Breathtaking views and delightful trails await you at Gibson Prairie Horse Camp, located at the base of Surveyors Ridge on the east flank of Mt. Hood. And this lightly-used horse camp is free of charge!
The Surveyors Ridge Trail runs the length of the summit of its namesake ridge, and you can ride it either northbound or southbound from the horse camp. The trail offers eye-popping views of Mt. Hood from several vantage points along the way.
The trail is popular with mountain bike riders, so keep an eye out and be prepared to step off the trail if you need to. (OK, I know that bikes are supposed to yield to horses, but on this kind of terrain it’s often easier for the horses to get off the trail than for the bike riders.) And remember that cyclists who live in the city may not know much about horses, so be friendly and accommodating to our fellow trail users.
The Horsemen’s Trails are a series of pleasant loop trails that explore the open forest and meadows around the horse camp. The trails use a combination of forest roads and single-track trails, and the terrain is gentle and horse-friendly. Most of the trails are unsigned, so you may want to carry a map and a GPS or compass. Plus, these trails are for horses only, so you won’t see any bikes.
The Watershed Boundary Trail is a relaxing ride that takes you through pretty mixed-conifer forest and open meadows to the boundary of The Dalles’ watershed, then along its perimeter for several miles. The trail runs along the top of a ridge, providing good views in both directions as you ride.
Fall is a great time to ride at Gibson Prairie, as the brilliant fall foliage of the vine maples contrasts beautifully with the golden grasses of the meadows and the deep greens of the forest.
Getting There: From Portland, head east on Hwy. 26. About 2.5 miles past Government Camp, turn north on Hwy. 35 toward Hood River. Continue 13.2 miles and turn right on Road 44. Drive 5.4 miles and veer left on Road 17. Continue 0.4 mile and make a 90-degree left turn to stay on Road 17. (Road 1720 goes straight ahead and is gravel.) The horse camp is 5.6 miles ahead. From Hood River, drive south on Hwy. 35 for 14 miles and turn left on Pine Mont Drive, which becomes Road 17. Continue 9.7 miles to the horse camp.
Fees: None. The camp is maintained by volunteers from Back Country Horsemen
Season: Summer through fall
Camping Facilities: Five sites, three of which have 4-horse log corrals. Most of the sites are level and all are graveled. All sites have picnic tables and fire pits. The camp has a vault toilet, stock water from a trough, and a manure bin.
More Information: The trails out of Gibson Prairie Horse Camp are covered in more detail in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2013).