Kim's Favorite Northwest Horse Trails
Northwest Oregon Horse Trails
Northwest Oregon Horse Trails
For some of the best riding on the Oregon Coast, you need look no farther than Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria. In addition to riding on the beautiful beach, you’ll enjoy the most varied dune trails the coast has to offer. And nowhere else offers a real shipwreck: you can ride to what remains of the 1906 wreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted sailing ship that ran aground here on its way to the Columbia River.
Molalla River Recreation Site
Given its relative proximity to Portland, the Molalla River Recreation Site feels remarkably remote. With over 50 miles of trails (some open year round) that explore the forested hills above the Molalla River, this trail network has something for everyone. The Huckleberry Trail is an old forest road that is open to trail riders year round, and the summer trails offer multiple loop opportunities.
As you travel from Big Meadows Horse Camp to Santiam Lake, you’ll enjoy the dense forest, the meadows filled with seasonal wildflowers, and the views of Duffy Lake. Then be prepared to be dazzled by Santiam Lake, which on a calm day provides a stunning reflection of Three Fingered Jack.
There are other trails that offer good views of Mt. Hood, but the trail along Surveyors Ridge offers unobstructed vistas without subjecting your horse to a strenuous climb. You can park or camp at Gibson Prairie Horse Camp, and in less than a quarter of a mile you’ll be riding along the ridge crest, enjoying eye-popping views of Mt. Hood across the Hood River Valley below.
This 15-mile loop of Timothy Lake may seem a little long for some riders, but don’t let that deter you. It’s easy riding with very little elevation change as you circle the shore of Timothy Lake. You’ll have nice views of the lake all along the way, and if you detour at Hoodview Campground you’ll see Mt. Hood towering over the water. On a hot day, tie your horse and take a refreshing dip in the lake. And be sure to take the short spur trail to see the fascinating Little Crater Lake, which maintains a constant 34 degree temperature year round.
Central Oregon Horse Trails
The Oregon Badlands Wilderness offers year-round riding through a unique geological area featuring startling basalt outcroppings, dry creek beds, and ancient juniper trees that in some cases are over 1,000 years old. The Badlands Rock/Flatiron Rock Loop takes you past three of the most prominent rock formations in the area: Badlands Rock, Flatiron Rock, and Castle Rock. The latter two have deep fissures at the top that you can walk through on foot, so tie your horses at the base and clamber up to have a look.
This delightful loop ride starts at Todd Creek Horse Camp and offers stunning views of Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, and the Cascade Lakes area. And if you are there 4-6 weeks after the snow melts, you will be treated to a breathtaking display of wildflowers along the banks of the creeks.
This out-and-back trail runs along the spine of Green Ridge, a fault block ridge that defines the eastern edge of the Metolius Basin. Huge orange-barked Ponderosa Pines will shade your route, and you’ll have spectacular views of the Cascades and the Metolius Basin below. And at the far northern end of the trail there’s a fire lookout tower with a panoramic view.
The 20+ miles of horse trails on Peterson Ridge are the result of a remarkable collaboration between local equestrians and mountain bike riders. The horse trails are completely separate from the bike trails, and you’ll enjoy splendid views of the Cascades from various vantage points as you travel through mature Ponderosa forest. And all this is less than five miles from Sisters.
Sisters Mirror / Wickup Plain
This loop is an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. You can start at either Quinn Meadow Horse Camp or the Sisters Mirror trailhead, and will travel through old-growth forest to pretty Sisters Mirror Lake and then on to Wickiup Plain, a pumice plain that was produced the last time South Sister erupted. The views of South Sister and Broken Top are breathtaking.
SW Washington Horse Trails
This fabulous ride is part of the Nicholson Horse Trail System, a 65-mile network of dedicated horse trails that explore the hills near Elbe, WA. You’ll start at Sahara Creek Horse Camp and travel through dense forest and through clear-cut areas, gaining some elevation as you go. There are several sets of switchbacks, but the route is horse-friendly, with no steep traverses or drop-offs. You’ll be rewarded for your climbing with spectacular views of nearby Mt. Rainier from several vantage points along the 12.5 mile loop. Beautiful!
Big Tree Loop
Mt. Adams Horse Camp was developed to provide low-elevation recreation opportunities for horseback riders. And what opportunities they are! The easiest trail at Mt. Adams Horse Camp is the Big Tree Loop, a 5-mile route that takes you to the impressive Trout Lake Big Tree – at 202 feet tall and a whopping 84 inches in diameter, it is possibly the biggest ponderosa pine on record. The riding is fun, and the terrain is beautiful.
Cedar Creek Falls
Near Battle Ground, WA, Rock Creek Campground provides access to the Tarbell and Bells Mountain Trails, which explore the nearby hills in the Yacolt State Forest. While several interesting rides originate from the campground and its day-use area, the 6.5-mile round trip to Cedar Creek Falls is both memorable and fairly easy. And if you want to ride farther after you enjoy the waterfall, you can continue on the trail beside pretty Cedar Creek to make a nice 10.5 mile round trip.
Killen Creek/Muddy Meadows Loop
This ride out of Keenes Horse Camp has it all. Stunning views of the north side of Mt. Adams, so close you can almost touch it. Panoramic vistas of Mt. Rainier and the Goat Rocks. Grassy meadows. A delightful waterfall. An alpine lake with a reflection of Mt. Adams. Exceptional! This 13-mile loop gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation, and in places the Killen Creek Trail is so steep that its water bars seem like widely-spaced stairs. But the views are worth it!
Whipple Creek Park
The Vancouver-Clark Park Parks and Recreation District describes Whipple Creek Park as an “undeveloped regional park.” True enough, it has no ball diamonds and no manicured lawns. Instead, it features a pleasant 5-mile network of trails through a dense forest of mature Douglas-firs, maples, and cedars. The trails, which are open to horses, hikers and bikes, form several interconnected loops that are color-coded so you’ll always know where you are. Best of all, volunteers have been working hard to gravel the trails where needed to create a sustainable year-round trail tread. So what if it’s winter? You can ride at Whipple Creek!
Southern Oregon Horse Trails
At Bullards Beach State Park, you can ride along the pristine beach beside pounding surf or explore the trails that wind through the dunes. There’s even a lighthouse to visit. And the horse camp at the park has excellent facilities – everything you need for a fun weekend of riding.
This delightful loop trail originates at Harralson Horse Camp, near the shore of Waldo Lake. It runs through the area burned by the Charlton Fire as well as through beautiful unburned forest, and the contrast between the two is striking. Your destination is picturesque Charlton Lake, with its clear waters mirroring the blue of the sky above. Delightful!
North Bank Habitat
On BLM land just east of Roseburg, a habitat management area for Columbian white-tailed deer offers recreational riders a fun place to explore year round. The area is laced with trails and dirt roads, so you can create your own loop routes. You’ll enjoy panoramic views from the tops of the North Bank Habitat hills, and in spring and early summer the wildflowers are delightful.
Sterling Mine Ditch
In the 1870s, the Sterling Mine Ditch was built to supply water to a hydraulic gold mining operation. The ditch is 26.5 miles long and 3 feet deep, and was built in less than a year by 400 laborers, many of whom were Chinese. When the mine was operating, ditch riders patrolled the ditch by riding along its berm. You can ride 20 miles of the Ditch trail today, accessible from 5 trailer-friendly trailheads. The Ditch trail is open year round, and in spring and early summer the wildflowers are beautiful.