Horse Riding at Point Reyes National Seashore

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Two horse riders riding toward us pass by six hikers on a trail crossing a meadow.

Horses and other pack animals are permitted on most established trails and beaches at Point Reyes National Seashore. They may not travel off trail because conditions are not maintained for their safety, and their presence can negatively impact the environment. You can download maps indicating which trails are designated for horse travel or stop by one of the park's Visitor Centers to pick up a trail map and obtain more information.

Five Brooks Ranch (415-663-1570) is a full service riding stable with a concession to operate within the National Seashore. They offer a variety of activities and services, including guided trail rides.

 

Rules and Regulations

Rules pertaining to horses and horse riding at Point Reyes National Seashore are much the same as at other parks. A few of the rules that will apply to most horse riders include:

  • Grazing is prohibited.
  • Off-trail or cross-country travel is prohibited, except within 100 feet of the trail for purposes of watering and rest stops.
  • Stock users are prohibited from establishing new trails and from short cutting trails and switchbacks.
  • Do not leave pack animals unattended for extended periods of time in campground areas, unless you are camping at the site and have obtained a permit for overnight use.
  • Horses may only be tied to hitching rails, not to trees, faucets, picnic tables, etc. When picketed on a line, stock must be tied so they cannot chew on tree bark or eat the leaves of shrubs or plants.
  • Observe trails and areas that are closed to horses.

Additional regulations may be found in the Superintendent's Compendium.

Horse Riding on Beaches

While horse riding is welcome on park beaches, be aware that shorebirds may be nesting in more remote sections of beach. Please ride as close to the water's edge as is safe, and preferably below the high tide line when the tide is out, to reduce the risk of inadvertently stepping on any bird nests or scaring adult birds away from their eggs or chicks. Some beaches are seasonally closed to better protect nesting western snowy plovers.

Invasive Weeds

To help control the spread of non-native plants, please:

  • Feed your horse certified weed-free hay/feed for at least three days before visiting the park or going on other public lands.
  • Before leaving home, spray down your vehicle and trailer with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.
  • Clean your horse's hooves with a handheld brush before leaving home and before leaving the park.
  • Horse users are prohibited from unloading manure and hay from their trailers into parking lots or elsewhere within the national seashore.
  • Before and after you ride, check the mane, tail, legs, and gear and remove seeds and plant material.
    • For tough burrs, apply a small amount of coconut oil on the burr and surrounding hair. Pinch the burr between your fingers to break it up into pieces and comb it out of the hair.

More Information

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Safety and Etiquette

Trail conditions vary throughout the year. Visit our Trail Guide and Trail Advisories and Closures pages or check with park staff at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in person or by phone (415-464-5100) before your ride for current trail information and special closures. There are also some trails and areas of the park described below that are permanently closed to horses and pack animals.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is a common plant at Point Reyes National Seashore and some trails may be overgrown with nettle at certain times of the year, especially during the spring and summer. Horses can react strongly if they are stung by stinging nettle's small needle-like hairs. Stung horses may begin to panic and leave the trail, thereby moving deeper into the nettles. In extreme cases, horses have died after extensive exposure to this plant. Both horse and rider should avoid this plant. The best way to do this is to stay in the center of the trail.

Yellow Jackets

Horse riders should pay attention to signs at trailheads warning about yellow jackets, in addition to being alert for increasing numbers of yellow jackets. As a horse passes near a yellow jacket nest, it can shake the nest. Yellow jackets will then swarm out to defend the nest. If you are on a horse that is being attacked by yellow jackets, you will definitely want to promptly move out of the area. Some horses might panic upon being stung and may start bucking and bolting. Use your knowledge of your horse's temperament and your best judgment to resolve the situation.

Other Safety and Etiquette Guidelines

Horse riding etiquette and safety guidelines at Point Reyes National Seashore are much the same as at other parks:

  • Carry plenty of water!
  • Always take a trail map with you. Free maps are available at visitor centers. Study the map carefully before beginning your trip so that you will know the names and locations of trails. In the event of an accident, this will assist rangers in locating the injured party quicker.
  • It is best not to ride alone. In case of an accident, send someone to the nearest visitor center or ranger station or call 911. Give a good description of your location and the nature of injury to both horse and rider.
  • Allow plenty of time for your ride. Trails over Inverness Ridge can be steep and physically stressful for your horse. Plan adequate rest stops.
  • Please share the trail. Horses have the right of way: hikers yield to horses and are asked to stand on the downhill side of slopes, and bicyclists yield to both horses and hikers.
  • Remain alert. Remember that interactions can occur with little warning on curves and hills. Slow your horse to a walk when encountering other trail users.
  • Allow plenty of time for your ride. Trails over Inverness Ridge can be steep and physically stressful for your horse. Plan adequate rest stops.

Multimedia:

NPSWilderness has produced three videos entitled Wilderness Calling: Point Reyes, Wilderness Motion: Point Reyes, and Wilderness Visions: Point Reyes featuring images and sounds from the Phillip Burton Wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore, in addition to two videos about NPS wilderness: America's Wilderness and Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics which horse riders and other visitors to Point Reyes may find of interest.

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Areas Closed to Horses and Pack Animals

Mount Wittenberg Trail is closed to horses until further notice due to damage from the Woodward Fire.

On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the following trails (Map - 140 KB PDF) are closed to horses and pack animals:

  • Bear Valley Trail between the Mt. Wittenberg Trail and Glen Trail junctions
  • Meadow Trail and Old Pine Trail

Horses and pack animals are not allowed in the following areas at any time:

  • Drakes Beach
  • Self-guided interpretive trails such as the Earthquake Trail, the Woodpecker Trail, or Kule Loklo
  • Dunes and vegetated areas on beaches.
  • Off trail in campgrounds, picnic areas or vicinity.

The following areas have seasonal closures:

  • The western end of Limantour Spit is closed to all entry from March 1 through June 30 to protect harbor seals. Please stay at least 91 meters (300 feet) away from harbor seals.
  • The Point Reyes Beach between the North Beach parking lot and the mouth of Abbotts Lagoon is closed to all entry on weekends and federal holidays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day to better ensure the survival of western snowy plover nests and chicks.
  • The southern portion of South Beach is closed to all entry from December 15 to March 31 to protect northern elephant seals. Please stay at least 8 meters (25 feet) away from elephant seals.

Llamas are prohibited from all areas that are inhabited by tule elk. Map (180 KB PDF)


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Popular Trail Rides

From Bear Valley

  • Bear Valley Trail to the Coast Trail junction.
    This is the most direct and level route to the ocean from this trailhead. No beach access. Bear Valley Trail is not open to horses on weekends and holidays between the Mt. Wittenburg trail junction and the junction with the Baldy and Glen Trails. Easy. 13.1 kilometers / 8.2 miles. This route is closed to horses on weekends and federal holidays.
  • San Andreas Fault.
    Take the Rift Zone Trail to the Five Brooks Trailhead and back. Mostly flat trail with cattle gates. The trail can be extremely muddy during the rainy season. Easy. 13.8 kilometers / 8.6 miles.
  • Mt. Wittenberg. This route is closed until further notice due to the Woodward Fire.
    Take the Morgan Trail to the Horse Trail to the Z Ranch Trail to the Mt. Wittenberg Trail to the Bear Valley Trail to trailhead. The Horse Trail begins behind the Morgan Horse Ranch pastures, halfway between the ranch and Kule Loklo. Horses are prohibited on the Kule Loklo Trail. Please do not take horses into the Kule Loklo village. Moderate. 9.1 kilometers / 5.7 miles.
  • Inverness Ridge via Mount Wittenberg Trail. This route is closed until further notice due to the Woodward Fire.
    Take the Bear Valley Trail to the Mount Wittenberg Trail to the Sky Trail to the Coast Trail to the Bear Valley Trail then back to the trailhead. Strenuous. 17.3 kilometers / 10.8 miles.
  • Inverness Ridge via Meadow Trail.
    Take the Bear Valley Trail to the Meadow Trail to the Sky Trail to the Coast Trail to the Bear Valley Trail then back to the trailhead. Strenuous. 17.3 kilometers / 10.8 miles. This route is closed to horses on weekends and federal holidays.
  • Coastal Ride. This route is closed until further notice due to the Woodward Fire.
    Take the Bear Valley Trail to the Mount Wittenberg Trail to the Sky Trail to the Woodward Valley Trail to the Coast Trail to the Fire Lane Trail to the Sky Trail to the Horse Trail to trailhead. You can get down to a beach at Coast Camp. Strenuous. 20.3 kilometers / 12.7 miles.

From Five Brooks Trailhead

  • San Andreas Fault.
    Take the Rift Zone Trail to the Bear Valley Trailhead and back. Mostly flat trail with cattle gates. The trail can be extremely muddy during the rainy season. Easy. 13.8 kilometers / 8.6 miles.
  • Wildcat Beach.
    Take the Stewart Trail to Wildcat Camp and back. You can get down to a beach at Wildcat Camp. Many trails exist in this area, so a variety of loop trips may be ridden. Moderate to Strenuous. 21.4 kilometers / 13.4 miles.
  • Lakes Tour.
    Take the Olema Valley Trail to the Bolema Trail to the Lake Ranch Trail to the Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp/Beach to the Stewart Trail to the Greenpicker Trail to the Stewart Trail to the trailhead. Strenuous. 22.6 kilometers / 14.1 miles.

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Camping with Horses and Pack Animals

Backcountry Campgrounds

Camping is by permit only in three established campgrounds. Permits must be obtained at the Bear Valley Visitor Center before starting your trip. All advance reservations are now handled by Recreation.gov. Visit our Backcountry Camping page for more information.

The maximum number of horses or pack animals permitted overnight at Sky, Coast and Wildcat Campgrounds is six. Horses are not permitted overnight at Glen Camp. Llamas are not permitted at Coast Campground.

Pack animals and horses must be tied to hitching rails. Do not hitch animals to water supply faucets or picnic tables.

Grazing in the wilderness areas is prohibited. All feed for the animals must be packed in with you. In order to control the spread of non-native plants, please bring in only weed-free feed.

There is usually potable water available at each of the camps from faucets. Sky and Wildcat Campgrounds also have a water trough for horses and pack animals.

Commercial Horseback Trips

A Commercial Use Authorization is required for commercial horseback riding or pack trains into the backcountry. Call 415-464-5111 for more information.

Five Brooks Horse Camp

Overnight camping is also available during the summer and fall at the Five Brooks Horse Camp. This is a privately managed camp located on Highway 1, 0.4 kilometer (1/4 mile) north of Five Brooks Trailhead. Please call the Five Brooks Ranch for reservations at 415-663-1570.

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Last updated: October 7, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station , CA 94956

Phone:

415-464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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