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 horse riding. It’s often a real PITA trying to find the information buried on trail websites, and sometimes they can’t even be bothered to include it.
There are plenty of other options for horseback riding, such as state and national parks, and some state game lands allow equestrians (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.
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…
|Boston PA (east of McKeesport) to Connellsville PA||Not the most exciting section of the trail, few bridges.||39 miles||map link|
|Rockwood PA to Garrett PA||Segment ends west of Salisbury viaduct||about 7.3 miles||map link|
|Frostburg MD to PA border||Includes Borden tunnel but ends short of Big Savage tunnel. Parking at Frostburg seems tight for a horse trailer.||about 5 miles||map 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
Horseback riding is permitted on the entire 16.5 mile length! Please use only the grass berms wherever possible.
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; unfortunately the connecting section will almost certainly not accommodate horses.
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, most of which I believe is now asphalted.
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 under-developed 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 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!
New Portage Branch
While not really developed as a rail trail, part of this former-railroad route north of old route 22 at Muleshoe Curve belongs to State Game Lands 198 and and is a designated trail open to horse use. SGL says it is 6.8 miles, though it is out and back.
It’s been a while since I visited, but I remember it being pretty rough, surfaced with old railroad ballast. The far end gets close to new US 22 and is a bit noisy. Note that use is restricted at certain times of year: check the DCNR SGL pages for info.
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!).
6 to 10 Trail
The named portion of this trail from near Duncansville to the Allegheny Portage National Historic Site is not open to horses BUT a section of the New Portage Branch (former PRR) north of Route 22 at Muleshoe Curve is part of State Game Lands 198 and is a designated trail open to horse use. Note that use is restricted at certain times of year: check the DCNR SGL pages for info.
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.