What better way to experience the beauty of the Ozark Mountains than by horseback? Horseback riding is becoming more and more popular in the Ozarks. You can enjoy much more scenery and backwoods by horse than can be reached by car. There are an abundance of trails for horses in the Buffalo National River and Ozark Mountains.
Horseback riding in the Ozarks and Buffalo National River will find you among the untamed wilderness. The area is abundant in wildlife, historic sites, beautiful spring wildflowers, exquisite fall colors, and waterfalls that will amaze you. Traveling in the back country is also a great way to learn about the animals, trees and birds that are found in the Ozark Mountains.
Horseback riding is available year round in the Ozarks. The list of trails below will offer paths for more skilled horseback riders as well as less skilled riders. Some trails offer long distance rides with horse friendly campsite locations while others appeal to short day rides.
Horseback Riding Trails in the Buffalo National River:
Designated trails for horseback riding are located in all areas of the Buffalo National River. In the upper district, the Old River, Cecil Cove Loop, Center Point, and Sneed Creek Trails are horse routes. In the middle district, riders enjoy the Buffalo River Trail. In the lower district, the Cook Hollow/Cow Creek trail accessed at Hathaway Gap is the most used area.
Two camping areas in the upper river are designated for visitors with horses, Steel Creek and Erbie. Steel Creek horse camp offers 14 sites, and Erbie horse camp offers 5 sites. Use is limited to 6 persons and 4 horses per site with a 7-day limit per stay. In the middle district, Woolum Campground is a designated horse camp. In the Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area, visitors may camp at Big Creek or Hathaway Gap trailheads.
Horses have a greater impact on trails than do hikers, so please keep horses off trails marked with a white blaze and designated for hiking only. All trail users should make decisions and choose practices that will cause the least amount of damage and leave only short-term impacts on the environment.
Buffalo River Trail- Woolum to Gilbert
Open to horses, this trail section is a mountain trail riding experience and a sure footed mount is required. The trail makes two river crossings, climbs steep pitches and borders cliff tops. The trail begins at Woolum Horse Campground and continues downstream to Tyler Bend Campground across Highway 65 and further downstream. There is a 1/7 mile spur that connects to the town of Gilbert. This trail is 17.7 miles long.
Lower Buffalo Wilderness Area
Access this trail from Hathaway Hollow Trailhead off State Highway 101 east southeast of the community of Cotter. For the trail rider who really wants to get away from it all, this remote wilderness area on the lower Buffalo River offers many opportunities. This 22,500 acre wilderness features over 25 miles of former logging, mining and settlement roads which provide access to scenic vistas, thickly forested valleys and clear mountain streams. Since this is a designated wilderness, there are no mechanized vehicles allowed and trails are classified as primitive. This trail is 25 miles long.
Old River Trail
Access this trail at Ponca Trailhead, Erbie Trailhead or the Pruitt Trailhead. This trail is mostly level and follows the river downstream from Ponca to Pruitt. Although the trail is rated easy, be aware the trail crosses the river 20 times between Ponca and Erbie and 6 more times between Erbie and Pruitt. This trail is 24 miles in length.
Point Peter Bench, Richland Valley Loop
Access at Woolum Horse Camp and cross the river near mouth of Richland Creek. The trail offers scenic views and opportunities to explore the surrounding wilderness area. This trail is 9.8 miles long.
Access to this trial is from South Boxley Trailhead on State Highway 21 just as it climbs south out of Boxley Valley. This trail is moderate to strenuous with long and winding hills. This trail is 10 miles long.
Tips while riding along the Buffalo River:
1. Horses may not be tied directly to trees. A "high picket line" rigged outside of your camp area or hitch racks, where provided, prevents unnecessary damage to trees.
2. Traveling outside the established tread, to ride abreast or to avoid rocks or mud, breaks down the trail edge and widens the trail. It can also lead to the development of multiple trails.
3. Riders are responsible for removing or scattering horse manure from camp areas, trailheads, and loading areas.
4. Where available, camp in previously used sites on durable surfaces away from streams and trails.
5. Tie horses off the trail and away from wet or boggy areas. Rocky ground that catches a breeze will discourage insects and allow horses to stand quieter.
6. When you leave, there should be little or no evidence of your stay. "Pack it in, pack it out."
7. Recommended group size no more than 10 horses.