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 page is not an exhaustive list. It will be updated as I look into new locations.
New! Online map!
We’ve been working to get significant Pennsylvania rail trails that allow horse riding into OpenStreetMap routes. View them here…
You might also look at the Rails to Trails website listing of horse trails for PA, but horse info is sketchy:
Horses and Horseback Riding Permitted
The following Pennsylvania rail trails allow full or partial horse riding 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.
The trail hopes to extend into Hollidaysburg eventually. We hope this happens soon!
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
In 2022 the trail permitted an electric utility to pave a section north of Cornwall which has likely cut into the area permitting horses. The exact northern limit of riding is unclear, as they can’t be bothered to update their website. You should probably assume that horses are not allowed north of Cornwall borough.
Here is a GraphHopper map trimmed to Rocherty Road (the old northern limit)
View general trail info at TrailLink: Lebanon Valley Rail Trail
I’m not clear why this trail has a name change in the middle to the Conewago Recreation Trail (in Lancaster county). It should just be treated as 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).
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 nearby 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 bridge park!
The trail group for this section developed an equestrian parking area where you can park trailers in a grass field near the state park. There is a nearby picnic area. There are signs for trailer parking on Lindholm Road west of the bridge park.
Equestrian parking location:
- north side of Lindholm Rd
- about midway between Mt Jewett borough boundary and the state park
- approximate coordinates 41.74106, -78.60085
- this is a grass field so use caution in extremely wet weather
On weekends you can also park adjacent to the trail behind the Mount Jewett borough building (just off of US 6 on Center St). Parking is limited and please clean up after your horse!
The K&K 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.
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!
Allegheny River + Justus Trail
These two trails combine to run 32 miles along the Allegheny River southwest of Oil City. The trail is paved with a gravel road adjacent for horses.
Features include a number of bridges and two LONG tunnels, as well as the Sandy Creek Trail, which crosses overhead on an impressive bridge (see below).
At the southeast end near Foxburg the trail gets a little sketchy. Hopefully they can continue construction soon.
Sandy Creek Trail
This trail crosses the Allegheny River trail on the massive Belmar Bridge and runs 12 miles along the Allegheny River and East Sandy Creek. It includes a tunnel and 7 bridges.
It doesn’t seem like it’s improved as much as some trails, and parking at the west end seems sketchy. Otherwise it seems like it is well worth a visit!
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: find more info at the DCNR SGL pages
Horseback Use NOT Permitted
The following Pennsylvania rail 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 part of the state.
Wolf Run Trail
Dubois area. Not open to horses, also in a backwards-ass part of the state.