Five Steps of Preparation for Your Backcountry Riding Vacation

Friends, all I can say is that I have seen some wonderful country from the back of a horse! 

It’s a little different with a horse, they are doing the work for you, while you have the advantage of this perch to look around on.  While hiking, you are likely looking down and don’t have the elevated view!

  I spent twenty years riding and camping with my horse.  These are processes that have worked for me. My most recent trip was in 2012, after which my daughter, about nine years old at the time, wanted my company for vacations (!), and many areas, routes and destinations, were burning with rampant forest fires.  So I set it aside for a while.  I’ve kept track of favorite riding areas, and new ideas put out by folks gaining experience!  Hopefully, this will springboard you into researching your own ideas and what might work for you!

Where to Go?

This should be determined by the level of condition and trail experience of your horse, and of your riding buddies going with you.  In the old days, it was the folks who would commit to keeping their rig tuned and ready in good repair, and a consistent conditioning and exposure program for their horses.  Having dabbled in endurance riding for five years, I’d condition as if for a twenty five mile ride, and then I could be quite confident that I could go on my trip and not worry about my horse.

Lake basins are great places to visit.  Great views and moderate terrain that everyone can enjoy.  Diamond Peak Wilderness in south central Oregon is a good one.  Traveling through Crater Lake National Park, is wonderful.  Mt Adams is a repeat favorite, both from Mt. Adams Horse Camp and Keenes Horse Camp.  Author Kim McCarrel writes trail books that encompass many areas of Oregon and Washington.  She covers many areas I have ridden and her information is reliable.  Her website is

Facebook site Holly’s Horse Tales and Trails is also good information on areas of Central Oregon that I have camped and ridden.  Her blog brings back many happy memories!

The Open Trail Project is a great site with a Facebook site as well, for an archive of national horse trails, and handy record keeping tools.  Check it out here:

We Are Trail Riders is another .com and Facebook resource for the rider with national riding sites.  Check it out here:

These resources will help with map selection and other land management resources.  I always used Green Trail Maps and checked with the Forest Service on trail conditions and closures.  Map stores are also great resources, Bend Mapping and Blueprint in Bend, Oregon, is a great resource for trails outside the Diamond Peak Wilderness area, which are every bit as nice to ride as those within the wilderness boundaries!

We all started out with camping in our horse trailers!  Over the years, we all managed to upgrade to some form of camper ( I had a pop-up for seven years), and while it afforded lots of comfort, what it really did was organize us!  It’s really nice to not have to set up camp when we arrived!  And it was really nice to have a sense of organization so we could concentrate on riding!  Not to mention sleeping with a warm face if you want to use the heater!

I found that year after year, August was a good time to travel the backcountry.  Late snow melt was generally gone, and bugs are scarce!  No issues with wasps or bees, and the no-see-ems are most active in July in those high mountain meadows. You have a little less daylight, and depending on elevation, you can encounter occasional overnight temperatures near freezing.  Still, I have found it to be the most enjoyable time to ride!

Thinking of packing in?  I always bring what I need to stay overnight if need be.  But I wouldn’t qualify that as packing in, lol!  There are a couple of near-30 mile loops that I would like to break into two 15-milers and stay out the night.  Tons of material out there, my favorite being the guys from Montana at Trailhead Supply.  Catch up on their blog!  They regularly attend the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW) Rondy in Ellensburg, Washington.  They have given a great mini-seminar on getting started in packing for women, always to a “sell-out” crowd!  Here is their website link:

Here is a link to the rondy:

I like the idea of the over the saddle panniers to keep it easy!

What to Bring?

Food for a week!  The camper refrigerators, even the small ones, can hold a lot!  It’s fun to trade off meal duty with your buddies!  Fry pan burritos were easy after a ride, and quick!  And me, I can eat hot dogs the entire time!  Check around and you’ll find what suits you!  I’ve also done cheese fondue when it was my turn to cook!

A water resistant blanket for your horse and a lighter sheet.  When your horse has been working all day, they will appreciate a cover in the higher elevations, and whether it is your enclosure or a horse camp, not a lot of room to move around to keep warm.

Clothes to layer.  I used my cross country ski clothes!  I layer with tights and pants of choice for chafing, Sporthill sells a wind resistant ski pant that is tapered towards the ankle, which I found handy.  A stretchy vest, my Outback jacket, and  the Outback rain slicker that folds into a backpack, that is easy to tie on the back of the saddle.  Headgear of choice, which included helmet, or straw hat, or wool hat, or the Outback waxed hat for rainy days, all got their use!  Half chaps work well for bushwacking and for keeping the heat in your lower extremities.  I’ve used cowboy boots, rubber boots, riding tennis shoes, paddock boots with thinsulate, all had their place!  And remember, you are camping, so pack light, wear everything multiple times, its OK to get and be dirty!  I used conditioner for my hair so the dirt and sweat wouldn’t stick!  Maybe the suntanned face was part sun, part dirt!

How about water?

We mostly camped in designated horse camps, or primitive camped when there was an appropriate area, as in the Ochocos out of Prineville, Oregon.  It used to be that a trailer water tank only held about 25 gallons.  There are more options now, check out

I’ll take advantage of streams and nearby lakes to make my water last, and carry a camper hose that spirals into a convenient carry tray to take with me.  Those can be purchased most anywhere, I bought mine at the local Bi-mart discount store.

My horn bags are designed to carry a water bottle in each side.  I use a refillable stainless steel one, and the other is my Seychelle water filtration bottle.

Most campsites will have pens, either wood or metal, many in Washington State have highlines.  I carry my swivel attachment that will allow my horse to pull back and not panic.  I also carry my own highline kit.  You can purchase a highline attachment for your trailer, lightweight corral sections, or use an electric corral set-up.  Mainly it’s what you prefer and what you think is best and easiest for your horse.

Feed and Supplies

Equipment is quite sophisticated these days, but even with a simple rig set up, you can manage to have fun!  I take weed free grass hay and alfalfa, I find my horse appreciated a little extra after an all day trail ride!  I organized daily feed rations in baggies, and took loose salt to add.  Dynamite Specialty Products has an excellent loose salt, as even the vets rarely carry it anymore, our past go-to source.

We would buddy up in twos, one hauling the horses, and one hauling the hay and supplies!  It worked great, and gave us the advantage of the extra rig in case we experienced any troubles!

Enjoying Mother Nature

We want to set up our trip in our favor.  Do our homework, plan our route, and also be flexible if conditions change.  Respect Mother Nature, and your limitations as humans, small pebbles on the beach.  Be thoughtful of choosing your horse buddy, and your riding buddies.  There should be a sense of responsibility and support towards each other when traveling the backcountry.

I do travel with a cell phone and battery pack. Will your battery pack last a week?  Likely not.  Will your cell phone work everywhere?  Likely not.  However, that is the part I like the best about horse camping, going far enough away to make you feel you are “away”, and not having to worry about anything except the needs of yourself and your horse.

Horses have a great sense of direction, they have never failed me.  They always prove the “no, it’s thatta way” person wrong.  Take some orange surveyors tape to mark intersections.  Everyone should pack a gun.  Three shots is the universal signal for help.  I figure if I had to wait it out while someone rode for help, I could stave off a few critters, or put my horse down if necessary.  Stay on the trail.  Avoid game trails that may look inviting.  Keep well hydrated and graze on saddlebag snacks.  Becoming dehydrated and having low blood sugar contributes to poor decision making.  Turn around if you encounter unexpected obstacles that will deplete your horse’s energy or put them at risk.  Use common sense.

Even though these methods and tools may be considered “old”, I would still be comfortable today traveling as such.

As a basic overview, I hope this inspires you to research for your own camping adventure with your horse!  There are lots of dude ranch offerings, but nothing to compare with your own fine animal taking you down the trail with cooperation and enthusiasm!

Happy Trails!


Photographs:  In order of appearance:  Blue Mountains, Oregon, Olive Lake in the background; Metolius-Windigo Trail from Sisters Cow Camp, Sisters, Oregon; Rim Trail, Newberry Caldera, La Pine, Oregon; Sister Mirror Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon; Croften Ridge Trail, Mt. Adams, Washington; The Ochocos, Oregon; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Muddy Meadows, Mt. Adams, Washington; Stag Lake, Diamond Peak Wilderness, Oregon








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Take the time with natural horsemanship

Just returned from taking Shyguy for his camping and riding trip to Oregon.  I stayed with friends, where I was graciously accommodated for a few days of riding.  The haul was about four hours to the Tygh Valley area, south of The Dalles.  West of the wheatfields, where timber and open meadows develop towards Mt. Hood.

Shyguy caught right up!  He comes to catch me now, standing quietly for haltering, and I no longer have to “shake hands”, or a hoof, as previously!  He self loaded without hesitation, and hauled quiet and relaxed.

Upon arrival, Shyguy waited patiently to unload, backing out of the trailer, stopping to take a look around.  He had his own sheltered run, and some time to share a larger paddock with his resident buddy.

We had a couple of rides out on neighboring private and state land, with friend Joy, right out from their place.  A delightful area of rolling landscape, creek crossings, open meadows, ponderosas and evergreens to practice our natural horsemanship skills!

Higher temperatures near 100 moved in, giving us a day off, before loading up and returning home.  Shyguy proved a good, quiet, and cooperative guest, and I made all effort to match his example!

Round up your natural horsemanship skills and head out for a ride!


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When horse camping. . . .with natural horsemanship

When horse camping……

I’m never without my highline kit.

This is a very compact couple of items that will fit in your stash area under the back seat of your truck.
I put mine together from the local Big R store.  Check with your ranch or feed store. This will save you about half of a pre-made kit.  
You need two tree saver straps.  These look like seatbelts.  One hundred feet of rope that can withstand a ton or two of pressure.  They will likely have to cut it for you off a big spool.  However many knot eliminators to thread through.  I use one for my horse and one for the feedbag.  I also use a tie blocker.  I attach it to the knot eliminator.  Since I’m of average height, this makes it easier for me to tie my horse.  I tie a knot in the lead rope so it can’t be pulled through.  My mounting block comes in handy to get it placed high enough on the tree.
This is an interesting link that will show you how to tie it.
Happy Trails and Good Riding!
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Purpose with natural horsemanship

Now that we’ve got our tune-up finished, where are we going to go with it?  Anywhere you want!  Your horse should be focused on you, looking at you for leadership, making it easier to be self sufficient with each other as you enjoy your riding season!

I’m preparing Shyguy next with some outings for long, slow miles, readying to go on a camping and riding vacation in July.  We’ll be meeting up with friends in Oregon to attend the Backcountry Horseman’s State Ride, sponsored by my chapter, the Columbia Gorge Chapter of the Oregon BCH.

Twenty eight miles east of Prineville, before the pass into the John Day area, turn right at Mark’s Creek Sno-Park.  We’ll be up there a-ways!

This area, known as the Ochocos, is a unique ecosystem, open grassy areas, interspersed with Ponderosa pines.  Home to bands of antelope, wild horses, and serenading coyotes.  This area sees, in June, a Father’s Day poker ride.  June can be the perfect time to ride this area.  I like to imagine it being as nice in July!

This is a popular yearly destination for many in Central Oregon, as it has been for me in the past!

Where are you headed with your natural horsemanship!

Tell with a comment below!


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Goals with natural horsemanship

Have you spent the winter thinking of what you want to do with your horse this season?  Take your big goal and break it down into smaller components.  I use this “swiss cheese” approach all the time!

I’ve been listening to Jane Savoie’s The Rider’s Inside Edge.  I listen back and forth in the truck.  The first was on The Fear Factor.  I’m listening to Goal Setting now.  These are great ideas for all parts of your life, not just horseback riding!

Imagine, really imagine what you really want to do, don’t be afraid to go after it, to imagine it, believe it!

Goal set with natural horsemanship!



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Delilah’s big adventure

I’ve been “playing” with my mare, Delilah, this year to prepare her for the challenges of a horsecamping adventure!  Trail riding, obstacle course, boggy meadow, and creek crossings.  Self loads, and is comfortable hauling in the trailer.

Off we go!  Down to Desolation Meadow to join up with friends, old and new!  A seven hour haul going in, detouring for a culvert needing repair in the direct route from highway 395 out of Ukiah, Oregon.

Delilah was not legged up as much as I would have wished for the rugged and steep, near 20 mile main ride.  However, just being there for the experience and some light riding I knew would be beneficial.

Delilah did many things well.  Hauling comfortably, we arrived mid afternoon.  I set up camp with a highline.  In my experience, horses get used to highlines very quickly.  In the meantime, she tied quietly to the trailer munching her haybag.

She drank from the creek, tied quietly throughout the night, even figuring how to lay down to rest completely, and settled in 5 minutes when the group left camp for the long ride on Saturday.  We had some non-demanding time grazing in the meadow, listening to the drone of the many flies and bees!

We had a shorter loop first day out, about three hours.  The gelding she liked all of a sudden turned into a monster horse with noisy pack boxes!  I could not have anticipated that, but it is all experience!

She climbed the ridge steadily to Lost Lake, a nice reaching flat walk down the rocky roadbed to the boggy meadow with creek crossings.  This is one of the main challenges of the ride, taking the better part of an hour before getting back into camp.

Delilah lost her marble momentarily, so I put her in a circle until she calmed, a few minutes, and we went back to camp in an acceptably calm manner.  A horse light in experience, she got a little overwhelmed by the monster pack boxes, mules (likely her first time), and “well, just everything, Mom!  Can’t I just peel out and leave it all behind?!”  No, you may not!

I had her hang out in camp the next day, hitching a ride on Rosie, who didn’t want her herd to leave her!  These campouts and gatherings are great opportunities to work on your “stuff”!  You’ll find that you are not the only one!

One rider was riding a mule that had only been packing, two mules were being ponied, doing that and packing a pack saddle, one mule had a first time highlining lesson.  So whatever you think are your challenges, everyone has them!  Don’t hesitate to give you and your horse these opportunities!

In the past when I’ve opportunity to stay out a week, ten days, or two weeks with my horse, I have felt that I could do anything with my horse after that!

Any horse camping adventures out there?  I’d love to hear, see your post, message me on facebook!

Here’s to happy trails in natural horsemanship!


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Adventures in horse camping

I had opportunity to revist an area I had visited previously in August of 2008, Desolation Meadows in the Umatilla National Forest, south of Pendleton, Oregon, and just out of Ukiah.  This is beautiful, high, rugged country in the Blue Mountain area!  A memorable trip!

Forest, a member of various BCH chapters, has been organizing a yearly ride here, 2008 being the first.  This year I decided to attend to give my mare, Delilah, the experience of horse camping.  Although I didn’t consider her sufficiently legged up to ride every opportunity, I figured the experience with light riding would be of benefit!

It was a seven hour haul from Ellensburg.  Out of the five rigs that attended, I believe I came the fartherst.  We all had to haul in the “back way” so to speak, since a culvert was out on the number 10 road coming from highway 395.  I met Forest in Ukiah, and proceeded on the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, a little windy in parts, but paved, and giving up some wonderful scenery of beautiful high, open country!  There’s plenty of other camping and riding trails in this area!

Then 17 miles of dirt road, steep and washboardy in areas, passing Olive Lake, and about 5 miles beyond to the meadow marked by the old hay storage and corral, and the old Forest Service cabin across the road.

I’m a Washington State BCH independent member, and also a member of the Columbia Gorge BCH chapter in Hood River, Oregon.  We had other members from that same chapter,  also folks from the Washington State Rattlesnake Ridge chapter,  and the West Cascades Oregon chapter. Being a BCH member wasn’t necessary, just an invite from Forest, and when and where to be there!  This was a great example of folks getting to know each other from being a member so that gatherings like this can take place!

Since Marlene was camp-bound, she elected herself camp cook.  She spoiled us with dutch oven cooking during the weekend, with prime rib the first night and some kind of awesome steak roast the second night!  I felt fortunate to gather up a few of her pointers on how it’s done, and the difference between cast aluminum cooking and cast iron cooking.

Folks came with truck campers, a motor home, I had my weekender camper horsetrailer, a few slept in the tack rooms or the trailer itself, and one hardy soul pitched a tent!  We camped at approximately 5,500 feet, riding higher to the ridges.  It warmed up to around 80 during the day, and around 37 at night!

We had one motor home hauling a bumper pull trailer, and the rest of the tow vehicles were Dodge trucks!  Mules and horses were evenly split.

Forest and another of his friends were kind enough to get the trail cleared so that a loop could be made, near 20 miles.  I had previously ridden two days of “out and backs” to accomplish the same thing.

Forest is not sure if he will host this ride again, or visit another area in the future.  I’m glad I took the opportunity to attend!

I’d love to have you post on your camping and riding adventures this summer!





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Fly season and natural horsemanship

(I´m running around like a) blue arsed flyFly season is here!

There are a lot of choices out there to choose from!  I appreciate “green” products, however, I also want something that works.  I try to minimize usage, hence my recommendation for Fly Predators from Spalding Labs.  Last year was my fourth season, and I even noticed a marked improvement from my first year.  And, I used the “spot” applications and “wipe” applications minimally!  I was pleased!

Here are my top choices in the barn or out trail riding.

1.  Spalding Fly Predators. I’ve been at my current location three years now, entering my fourth season.  My neighbors run cows in the next pasture, moving them in spring, and out in the fall.  Fly Predators have shown a marked improvement on my place.  I don’t have near the flies in the house as when I moved in.  After assessing the first year, I now have them shipped every three weeks.  Check out the specials.

2. Next is Spot On, or any of those “spot” products. You snap open the plastic vial, dribble it from the poll to the tail, then the lower half of the legs. Most horses tolerate it fine, Boss doesn’t like it much, but is OK with it. It takes effect in about five minutes, and lasts for two weeks. I keep this applied at home.  I can load up for a trail ride, assessing conditions at the trailhead for a “wipe” application.

3. Next is Repel-Xp. This is my “wipe” product.  Dilute, following the directions on the container.  I use a plastic drinking bottle, the kind you carry in your fanny pack. I mark it up with “danger” signs. Shake it up, put it on your fake sheepskin applicator glove. I use it lightly. I keep this for the trailer. You can also douse a rag and put it in a ziplock bag for the saddle bags.

4. Tea tree oil. This is a natural repellent. It has a nice odor, I’ve only had one horse that didn’t like it. It is non-toxic. I can apply this to my horse’s ears, face and muzzle while in the saddle, and give myself some also. This has saved me more than once when I found myself in a swarm of peskies! This comes in a small bottle for about $10, a little goes a long way. It also has antiseptic properties. For the saddle bags.

5.  For starting out on trail rides, I use Swat ointment.  I apply to the ears, face, and around the eyes.  I keep this in the trailer and in the saddle bags to reapply out on the trail.

I use fly masks in the pasture as needed.  I pack a fly sheet when horse camping.  Sometimes there are BIG flies in the mountains, hanging around camp!  (Deer flies?)

Hope these suggestions help you manage this summer!

Happy trails and good riding!


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Trailering for natural horsemanship

So, how do we get out of here??Here we are, on the verge of the riding season starting, if it hasn’t started already!  Dressage lesson at the barn last week, loading lessons for tune-up, and “rig” maintenance!  Minimize down time with your trailer by having any issues taken care of in advance.  Get the wheel bearings inspected and packed, check out the tires, tread and sidewalls, have your battery checked.  Freshen up the DryZair product, check all signal lights, running lights, and brake lights.  Any interior and exterior bulbs needing replacement?

Is your rig currently licensed, or did you forget and stash that renewal reminder in a cubbyhole?

Today I was snowed out of a loading lesson with Delilah.  I stayed hooked up and went to town to have the tire pressure checked, they were a little low, the battery checked, (I have a living quarters/weekender camper set up with a 2-horse in the back), and an estimate on brakes and bearings.  My brake control is giving me an error code for a missing brake magnet.  In other words, it is not working.

Came home and got the electric jack working on the gooseneck.  That’s a lot easier than hand cranking.  Left me with energy for a core workout on my Total Gym machine!

How do you get your rig ready for the road and trail?  Let me know by commenting below!


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Horse camping at Silvercreek Marsh Campground

This is a great area for horse camping and riding!  The area has variety from high desert to high mountain trails.  There are three horse camps in the area, accessing a different area for variety.  There is easy terrain, progressing to more physically challenging, all to practice natural horsemanship skills!  Take a look!

Silvercreek Marsh Campground

Uses: Mixed, one loop for horses, one loop for humans. Horse loop has access to creek at far side of loop. No potable water. Restrooms. Each back in or pull thru has a hitching rail, with the centrally located sites having one 2-stall structure, and one 4-stall structure. Plenty of room to highline at the other sites that have no corral. There are manure collection pits at the corral sites.

This is a beautiful area of wide open vistas, and dense mountain forests, depending on the altitude you choose to ride! Deep ponderosa forests and steep canyons add variety! The terrain is moderate to easy with mostly sandy footing with some rocky areas. Horses should be shod.

From La Pine, Oregon, go south to Hwy 31, about a mile out of town, proceed left. After about an hour’s driving, arrive at the little town of Silverlake. There is a dry lakebed, a small store, a gas station with propane and diesel. The Forest Service has a facility there with a water source and hose to refill tanks. Check inside for updates on trail clearing. Some of the trails traverse an old burn area from about 2002.

Directions: Just before arriving in the town of Silverlake, turn right on Rd 27. This is a paved road for the entire 11 miles to the camp, which will be on the left. Turn in and bear to the right for the horse loop. This camp is free. It is located in a grove of Ponderosas. A beautiful setting.

Back on the highway, if you continue, you will pass the Forest Service on the right. Then you will see Rd 28 to the right. Watch for the sign for the Cowboy Dinner Tree. This is a great place to plan for a dinner out. Be sure to make reservations, this place is famous clear to Bend! Steak or Chicken with all the soup, salad, lemonade or iced tea that you can eat! Along with their famous baked rolls, and cobbler dessert! Make time to shop in the trading post, some local treats and offerings.

Access to the trails is right across from the main corral site. First day’s ride towards Hager Mountain, trail 018. This has been rerouted from the other side of the camp and does not seem to be very well marked. However, just follow your nose and you will come out fine. First, follow the trail which turns into a two track, then there will be an arrow on the pavement, follow that. Follow another two track, looking for rock cairns and USA markers on the trees. This is the US National Scenic Trail. Eventually you will come to a trail marker. The trail then becomes a single track, watch for the rock cairns and the occasional tree marker. You will pass through a couple of fence lines. Eventually you come to a four-way intersection, unmarked. Take the far right two track, there are ribbons on the tree. As you go along, watch to the right, the single track trail will go up the embankment and be marked with the tree marker. This is single track once again, flat and easy. You will pass through a fence line with a green gate. After a while, you will come to a canyon with a steady descent. The trail is good. It will flatten out along the creek bank of Silver Creek and then cross a bridge with side rails. After the bridge, go to the right, the trail is good along the creek bank again, then the canyon widens out. You will see to the left where to go up and out of the canyon, but give yourself a a break and proceed to Auger Campground up ahead where stock can access the creek and have a lush bite of grass. There is a picnic table here. It is a beautiful spot!

Backtrack to the intersection and it is a steady pull up out of the canyon with nice switchbacks, no drop offs here. Give the horses a breather occasionally. Continue on, passing interesting rock formations, to where it crosses Rd 28 and continues on to the Hager Mtn lookout. I’ve heard it becomes quite steep and there are some sidehill areas, so you’ll have to play it by ear!

TRAIL NOTE: At the point of intersecting Rd 28, there is a turnout where you can park the rig, perhaps to ride Hager Mtn another day from a closer access point for the last pull!

We turned around, retracing our steps, this is a 10 mile total ride. We ended up putting on extra mileage dinking around and circling around on the road. What we did was when you drop down the embankment to the two-track road, take a right and ride to where the road intersects with road 018. There is a section of red rock here, and some water in the swamp area to the right. The dogs and stock snagged a drink here. Proceed up this dirt road to the next intersection, take a left. Another opportunity to water the horses is at the creek, we managed to access it to the right of the locked gate. Then up and over the hill, back to the paved road 27, take a left back to camp on Rd 2917. You could also opt to start the trail this way. In some ways, it is more straightforward! So we ended up riding more than 10 miles that day, a good 9-hour ride total with an hour to just sit and rest during the heat of the day!

Another day, take the same access trail from the campground, go a little ways, then you will sort of intersect with the paved road. Cross here and go up the road directly across, Rd 12. There is a wire gate across here, go thru it and up this road, you will see the tree markers for the trail. There are a lot of cow trails taking off to the left, ignore these and go up to where the rock cairn is on the left hand side, and the trail takes off here with a nice wide tread. This trail rolls along, then drops down to the creek drainage for the North Fork Silver Creek trail. There will be a trail sign to reinforce your direction. Head up the drainage that goes through the old burn area. The trail is good, wide, and probably this is the easiest and flattest creek drainage you can find! There is a creek crossing, easy, and the trail is a little narrow after this for a little way, but there is no drop off. It is rocky. Then there is a bridge with no rails, but easy, and then climb a hill and travel more along the top of the drainage. We eventually could go no further, there was a red ribbon stretched and tied along the trail, which matched our map of the end of the cleared trail. We headed back out, this was a nice, shorter ride, about 3-4 hours. You can pick up this trail at Antler Campground.

Antler Trailhead: From paved road 27, follow the signage to Antler Trailhead, on good gravel graded road for 10 miles to a large Forest Service Sign. Take a right and go up to the trailhead. You are at 6,000 ft here. There are five sites here, with a 4-stall corral centrally located and a hitching rail at each site. There is a new potable water pump, new restroom and a day use parking area. This is much quieter here, as the other campground is off the road on the way to Thompson Resorvoir, so is quite a bit busier. There are ponderosas here and a more alpine feeling at this elevation. There are a couple of steep spots on the way, 4-wheel drive while hauling would be a recommendation.

Across from the day use area is a trail marked Scenic Rock trail. This loops back to camp, coming out by the corrals. Take this moderately uphill to start to a large pile of rocks creating an interesting aspect about halfway up. It flattens out, then comes to an unmarked intersection to the right. This is Yamsay Mtn trail. Continue on to the left and you will come upon another intersection to the right, the other end of the Silver Creek trail. Continue on, you will pass a beautiful meadow on the left, with large boulders laying throughout. Then come out to camp by the corral. This trail is new, with good footing, and will take an hour or less. Keep on down opposite the day use area, and another trail takes off to the right. This is a short feeder trail to the Silver Creek Trail.

Yamsay Mountain: This trail is 8 miles to Yamsay Mountain, going through dense forest, up one ridge and down another. This pattern repeats itself with some vistas. This would be a good days ride from Antler Trailhead. We did not have time to do this leg of trail. We did not do this upper section of Silver Creek Trail, however, it was cleared for a bit, and according to the cleared section on the map, leaving the middle section unfinished. So, plenty of out and backs here.

TRAIL NOTE: Some folks have ridden to the Cowboy Dinner Tree from camp, coming out on the paved road, take a right, then a right on the next dirt Rd 2917, riding over to Rd 28, paved, and then to the left to the restaurant. There is ample hitching rail for a group. There is also a spot to park a rig across from the restaurant if a point-to-point is desired with a haul back to camp!

Farm Well Camp: This is the third location accommodating horses in the area. From Rd 28, turn left on Rd 2916, directly across from Rd 2917. This is a good graded road traveling through the burn area. You will pass a beautiful open area with great views to the north. You eventually get through the burn area and will be in beautiful ponderosa forest. Turn left into camp. There is one central 4-stall corral and a pull through to fit two rigs. There are 4 more back in sites with hitching rails. There is a bathroom, potable water pump, and a large water collection-type pond next to a meadow. I’ve been told (by George) that this is a steeper access trail to Hager Mtn Lookout, but the first part is a ponderosa wonderland! Check it out for yourself!

With three horse camps and a variety of terrain, this makes a wonderful destination to explore and put some miles and experience on your animal. Take the time to have a day for the Summer Lake Hot Springs, rustic and built like a swimming pool with changing booths lining the periphery. Lots of open parking. You can have lunch in Paisley a little further south, then double back for a soak! The hot springs are only 30 miles further from Silverlake, and worth the outing!

On the way back to La Pine, take time to ride the Hole in the Ground. Watch for the sign on the left, and turn to the right on Rd 3125. Then a right on Rd 3130. It is about 5 miles total of dirt road to the treed area to unload and ride to the rim. You have views to Fort Rock in the distance. There is a road to the bottom. The sides are a bit steep for coming out. This and Fort Rock are both tops of volcanoes, very fascinating! You can ride around the rim, exploring the network of two tracks through ponderosas, more open here with gentle terrain. Coming from La Pine, turn to the left at the 25-mile marker.

Take the time to explore all the options for your natural horsemanship journey!



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