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What information would you like to know about new trails?

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  • What information would you like to know about new trails?

    I hope this is okay to post here, but I'm in the process of writing a guide book about horse trails in my state. We have tons of really great trails that are often designed specifically for horses (with pens and such in the camping areas even!) but aren't very well-known.

    I would just like to hear from everyone...what kind of information would you like to know before going out for a day ride or camping trip on a new trail? I'm especially interested in input from you casual trail riders including folks who mostly do other disciplines but like to ride out for fun as that's the audience I'm writing for--we have lots of really serious endurance riders and back country riders in the area, but they tend to know all the trails already. Of course any input is welcome, though!

    I'm of course going to include distance, difficulty, and a basic writeup of the amenities as well as a general description of the trail and any special sights or features along the way, but I'd like to hear what you guys are interested in. What would you like to see in a local trail guide?
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    great idea, will you do one of vermont when you're done?
    (i'm not kidding, this state really needs a riding guide for tourists and local alike(!
    so being a bit anal about guides, i'd like to see (where possible of course)
    a trail map, description of parking, turnarounds, bathroom,picnic tables, potable water, manure pit, firepit, etc.
    than i can decide if i should bring the camper or just tent, hi-line or portable corral, that kind of thing.

    it would also be neat to rate the trails, like ski trails maybe from easiest to most challenging, length, views, picnic stop, as well.

    which state are you working on? i think pa has a decent guide to riding in state parks.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I'm in NM...if it goes over well I'll do other states if someone will put me up for a few months so I can explore... Great suggestions, I appreciate it!
      exploring the relationship between horse and human

      Comment


      • #4
        A friend of mine wrote one a few years ago for Utah that is pretty good. In addition to what you list, he provided things like elevation at trailhead, steepest grade on the trail, distance and total elevation to be negotiated as well as length of ride (since there are subtle differences, three miles can take longer if it's steep or trappy), months of accessibility, temperature ranges, predominant trail surfaces, known hazards, whether weed free hay is required, GPS coordinates at trailhead, and other things! He also listed for each trail the relevant land manager office and phone, as well as area vets, feed stores, law enforcement, and extra tips here and there such as size and capacity of parking lots, dates or times of year to avoid, and such. He also notes whether to bring your own water (although I do that routinely anyway). It's also good to note water availability along the trail- we have a lot of trails around here that have plenty of water opportunities, others in the desert, often no water, and so that has a bearing on when you would want to ride such places (as in not on a hot day!).

        Comment


        • #5
          A friend of mine wrote 2 for Fla - called Florida on Horseback, volumes 1 & 11 - you can get them on Amazon.com i fyou wanted to check them out to use as reference

          she divided Fla by region, gave hoofprints for various things - campground amenities, trail maintenance, shade, hazards, etc she listed directions, comments on the trails, etc very helpful. She wrote them before GPS's were big, but you should include coordinates. I am proud that she included 8 of my photos in volume 1 and dedicated the book to her husband and me. I gave her the idea and alot of info for the book

          someone else put something together for Fla recently and it's in an online format, so she can sell you updates. A friend bought it, but I found it didn't list that many places and the info was what you could get yourself through research.

          Comment


          • #6
            There are two books out by Caroyn Cook here in Pennsylvania- "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails" covering eastern PA and "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails 2" covering western PA. My friends and I have almost worn out sets of these since they've been published. I would highly recommend looking at them for an example.

            Carolyn gives great directions to parking and trail heads. She goes as far to tell you what size rigs will fit into parking areas and which ones to avoid if you are using larger trailers.

            She lists local professionals in each area in case of emergency, such as farriers and veterinarians. She also list places to camp or overnight as well.

            Alll the information we have gotten from her books has been extremely reliable and accurate.
            "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

            Comment


            • #7
              Address!

              The actual, physical address of the trailhead is OFTEN left out of descriptions, at least in my experience in researching new trails to explore in Ohio. Often they give "directions". *cough* "It's located at the North East corner of Such-and-such State Park/Forrest off of Exit 7239 on Interstate 890. Only 20 min from the main roads!" WTF? I can drive right to it with my GPS if I only had a stinking address!!!!

              <Off soapbox>



              Good luck with your guide, I've often wished that there were one for our state as well.

              Comment


              • #8
                Char, I agree with you about the ability to put an address into a GPS. The books for PA were written about 7-8 years ago I believe, before GPSs were widely used. I agree that it would be so much easier to be able to program it in and go! I spoke to a park ranger yesterday about parking for a state park and he could not give me coordinates for a location, although he did his best to give me a good description. I will be visiting the parking lot without truck and trailer first to 1) make sure I can find it and 2) make sure I can fit in with a crew cab truck and 32' lq trailer!
                "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

                Comment


                • #9
                  IMO it'd be helpful to have either a link to a GPS of the trail, or a CD with the GPS of the trail(s) on it.

                  I post some of my rides, and refer to other people's rides, on Everytrail.com. The file containing the GPS of the trails can be uploaded to one's own unit.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cutter99 View Post
                    There are two books out by Caroyn Cook here in Pennsylvania- "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails" covering eastern PA and "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails 2" covering western PA. My friends and I have almost worn out sets of these since they've been published. I would highly recommend looking at them for an example.

                    Carolyn gives great directions to parking and trail heads. She goes as far to tell you what size rigs will fit into parking areas and which ones to avoid if you are using larger trailers.

                    She lists local professionals in each area in case of emergency, such as farriers and veterinarians. She also list places to camp or overnight as well.

                    Alll the information we have gotten from her books has been extremely reliable and accurate.
                    Just FYI, I agree with this statement, but since these books were written, Natural Gas drilling has really hit the northern parts of PA. Places I used to ride, are no longer safe, at least while they are setting up the well heads. Most of our State Forest roads are built for small, slow, minimal traffic. The Gas trucks are big, fast, and have attitude You do not want to meet them with a trailer behind you. Or on horseback. So until this dies down (if it ever does) I would certainly call around before hauling to any of these trails. Most of the trails South of Interstate 80, seem safe, so far.
                    Facta non verba

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Thanks for all the great suggestions, guys! The GPS coordinates especially, I don't think I would have considered that. I really appreciate it.
                      exploring the relationship between horse and human

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I just want it well organized and in bullet list or spread sheet form.
                        Size of parking area
                        what facilities if any
                        length of trails and rough estimate of toughness (like a 1-4 scale)
                        water available on the trail: again a simple yes/no/seasonal
                        relevant regulations/hunting dates or links to that data
                        GPS data
                        is overnight camping allowed in parking area and in the woods/on the trails

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lawndart- Do you know if Cook Forest has been effected by the drilling? It's on my bucket list of places to go and I was hoping I would get there this year!
                          "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            it is always nice to know if you will encounter water on the trail somewhere for the horses to drink. I ride much more conservatively if i know my horses won't be able to drink until they get back to camp.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by cutter99 View Post
                              Lawndart- Do you know if Cook Forest has been effected by the drilling? It's on my bucket list of places to go and I was hoping I would get there this year!
                              I'm sorry, I don't know. Most of the State Forests have ranger station number you can call to find out trail conditions. If I could FIND my ride PA trails book, I'd have that info! Sorry.
                              Facta non verba

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Char View Post
                                The actual, physical address of the trailhead is OFTEN left out of descriptions, at least in my experience in researching new trails to explore in Ohio. Often they give "directions". *cough* "It's located at the North East corner of Such-and-such State Park/Forrest off of Exit 7239 on Interstate 890. Only 20 min from the main roads!" WTF? I can drive right to it with my GPS if I only had a stinking address!!!!

                                <Off soapbox>
                                Amen to that - an actual address or specific directions to the campground are a huge help, especially if there is no guard shack, park office, or campground office located on the premises. If it's a privately-owned campground, then contact information for the owner or a web site is always helpful. If it's public or state-owned, then contact information for the park system is a huge help.

                                A good description of the camping facilities is a must; not just a general "amentities" list, but more detailed information about the size/type of trailers that the campground can accommodate, the number of sites available, whether or not stalls are available or if there are tie-lines/posts provided for the horses.

                                Driving directions should take rigs of all sizes into consideration. It could be a really beautiful, well-kept campground with full hook-ups at every site, but if the road to get there is steep or narrow, with twists and turns that a large rig simply couldn't get through and there are no alternate routes, then that's the kind of stuff people would need to know before even making reservations.

                                If it tends to be a more quiet campground vs. "party central," that may also be worth noting. Is it exclusively a horseman's camp, or is it open to all types of campers?

                                Granted, sometimes you just can't guarantee who your next-door neighbors will be, but some campgrounds are much more strict than others when it comes to enforcing rules about noise, loose dogs, vehicles-per-site, riding speed through camp, etc.

                                Another thing worth knowing is where the campground is in relation to the trail system. I've seen some places advertise that they have "immediate access" to some large trail system - but what they don't mention is that you have to ride an hour (or more) out on one trail just to get to any of the other trailheads, and then ride that same trail to get back to the campground at the end of the ride.

                                When it comes to the trails themselves, I like to know how well-marked the trails are, trail lengths, terrain type, and how to access up-to-date maps of the trail system. Are the trails generally wide-open or narrow, steep or level, rocky or muddy, paved or gravel or dirt or sand? Do equestrians share use of the trails with any others (hikers, cyclists)?

                                Also, any information regarding land management and conservation - such as policies of closing trails due to weather conditions, river levels, etc. and how to access up-to-date reports - would be useful. Any points of interest along the way, such as historical sites or places that welcome horseback riders to stop and tie up? Any wildlife common to the area that may pose a threat (venemous snakes, aggressive species, etc).

                                Personally, I'd steer clear of trying to come up with a "rating" system. For example, saying "this is a great novice/beginner" trail or "don't attempt this trail unless you and your horse are experienced and in good condition." I've seen people take rating systems way too personally when it comes to evaluating their own riding abilities.
                                Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by JollyBadger View Post


                                  When it comes to the trails themselves, I like to know how well-marked the trails are, trail lengths, terrain type, and how to access up-to-date maps of the trail system. Are the trails generally wide-open or narrow, steep or level, rocky or muddy, paved or gravel or dirt or sand? Do equestrians share use of the trails with any others (hikers, cyclists)?

                                  Also, any information regarding land management and conservation - such as policies of closing trails due to weather conditions, river levels, etc. and how to access up-to-date reports - would be useful. Any points of interest along the way, such as historical sites or places that welcome horseback riders to stop and tie up? Any wildlife common to the area that may pose a threat (venemous snakes, aggressive species, etc).

                                  Personally, I'd steer clear of trying to come up with a "rating" system. For example, saying "this is a great novice/beginner" trail or "don't attempt this trail unless you and your horse are experienced and in good condition." I've seen people take rating systems way too personally when it comes to evaluating their own riding abilities.
                                  What PA did was color the areas of trail red that were rocky and steep (and they are seriously rocky ;-( believe me!) It is also coded differently when you are riding on the road, or on the trail.

                                  In the Ride PA trails book, the author listed area Vets, Farriers, and I think hospitals, JIC. Great idea. She also listed driving conditions to the area, and how long their rig was.

                                  Somewhere the rider/driver has to take responsibility for checking this stuff before hand. There should be a central number you can call and ask informed questions. But if you are driving a rig that is 28' long, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure you can get there safely.
                                  It is our responsibility as equestrians to make sure our horses are as prepared to get out there on public trails as they can possibly be. It only takes a few incidents to turn people off horses totally.

                                  Please remember to clean up your site before you leave, day or overnight camper. Nothing like a pile of horse poop to turn off the general public. Or a pile of trash.

                                  (Comments not directed toward JollyBadger, just quoting her to comment on)
                                  Facta non verba

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Who do horsemen share the trail with? In California we have various signage showing situations such as bikes yield to walkers who yield to horses, no bikes allowed, no horses allowed. The main thing I want to know is how many bicyclists I will encounter. Some trails are open to all but the bikers don't usually like them - too far out, rough tracks.

                                    Also it's good to know if there is a fee for parking.

                                    Good luck with your project!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by lawndart View Post
                                      Somewhere the rider/driver has to take responsibility for checking this stuff before hand. There should be a central number you can call and ask informed questions. But if you are driving a rig that is 28' long, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure you can get there safely.

                                      It is our responsibility as equestrians to make sure our horses are as prepared to get out there on public trails as they can possibly be. It only takes a few incidents to turn people off horses totally.

                                      Please remember to clean up your site before you leave, day or overnight camper. Nothing like a pile of horse poop to turn off the general public. Or a pile of trash.
                                      On the driving thing - I agree. Those people with the 40' trailer/LQ combos especially need to be sure they know their own limitations. It is helpful, though, to know if there are routes that should absolutely be avoided even if they seem more "direct" on the GPS or map.

                                      And I second the "clean up your site" comment. Pulling in to a camping area, especially one with a hitching rail or tie area, to find that the previous campers apparently didn't believe in mucking out, is not a fun way to start the camping trip. And if the campground doesn't have dumpsters or garbage bins. . .yeah. . .you're going to have to "pack out" your trash.

                                      It amazes me how many people will just leave a bag of garbage at a site rather than haul it out when they leave.
                                      Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        From the perspective of another type of &quot;driver&quot;

                                        Are the trails cart friendly? Down here in Florida, we have a lot of folks who like to trail drive (yours truly one of them).

                                        That is not to say that the trails have to be 2 tracks, just wide enough for the average 4 foot wide cart. Most riders don;t think about that because they never drive their horse.

                                        Are there ditches or canals that have to be manuvered through?

                                        Actually I can go anywhere a rider can go if there is 4 feet of width or no sheer drops into canals etc.

                                        The knee knocker trails are the ones that will stop a cart unless there is space enough to get around the narrow tree widths. Is the a dense under brush that would not allow for a cart.

                                        Are there walk throughs that a cart can get through or are gate combinations needed?

                                        I would check with local driving clubs to see where they like to go and add that to your information.
                                        Last edited by Cartfall; May. 24, 2011, 10:27 AM.

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