and support communities and trails that do support riding!

Buffalo Valley Rail Trail

Lewisburg to Mifflinburg. It’s disappointing that a trail in the heart of Amish and Mennonite country blocks all horse use, but there you have it.

Enola Low Grade Trail

Fantastic trail. Unfortunately it gets a “low grade” because the dickheads block horse access… in the heart of horse country!

Ghost Town Trail

Ebensburg and west. Cambria county is about useless, so of course this trail is no longer open to horses (though their usage study lists equestrian use!).

Hoodlebug Trail

Indiana and south. Indiana county, while slightly better than Cambria, is also not worth visiting. Jimmy Stewart left, right?

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail

This new 14 mile trail around Columbia was described to me by an enthusiastic supporter and looks attractive, but it does not permit any horse access. A big BOO to Lancaster county on this one.

Five Bridges Trail

Brockway area. Not open to horses, because it’s in a backwards-ass shithole part of the state.

Wolf Run Trail

Dubois area. Not open to horses, also in a backwards-ass shithole part of the state.

Forget It: The Ghost Town Trail

Ghost Town Trail is an impressive rail trail 40-50 miles long, consisting of multiple sections in two counties. The question is, can you ride horses on it??

Both Cambria and Indiana counties got back to me and told me horseback riding is not allowed on their rail trails. I suggest you therefore take horses and money you spend to other counties where you are welcomed!

For example the Lower Trail in Blair and Huntingdon counties would love to have you visit. Check out my Horseback Riding Guide: Lower Trail.

Ironically, a trail-user survey conducted in 2009 by Rails to Trails and posted on Cambria county’s website says this:

So apparently at some point they decided they couldn’t be bothered with horseback users, so screw them! Who wants to go to Cambria or Indiana counties, anyway? Buncha dickheads! 🙂

Horseback Riding Guide: Wopsononock Tract

While poking around for new places to ride, I stumbled upon Clearfield county’s visitor website, which mentioned Wopsononock Natural Area for horseback riding. Familiar with “Wopsy” mountain outside Altoona, I had never heard of this natural area… and don’t natural areas prohibit riding?

Some digging revealed this is former Camp Wopsononock, a Scout camp until the county turned it over to DCNR in 2016. Articles describe it as 578 acres of high-quality woodlands.

Unfortunately there isn’t much information about this site online, and descriptions of it are vague and misleading, so I thought I’d share information as I piece it together.

Getting There

I took a quick drive there and found the entrance to the property is Little Muddy Run Road off of PA 253. According to the sign, it is the Wopsononock Tract. Nothing about a natural area.

Just off 253 there is a grassy parking area large enough for several trailers, though it’s on a bit of a slope. There are signs for named trails going off this lot. It appears they are blazed, so hopefully you can follow them with the help of the new map (below).

If you continue straight in on the road perhaps 0.1 mile, there is another lot to your left. It’s a little smaller and a little tighter access, but it is flat.

It appears nearby Little Muddy Run can probably supply water for horses. There is no running water and are no facilities for humans, just a parking lot! There is plenty of shade.

Note: Do not turn in at Williams Road (north of Little Muddy Run) as this quickly dead ends at a fenced pond and there isn’t much space to turn around. DCNR news claims there are picnic tables here somewhere but I did not see them.

Wopsononock Tract Location:

  • On PA 253
  • just NE of village of Allemans
  • at Clearfield/Cambria county line
  • Gulich township
  • 12 miles from Tyrone

Graphhopper Map link

Directions from Tyrone:

  • take PA 453 (Janesville Pike) west from Tyrone about 11 miles
  • turn left on PA 253 and go about 1 mile
  • entrance road is Little Muddy Run Rd on left (East) side

Trail Map

DCNR just came through with the following map!

Online info suggests that neighboring private property owners are not particularly friendly, so please try to adhere to the trails and boundaries shown.

You can also download the map as a pdf file to print or take along (1.2MB).

Trails

I haven’t gotten to check out the trails yet. They are listed as multi-user so you may encounter bicycles and hikers.

Please note that areas of Dawn Trail look pretty steep. Based on the map contours, they could be 10~15% grade.

Last update 2022.08.08

Horseback Riding Guide: Lower Trail

Taking your horses to an unknown location can be a bit daunting if you’re not an experienced trail rider. Horses don’t have kickstands, and equestrians have to think about a lot of logistics that other trail users don’t.

Lower Trail is a wonderful Rails to Trails site in central Pennsylvania. Due to its wide design there is plenty of room for horseback riding, mostly on grass. As is typical, the trail website doesn’t provide much information for equestrians. Hopefully this guide will make it easier and more comfortable for you to enjoy this wonderful trail, even if you aren’t the most seasoned trail rider.

A trail map is at the bottom of this page. You can also download a pdf of this file to take along (phone coverage on the trail is spotty).

Parking

Finding space for even a small truck and trailer is one of the bigger challenges to using the Lower Trail. In the summer you probably need to avoid busiest times, or you won’t find parking (except perhaps in Williamsburg). A two-horse trailer is probably best due to limited parking areas.

Alfarata trailhead (west end of Alexandria): One of the larger parking areas and easy in and out from Rt 22. Also one of the busier trailheads. On weekdays, you may be able to park a rig along the edge of the lot. On weekends, it is usually full. There is moderate shade. Note that West Main St can be pretty busy with truck traffic, and the lot is fairly close to the road. When starting at Alfarata, note that the first 0.8 mile parallels Rt 22 and there is a lot of road noise. Once you pass Water Street flea market, there is a sudden transition to peace and tranquility, so hang in there!

Mount Etna is a good choice for equestrians. The lot is small, but usually not too busy. On weekdays, or early or late on weekends, you may get a spot. It is very shady and there is considerable grass. Fox Run Road and Polecat Hollow Road are narrow but reasonable roads to Mount Etna. Avoid Etna Furnace Road, which is very rough and narrow. Mount Etna is a quiet area with little car traffic. Do read the “Bridges” section before going to Mount Etna!

Grannas Station is a decent choice for equestrians, as it doesn’t seem heavily used. There is limited grazing, but the Grannas Station building (owned by the trail) does have a lawn with picnic tables and shade. There is a quarry across the river from the station, and truck traffic on weekdays can be heavy, so it’s not the quietest place. See the “Bridges” section before going to Grannas Station!

Flowing Spring trailhead (off Rt 22 near Canoe Creek state park): Access to this lot is via a fairly long and narrow lane with fences. If you get in and the lot is full, you will have to back out a long way. You may be able to park on grass along the access lane if the weather is dry; it can get muddy. There is decent shade, and some grazing. We have talked to people who have parked on the shoulder of Flowing Spring road along farm fields, but it’s hard to say how grumpy owners might get about that. This trailhead is across the river from Rt 22, so it is fairly quiet.

Covedale is a very peaceful parking area but trailer access is a problem. If you have anything but the smallest trailer and shortbed truck, you might find you simply cannot turn around in this lot. The road in is also narrow and steep. Probably best to avoid this lot completely.

Williamsburg has a trail parking lot plus parking on public streets. The trail area is right in the middle of town, so expect to deal with cars and people. There is some shade. There is a public park west of the trail parking area, but signs say “no animals in park”. If you do park there, definitely stay off grass and go only in the parking lot.

Water Street (on Rt 22 near Rt 453): The flea market parking lot here is large, but it’s a little unclear who owns what and whether you can park there. We have seen horse trailers parked at the west end of the lot. Note that this is right on Rt 22; there is no barrier from the highway, which has considerable fast traffic. It is quite noisy. This is a very unforgiving spot for dead-broke horses only. There is not much shade.

Mounting blocks

There are no dedicated mounting blocks on the trail. Benches and tables make remounting pretty easy anywhere.

Road crossings

Most road crossings have decent visibility and roads aren’t too busy. Williamsburg can be busy. Grannas Station is a little bit tight. Note that posts at road crossings can be a tight fit for wide horses.

Bridges

There are a number of bridges which may be scary for less-experienced horses or riders.

Alfarata area: The trail crosses under a high concrete bridge carrying Rt 22. Some horses get a little fidgety about the towering walls and traffic noise.

Water Street area: There is one short bridge behind the flea market which you will cross if you start at Alfarata. It has a wooden deck and wooden fence railings. It often has water rushing beneath it, and some horses just don’t like that.

Mount Etna area: There is a very short covered bridge just east of the trailhead. It has a wooden deck and side railings. The roof is somewhat low. It is only a few feet above a small wet area, minimally scary.

There are two long railroad bridges close together a bit east of Mt Etna. These are decked with fiberglass panels which make a lot of noise, especially if your horse has shoes. The floor is solid panels, so you cannot see down through it. Railings are about four feet high. Both bridges are pretty wide. One bridge has solid sides, the other is board fence. Whatever you do, DO NOT go on the private lane side of the bridge closer to Mount Etna, which has VERY DANGEROUS gaps in the decking!

Williamsburg area: There is one long railroad bridge 1.75 miles east of Williamsburg. Sides are about 4 feet high. The main trail crosses noisy fiberglass panels, but the grass berm uses a wood-decked span.

Grannas Station: Just west of the station and parking lot there is a modern steel trail bridge. It is a very noisy bridge, especially if your horse is shod! You can see through the side railings, but they are tall. The bridge is quite narrow, much narrower than the actual railroad bridges.

Bridge-free stretches: Mount Etna to Covedale. Williamsburg to Grannas Station.

Trail surface

In most areas, the main trail surface is crushed limestone. Horses should stay on grass berms (either side in most places) as much as possible, especially when the ground is soft. Brush is cut back so this is not a problem.

Williamsburg area: The trail is asphalt between Covedale (3.5 miles east of Williamsburg) and a short distance west of town. In most areas there is a grass berm you should ride on, but unshod horses should use caution in areas like the High Street crossing in Williamsburg, where you may be on paving.

West of Grannas Station, there are extra wide grass berms which are nice for letting your horse blow off a few oats.

Caution: The new connection to Canoe Creek park involves riding on blacktop and public roads for a considerable distance (see below).

Trail width

West of Grannas Station, there are extra wide grass berms, which are nice for letting your horse blow off a few oats.

East of Flowing Springs, there is a long stretch of trail with a board fence to divide off a private camp lane. Because of this there is very little grass shoulder. Please pay attention as you will share the narrow lane with bicyclists and walkers. Please try not to tear up the trail.

Peacefulness

(Listed in east to west order)

Alfarata to Water Street: Lousy. Get it over with as quickly as possible!

Water Street to Mount Etna: Excellent! No road crossings. Very quiet.

Mount Etna to Covedale: Very good. Isolated and quiet. A few camps.

Covedale to Williamsburg: Nice and quiet at first, but transitions to town setting with traffic and people near Williamsburg.

Williamsburg to Grannas Station: Pretty good, getting out of town but does parallel road.

Grannas Station to Flowing Spring: Pretty good. Some noise from trucks to quarry, and Rt 22 traffic is across river.

Grazing areas

Alfarata has a fair amount of grass. Mount Etna has lots of shade and grass. West of Grannas Station, the trail has wide grassy berms. The yard of Grannas Station (owned by the trail) offers some grazing. Flowing Spring has some grazing.

Water

No running water is provided anywhere on the trail. Access to the river is not easy in most places.

Fuel and supplies

Martin’s General Store on Rt 22 across the river from Alfarata trailhead has easy fuel access for truck and trailer. Martin’s in Williamsburg is reasonable. Melnik’s on Rt 22 is ok. It is 5.1 miles west of Flowing Spring trailhead.

The town of Williamsburg has several food (and dessert) options close to the trail. A few food options are at Alexandria (east end of trail). Many more choices are 8 miles east of the trail in Huntingdon, or 6 miles west of the trail in Hollidaysburg.

There is a Tractor Supply 9.5 miles east of Alfarata trailhead on Rt 22.

Manure disposal

There are no designated facilities for disposing of manure. Please clean up after yourself whenever possible. If you need to dispose of manure, please put it in overgrown areas away from houses and pedestrian areas. Be a good neighhhh-bor!

River access

The railroad was built to be well above flood level, so it is tough to get to the water.

Flowing Springs has a good trail to the river. When water is low, there is a landing of smooth river rocks and the water is shallow and clear. This is the best horse access we have found.

Alfarata has river access for kayakers, but the trails are narrow, somewhat steep, and can be slippery. We suggest not trying to access the river here with horses.

Grannas Station has a small river access but it is steep and may be slippery.

Mileages

(All are ONE-WAY distance)

  • Alfarata to Mount Etna: 5 miles
  • Mount Etna to Covedale: 2.75 miles
  • Covedale to Williamsburg: 3.5 miles
  • Williamsburg to Grannas Station: 2 miles
  • Grannas Station to Flowing Springs: 3 miles

Canoe Creek state park access

In 2021, PennDOT completed a connection from Flowing Springs trailhead to Canoe Creek state park. Unfortunately it is not possible to access the park without going on public roads, although the park is working on a trail connection.

From the end of the Lower Trail at Flowing Springs road, you must ride about 1/4 mile on the road, crossing a small and a large road bridge decked in white concrete. Railings are not very high. You then turn left on the former Weller Road–which is now trail–to a new tunnel with lights under Rt 22.

Once on the north side of Rt 22, you are on Beaver Dam Rd (public road) and are still 1/3 mile from the near park entrance. Note: Even if you access the park this way, you are across the lake from the park’s riding trails, trailer parking areas, and most features. There is no trail that connects the two areas at this time; you would have to ride a considerable distance on public roads.

Canoe Creek park info

Lower Trail map
Lower Trail map from rttcpa.org

(Revision 1)

Horseback Riding Guide: Canoe Creek

This is a first draft of a riding guide for Canoe Creek state park outside Hollidaysburg and Altoona, Pennsylvania.

There isn’t a lot of trail mileage, maybe 10 miles, and some of the trails are fairly steep, but it’s a nice park in general. There are several potential trail loops, which is nice.

Parking

The main designated trailer parking spot is fields on the RIGHT side as you come in the main entrance road and face the 6 big parking lots at the beach. Older maps show it on the opposite side.

Note that a “disc golf” course goes along the side of this field. Users get grumpy if you intrude on them, and there seem to be way too many of them. If you park in the center of the field you have no shade, but you are away from the disc-heads and the road. Some people drive awfully fast considering this is a park!

According to the park map, you can also park at the cul-de-sac at the end of Mattern Road, but it’s a pretty small area and the website does not mention it.

Trail Areas

Designated horse trails are mostly in the north/northeast corner of the park.

There is no easy way to get from one side of the lake to the other. If you want to ride the new trail connection from the park to the Lower Trail (nearby rail trail), you could park on the east shore of the lake. But then you can’t get to the park’s own horse trails! And note that you still have to ride on public roads for some distance to connect to the Lower Trail.

An improved connection between areas of the park and the Lower Trail is supposedly in the planning stage (2022).

Loop Trails

There are a number of looping options. Since all of these climb up and down Moore’s Hill, you are looking at 530-600 feet of vertical distance.

Mattern Trail is the western loop. It is quite steep in places. Our preferred direction is to climb up behind the historic lime kilns, as it is a bit muddy and not the easiest to come down. The climb is long and hard (1/4 mile of ~25%), and there is not much space to take a break part way up. The only good thing we can say is that somebody was smart enough to put mounting blocks and benches at the top of the hill! You will probably need it to check your girth after this climb.

On the other side of the loop you have to come back down an equal slope. It’s a bit rocky but doesn’t seem so muddy and slippery, probably because it gets more sunlight.

Map and profile of Mattern Trail loop (~3 miles)

Mattern + Moore’s Hill combines the western and eastern loops. We have not tried Moore’s Hill yet. The east side is supposedly pretty steep. Considering what Mattern Trail is like, we’d suggest approaching this section with caution!

Map and grade of Mattern Trail and Moores Hill Trail loop (3 miles)

Moore’s Hill loop is what we’ll call going up the middle of the hill and coming down the east side. The middle trail is part of Mattern trail. About 550 feet of vertical.

Map and grade of Moores Hill loop (~3.1 miles)

Trail Notes

Marking of trails could be better. Even with the map it is easy to take a wrong turn. The park should really improve signage. Prince Gallitzin can tell them how it should be done!

Mattern Trail behind the lime kilns is in a shady hollow. It may be muddy and slippery. In winter it is likely to hold ice and snow for a long time.

Hartman trail, which starts as a road past the water tower, has been suggested by other riders as a slightly easier grade connecting with Mattern and Moore’s Hill at the top of the hill. It’s technically not on the map as a horse trail, so we don’t want to suggest you break any rules 😉

Overgrown Fields between Redbud Lane and the lake offer some decent easy riding. They are broken up into blocks and you can spend time just poking around them and exploring the grassy trails, without the grades or rocks of Moore’s Hill.

Bradford Pear is a hazard in places around the fields and along some trails! This invasive plant has 2-3″ long thorns that can really hurt you. Be cautious of overhanging branches that may be this horrible stuff. You don’t want to get one in the face. We’d like to see the park work on cutting this stuff well back off trails.

Popularity

We’ve encountered a few other riders during our visits. There are several farms nearby, so you may encounter horses even if you don’t see trailers.

During summer months the park can be quite crowded with a lot of car traffic, especially during special events. But at those times bugs are likely to be bad, so you may not want to be there anyway.

Lake Access

If you want to dip your horse’s toes in the lake, the best place we have found is where Marsh road runs into the north side of the lake.

There are a few spots along Mary Ann’s creek north of the lake where you might be able to wade in that stream.

Bugs

Unfortunately, in late summer, large horseflies are absolutely horrible at the park in our experience! Even wearing “Bug Armor” and lots of fly spray our horses were relentlessly tormented by the blasted things.

Due to the amount of water and swampy areas, the park seems almost unusable for horse activities during the peak of insect season. We definitely recommend off-season visits.

Mounting Blocks

It’s nice that the park placed a mounting point at the top of the big climb on Mattern Trail, but how about one at the horse trailer parking?

There are some picnic tables at the Education center which come in handy for mounting, and aren’t right in the middle of things.

Water

I have yet to find a hydrant or any source of running water which is easy to get to. There are some small streams in different areas, and the lake.

Probably best to bring water for your horses and for bathing them.

Facilities

The west shore of the lake has restrooms with running water. The east shore has basic facilities.

Apparently there is a food concession down towards the beach during summer months, but we’ve never made it that far.

Hunting

Unfortunately most areas of the park are open to hunting. With the addition of hunting on some Sundays in Pennsylvania, it’s hard to know when some careless hunter might be shooting in your direction.

We highly recommend wearing fluorescent orange when riding in fall and winter.

Supplies

Most fuel and food options are about 5 miles west of the park on Rt 22, entering Hollidaysburg.

There is a store called Gerhart’s on Turkey Valley Road quite near the park. It’s supposed to have sandwiches, but not sure if that’s always the case. They are not open Sunday.

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