Published in the June 2012, issue of Trail Blazer.Click Here for a PDF file (3MB) of the article
It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year. We’ve made it to the mid-point as well as the longest day of the year, but it seems that prime riding season has only just begun. With the start of summer this is a perfect time to ride the trails and camp with our horses and mules. Hopefully you’ve been able to get both them, and you, in shape and ready for extended rides because that’s where we’re going this month. We’ll warm up with a visit to a state forest in Pennsylvania for over fifty miles of trails, then head to the west coast for seventy plus miles of trails amongst towering trees in Redwood National Park. We’ll wrap up this long riding month in Michigan with the 240 miles of trails that make up the Shore to Shore Trail system.
Pennsylvania - Loyalsock State Forest
Trailhead Coordinates: 41.43802, -76.60761
Located in north central Pennsylvania, Loyalsock State Forest is well over 100,000 acres of forest, cascading waterfalls, and of course trails. It includes 52 miles in two extensive loop bridle trails and even an equine friendly trailhead for camping with your horse or mule before and after your rides. It may not be a true wilderness but it’s certainly wild and will provide a welcome respite for those of us that enjoy nature from a saddle.
Wild also is a good reference to the camping accommodations. At Loyalsock you’ll trade luxurious camping for spectacular scenery and outstanding riding opportunities. The trailhead, along Double Run Road, also serves as the camping area with several campsites available for use. The campsites include highlines, a toilet, and not much else, including water so be sure to bring water for both yourself and stock. Horse campers will need to contact the Loyalsock forest headquarters prior to their trip to request a free camping permit.
From the camping area riders will have immediate access to the two long loops on either side of the road. Both loops are greater than twenty miles in length so you and your horse should be in shape and ready for a long day in the saddle. Riders looking for shorter excursions will find that many of the 130 miles of horse friendly forest roads allow for a quicker route back to camp.
The east loop totals 27 miles in length and includes the Loyalsock Canyon Vista, a must visit spot where you can enjoy panoramic views of the valley that spreads below you. Riders venturing onto the west loop will encounter old growth forest, challenging ravines, and stream crossings.
If you find yourself in this part of Pennsylvania you’ll find Loyalsock to be a ruggedly beautiful forest that is perfect for long days in the saddle.
California - Redwood National Park
Trailhead Coordinates: 41.29567, -124.04891
Many people know Redwood National Park as home to the tallest trees on earth. Horse and mule riders in the area also know it as a great place to ride that welcomes equestrian use on the trails. With over 100 miles of horse and mule friendly trails within the park this is a wonderful place to ride and camp. From the Orick Trailhead, next to the Orick Rodeo Grounds, you’ll be able to easily access over two thirds of those trails.
From the Orick trailhead you’ll head up and into the hills of the national park southeast of town on a series of four loop trails of varying length and difficulty. Heading out from the trailhead riders will have glorious views of the Pacific Ocean and Orick valley as they climb the ridge and begin wandering through the surrounding redwood forest.
At 7 miles and 14 miles in length the two shorter loop trails will certainly have you back to Orick in time for dinner. Riders looking for more adventure and willing to spend a night on the trail will enjoy the Elam Creek trail’s 20 miles and the Forty-Four Creek loop trail’s 32 miles. Riders wishing to spend a night on the trail will find that the well appointed Elam Creek Horse Camp a welcome break from a day in the saddle. The camp sits near a creek and is surrounded by scenic old growth redwoods. Riders will find that the camp features 3 camp sites open to stock use with a corral, picnic tables, bear proof lockers, and a toilet. There’s no potable water here so either bring your own or filter from the stream. Campers will find that the Orick Rodeo Grounds offer excellent access to the Orick trail as well as full hook ups for LQ rigs. If you’re planning on taking advantage of the amenities here it’s best to call the Orick Chamber of Commerce to reserve a spot prior to your trip as this is a very popular area.
Michigan - Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail
If the fifty plus miles of trails in the Loyalsock State Forest weren’t enough you might find the Michigan Shore to Shore Trail more to your liking with its 240 miles of trail that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron, crossing the entire lower peninsula of Michigan in the process.
Making the entire trip takes about 10 days and consists of following blue dots posted on trees and posts along the route. In addition to the blue trail markers you’ll also experience some of the most beautiful lakes, rivers, and forested areas in the nation as you make your way from camp to camp. The eastern portion of the route follows the AuSable River and the views from the high banks are breathtaking as you pass through scattered pine forest.
Riders not wishing, or not having time, to undertake the entire route will enjoy riding out from any of the 10 camps that are spaced about 25 miles apart along the trail. These camps are basic in nature and provide the essentials such as water and toilets.
Any discussion of the Shore to Shore Trail would be incomplete without a mention of the Michigan Trail Riders Association (MTRA). This group of dedicated volunteers help maintain the trail with numerous WorkBees, and also organize and promote several cross state treks each year. There’s a good chance that members of the MTRA are riding the entire 240 length of the trail as you’re reading this. To learn more about this great organization give them a visit at www.mtra.org.
As always, until next month, for more information on these and other equestrian riding destinations, please visit www.TrailMeister.com for the largest collection of validated trail riding and horse camping areas throughout the U.S.A.
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