Happy Trails


happytrailsHoreseback riding in southeastern Minnesota

By Tracy Will

If you’re searching for scenic spaces you and your horse can explore together, southeastern Minnesota has got you covered.

Miles of riding trails wind among the bluffs, valleys, meadows and woodlands throughout the region. Here is a sampling of area trails designated for horseback riding, along with campgrounds where you can stay with your horse if you’re interested in an outing that spans several days.

Keep in mind, if you ride on any trails maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)—including those in state parks and state recreation areas, among others—you need a Minnesota Horse Trail Pass. You can get details about those passes and purchase one online at dnr.state.mn.us/horseback_riding/horsepass.html. Most
DNR trails and horse campgrounds are
open May 1 to Nov. 1.

Zumbro Bottoms Horse Campgrounds

Part of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest in Hay Creek Township, Zumbro Bottoms is a 4000-acre multi-use area. It includes three horse camps with access to more than 44 miles of trails. Trails vary from wide and easy to narrow and challenging. Links to information about all three campgrounds can be found on the DNR horse campgrounds website at dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/horseback_list.html.

The organization Zumbro Bottoms Equestrians works to promote recreational equine use of the area and assist in the maintenance and management of Zumbro Bottoms. More information, including a membership form, is at zumbrobottomsequestrians.weebly.com.

Outback Ranch

This private ranch located near Houston, Minn., offers 32 miles of trails and connects to another 100 miles of DNR snowmobile trails that horseback riders can use. You can buy day-use passes, or lodging is available in cabins, bunk houses and campsites. Outback Ranch also offers horse boarding. The ranch does not rent its horses or offer guided trail rides. Online at outbackranch.net.

Reno Horse Campground

Reno Horse Campground in Houston County provides 17 miles of horseback riding trails. The campground has six horse campsites, with picket lines. It also allows for portable corrals. Reno Horse Campground is managed by Beaver Creek Valley State Park. Information at dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/facilities/cmp00042/index.html.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park 

This state park, located near Wykoff, contains 17 miles of trails for horseback riding that wind through a scenic area and span about 200 vertical feet. A horse campground with 55 sites is available in the park. Information at dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/forestville_mystery_cave/index.html.

Wet Bark Recreation Area

Wet Bark Recreation Area has 11 miles of horseback riding trails. The trails range from rolling to steep, from grassy to very rocky. Most are wide enough for two horses. A campground is available with five campsites. A horse trailer parking area has picket lines and a small corral. The parking area also allows for portable corrals. This campground is managed by the Beaver Creek Valley State Park. Information at dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/facilities/fmu00005/index.html.

Lake Louise State Park

Located near LeRoy, Lake Louise State Park includes almost 10 miles of horseback riding trails. The park has a campground with six sites designated for horse camping. A day-use horse trailer parking area with tie rails is located near the campground. Online at dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_louise/index.html.

Tracy Will is a Rochester-based writer who has spent many happy hours on horseback. 

Day-use trail areas
The following DNR areas have horseback riding trails for day-use only. No horse camping is available at these sites.

Hay Creek Day-Use Area: Located near Red Wing, Hay Creek offers 15 miles of equestrian trails. dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/facilities/cmp00040/index.html

Vinegar Ridge Recreation Area: Located near Rushford, the recreation area has six miles of horseback riding trails. dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/facilities/fmu00004/index.html

Kruger Management Unit: Located near Wabasha, this management unit has a five-mile trail along the Zumbro River that allows horseback riding.

State trails: Several state trails in the area offer horseback riding trails adjacent to them. A list is at dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/horseback_list.html.

Guided trail rides
If you don’t have a horse of your own but you’d like to experience the joy of riding for a day, the following area business offer guided trail rides:

Bar L Stable, Eyota: barlstable.com

Big Valley Ranch, Winona: bigvalleyranch.winona-mn.us

Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, Stewartville: ironwoodsprings.com


More information

Horseback riding in Minnesota state parks and forests:

Minnesota Trail Riders Association: mntrailriders.com