horseback riding map

Many equestrians like to take their horses to the wide prairies or acres of hills on public lands across the state, both for a change of scenery and for training. Twenty state parks allow horseback riding, as do Big Bend National Park, a few parks in the Lower Colorado River Authority system, and some county parks. Here are seven favorite locations, including three parks that also allow for guided horse rides.

1. Padre Island National Seashore

Horses are allowed on most of the Gulf side of this seventy-mile stretch of undeveloped barrier island near Corpus Christi.

2. Hill Country State Natural Area

Riders can explore challenging terrain, from flat prairies to rocky canyons. A group equestrian site includes a barn and nine stalls. Or book a guided ride from a service provider, such as Bandera’s Outlaw Outfitters, whose rates start at $100 per person for a two-hour minimum.

3. Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland

This 20,250-acre preserve northwest of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex features several small lakes and nearly 75 miles of multipurpose trails that are open to equestrians. 

4. Big Bend Ranch State Park

Visit this remote West Texas park to ride through rugged canyons and prickly landscapes in a high-desert setting. The 238 miles of multiuse trails are open to equestrians; backcountry areas are also open to riders unless specifically noted. The Agua Adentro Pens campsite makes the best base for overnight equestrian trips. Area service providers such as Lajitas Stables offer guided tours starting at about $105 for a three-hour ride.

5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

About 1,500 acres at the park are set aside for equestrian use, and two other multiuse trails are open to riders. A designated equestrian campground accommodates trailers, and if you don’t have your own horse, you can book a guided riding tour with Old West Stables on the canyon floor. Rates start at about $80 for a one-hour ride. 

6. Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

The third-largest state park in Texas includes an adjacent trailway, open to equestrians, that spans more than sixty miles. Primitive campsites feature corrals that hold as many as two horses each. 

7. Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway

This twenty-mile, equestrian-friendly former railroad line, which dates from the late 1800s, crosses sixteen bridges between Mineral Wells and Weatherford. 

Pam LeBlanc is an Austin-based travel and adventure writer.

This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where to Hoof It.” Subscribe today.