Horseback Riding in Yellowstone National Park: A Complete Guide

Yellowstone National Park, renowned for its geysers, wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes, offers an unparalleled experience for those seeking adventure on horseback. This timeless mode of exploration allows visitors to traverse the park's diverse terrain, providing a unique perspective that can't be replicated by car or foot. Here's a comprehensive guide on where to go, necessary permits, and safety tips for horseback riding in Yellowstone.

River crossing along the Garnet Hill Loop Trail

Where to Go

Yellowstone's vast expanse boasts numerous trails suited for horseback riding, catering to both beginners and experienced riders. Here are some of the top spots:

  1. Lamar Valley: Known as the "Serengeti of North America," Lamar Valley offers open meadows and abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, and occasionally, wolves and bears. The wide-open spaces make it an ideal location for riding.
  2. Canyon Area: Trails in this area provide stunning views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its impressive waterfalls. The Seven Mile Hole Trail is a popular choice, offering challenging terrain and rewarding vistas.
  3. Gallatin Range: Located in the northwestern part of the park, the Gallatin Range features a mix of forested trails and alpine meadows. The Fawn Pass Trail is a favorite among riders, leading to serene backcountry campsites.
  4. Blacktail Plateau: This trail offers rolling hills and expansive views, making it a great option for those looking for a less strenuous ride. Wildlife sightings are common, adding to the allure of this route.
  5. Slough Creek: This trail offers a more secluded experience, with beautiful meadows and ample opportunities for spotting wildlife. It's particularly popular among anglers due to its prime fishing spots.
  6. Pebble Creek: For those seeking a backcountry adventure, the Pebble Creek Trail offers rugged terrain and stunning views. This trail is ideal for experienced riders looking for a challenge.
  7. Specimen Ridge: This trail provides panoramic views and passes through areas rich in fossils. It's a fantastic choice for riders interested in geology and natural history.
  8. Garnet Hill Loop Trail: This 8-mile loop trail near Tower Junction offers a mix of forested areas and open meadows. It's a moderate trail with scenic views, perfect for riders looking to experience a variety of Yellowstone's landscapes.

Horseback riding along the Slough Creek Trail


To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, riders must obtain the appropriate permits:

  • Day Use: For day trips, a free day-use permit is required. These can be obtained from any backcountry office in the park. It's essential to check in and out with rangers to keep track of your journey.
  • Overnight Trips: For those planning to camp in the backcountry, an overnight permit is necessary. These permits can be reserved in advance through the park's website or at backcountry offices. It's important to book early, especially during peak season, as permits are limited.


Horseback riding in Yellowstone comes with its own set of safety considerations. Here are some crucial tips:

  1. Wildlife Awareness: Yellowstone is home to a variety of wildlife. Always maintain a safe distance from animals, especially bison and bears, which can be unpredictable. Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
  2. Trail Etiquette: Yield to hikers and be courteous to other trail users. Stick to designated trails to minimize environmental impact and prevent getting lost.
  3. Weather Preparedness: Weather in Yellowstone can change rapidly. Dress in layers and be prepared for sudden rain or temperature drops. Always carry a map, compass, and extra food and water.
  4. Rider Experience: Choose trails that match your riding experience. If you're a beginner, opt for easier, shorter trails. More experienced riders can venture onto challenging routes, but it's essential to know your limits.
  5. Opt for a Guided Tour: If you're unfamiliar with the park or inexperienced in backcountry riding, consider opting for a guided tour. Local outfitters provide knowledgeable guides who can enhance your experience by ensuring your safety and sharing insights about the park's natural history and wildlife.

Guided tours are a safe way to experience horseback riding

Horseback riding in Yellowstone National Park offers a magical way to explore its diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife. By following this guide on where to go, obtaining the necessary permits, and adhering to safety tips, you can make the most of your equestrian adventure in this iconic national park. Whether you're a seasoned rider or a novice, the trails of Yellowstone promise an unforgettable experience, connecting you with nature in a truly unique way.


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