Humboldt Redwoods State Park offers some of the most spectacular riding trails in the state, which makes the park quite popular with equestrians. People have been riding in the park since the early 1970s, and equestrians continue to enjoy this activity today. Unfortunately the park does not have riding stables or offer guided trail rides.
Equestrians are welcome to ride on trails designated as hiking/equestrian as well as multi-use trails. Horse watering troughs are available at several locations along the park's trails.
Many equestrians begin their ride from Cuneo Creek Horse Camp, which offers access to several trails. Cuneo Creek offers horse camping as well as a day use area. Visitors can access Indian Orchard Trail or the Homestead Trail directly from Cuneo Creek. These trails offer connections to other trails in the park for a longer ride. See the trail map for more detailed information.
Other popular access points along Mattole Road include Grasshoppper Multi-Use Trail, Look Prairie Multi-Use Trail, and Blue Slide day use area. The turnout adjacent to Grasshopper Multi-Use Trail and Blue Slide day use area offer ample parking for horse trailers.
The Baxter Trail is a switchback trail that climbs 2.6 miles from the Mattole Road to join the Squaw Creek M.U.T. about 1.4 miles up the latter. It is most often used as part of a loop to and from Horse Camp and is accessed by using the Homestead Trail out of Camp and veering off to the right at the C.C.C. camp. At the junction with Squaw Creek, riders can turn left and descend to the Mattole Road, which they cross, and ride along a narrow trail at the turnout to cross Bull Creek. At the meadow, turn left and follow the Homestead Trail back to camp for a 7.8 mile loop.
Footing is excellent on Baxter with few rocks. There are no water troughs on the trail, but bridgeless creek crossings to and from the trail are numerous.
Fox Camp Road M.U.T.
Fox Camp is an out-and-back ride that takes off from the top of the Indian Orchard Trail and is accessed by turning sharply to the left and going around the iron gate. It ends at a locked gate on the Mattole Road*. The total distance from camp and back to camp is 19.6 miles. It is a steady climb from camp of about 5.5 miles before it levels out and then begins descending.
Footing is excellent except for a short stretch of rocky ruts in the last three miles out. Once you get off the Indian Orchard Trail, there is only one water source. It's about 1.25 miles from the start of Fox Camp and is a concrete trough off the left side of the road. It's easy to miss; if you ride between two large gnarly madrones on both sides of the road, you've gone past it. As of the opening of the horse camp in 2016, there is a new wooden sign for the trough.
About a mile past the water trough is a dynamite view to the southeast! In about another half mile you'll reach a long open meadow with grass the horses love. Continuing on, you'll go past two large wooden Park signs that both say "Entering Humboldt Redwoods State Park". All you need to remember is keep the signs on your right as you go out, and on your left as you go back. Seven hour trail with rest stop at meadow.
Heads up: Shortly past the Park signs, the road forks. Take either fork - they join in a short time.
* In case of emergency that necessitates a trailer pick-up, there is a wide turn-out off Mattole Road at the end of the Fox Camp trail.
The Homestead Trail is 4.2 miles long between Cuneo Creek Horse Camp and Harper Creek on the Mattole Road and mile 4.1. From camp about fifty yards up the paved road, the trail is mostly flat and crosses several creeks without bridges. Some of the creek crossings can be hazardous in the spring after a wet winter. After passing through the meadow and old orchards of Albee Creek Park, ride past the kiosk to the right and cross the wooden bridge. Take note of the horse trail signs, which take riders through the magnificent Rockefeller Forest for the last portion of the trail.
Hikers are often encountered in the redwoods and in the Albee Creek meadow. Bears frequent the meadow in apple season.
One mile out from Horse Camp on the Homestead Trail, riders can turn right at the C.C.C. camp (old cabin) and follow the road around the pipe gate and across the Mattole Road to access the Baxter Trail and Squaw Creek M.U.T.
In the middle of the Albee Creek meadow, before turning left to reach the kiosk, is a narrow trail to the right which leads to a creek crossing (no bridge). This narrow trail will lead to the Mattole Road and the beginning of the Squaw Creek M.U.T. and the Johnson Trail.
To access the Thornton M.U.T., ride to the kiosk at Albee Creek and proceed up the paved road for about 200 yards and go around the pipe gate.
For access to the Look Prairie M.U.T., go around the pipe gate at Harper Creek. Horse trailer parking is at Blue Slide, a short distance to the east of Harper Creek.
Indian Orchard Trail
The Indian Orchard Trail begins at the northern edge of the Cuneo Creek horse camp via a short gravel road between Group Camps A and B. It is the access trail to Peavine Ridge, Fox Camp Road, and Pole Line Road.
The trail climbs steadily for 3.1 miles and crosses two creeks. The second creek crossing is worth stopping to appreciate and snap a picture, as you watch the water cascade through dappled light between mossy boulders.
The footing is excellent on this trail, with few rocks.
No heads up on this trail.
Riders can reach the Johnson Trail from Horse Camp by taking the Homestead Trail to Albee Creek Campground meadow. Instead of veering left in the meadow to go up to the kiosk, turn right onto the narrow trail that crosses Bull Creek. Cross the Mattole Road and take Squaw Creek Road for about 100 yards before turning left into the redwoods. Now you are on Bull Creek Trail North for about 1.5 miles before you reach the Johnson Trail. This short section is one of the only places where you can ride in the primeval redwood forest. The Johnson Trail itself ascends gradually for 5 miles to Johnson Trail Camp, where there is a horse trough. There is plenty of water crossing the trail on the way up. Johnson Camp is a good place to stop for lunch unless the mosquitoes are out.
The Johnson Trail is beautiful at all times of the year, but there is a big dogwood tree that overhangs the first wooden bridge that is gorgeous in bloom in April.
From Johnson Camp, proceed another .4 miles, where you can turn right and descend another 3.9 miles to the Mattole Road on Grasshopper M.U.T. The descent is quite steep for about a mile, and most riders get off to lead their horses down. There is a water trough near the bottom of the descent. You'll also encounter a big washout from some years ago, but it's safe to cross. Before Grasshopper joins Squaw Creek Road a half mile from the Mattole Road, there is a wooden bridge which requires CAUTION for equestrians: the spaces between the beams in the center of the bridge could catch a hoof; stay to one side.
Cross the Mattole Road, take the narrow trail behind the turnout to cross Bull Creek and return to the Homestead Trail (left) back to Horse Camp. Total loop distance is 16.3 miles.
Bull Creek Trail North and the Johnson Trail are easy on unshod horses.
Look Prairie M.U.T.
Look Prairie begins at Harper Creek on the Mattole Road. It can be accessed from the Homestead Trail where that trail ends at a turnout or by parking your trailer at the Blue Slide lot and leading your horse a hundred yards up the road to the turnout on the right.* Look Prairie is road-width and winds up a mountain for three and a half miles before it joins the Peavine M.U.T. at the top. There is a water trough about one mile up Look Prairie; though there is usually water in the form of puddles in a few other places, the only reliable water for your horse is going to be several miles down Peavine, if you are riding a loop.
* The importance of cleaning up after your horse at parking lots cannot be overstated. Shovel manure into your trailer and take it home. Please do not toss manure into the bushes.
Peavine Ridge M.U.T.
Peavine is an eight-mile road/trail that follows the ridge on the Park's northern boundary. It starts about fifty yards from the top of Indian Orchard Trail where that trail meets Pole Line Road.
Peavine has one short steep climb near the beginning, then mildly climbs and drops for several miles until the last section before it joins the Look Prairie M.U.T. About three miles out you'll see signs for the Park boundary and you'll veer right onto a hard-packed road for about another mile. There is a water trough on the left off the road. THIS IS THE ONLY RELIABLE WATER ON THIS TRAIL. Continue a short distance on the road, then turn right onto dirt again. Pass the turnoff for the Thornton Trail. The last section of Peavine is a long and steep climb. In order to reach the Mattole Road and the Homestead Trail back to Cuneo Creek Camp, you'll need to continue on down Look Prairie M.U.T. for another three and a half miles.
When you ride Peavine, be sure to take a windbreaker; often when it is very warm in the rest of the Park, you'll encounter a chilly wind along the top of the ridge. However, as with other Park trails, there are vistas and vegetation that are unique to that particular spot and make this road/trail a special ride.
The total distance of this loop consisting of Indian Orchard, Peavine, Look Prairie, and Homestead, is 18.3 miles.
Pole Line Road
Pole Line is a graveled road that takes off from Mattole Road about a half mile before the road into camp. The gate at Mattole Road remains locked at all times and is accessed only by Park personnel and owners of property on the north side of the Park. Riders get onto Pole Line via the Homestead Trail off the paved road going into camp. Turn left up the hill .2 mile outside of camp. The climb is steep and in the summer gets very hot with little shade. Pole Line is 2.3 miles long, at which point riders may turn left onto the Indian Orchard Trail back to camp for a total loop distance of 5.6 miles, or turn to the right and continue onto Peavine Ridge for a much longer ride. Do not continue straight on the road, as you would be trespassing on private property.
There is no horse water on Pole Line, and none on Peavine for another 4.5 miles. There is water on Indian Orchard.
Heads up: Riders often do this loop in reverse order (up Indian Orchard, down Pole Line). Many will dismount and lead for the first mile or so, as the gravel is loose and the road steep. Horses have been known to skid and go down on their knees here.
Squaw Creek M.U.T. and Grasshopper M.U.T.
Squaw Creek can be reached from Horse Camp by following the Homestead Trail to the Albee Creek meadow and turning right onto the narrow trail that crosses Bull Creek instead of veering left to ride up to the kiosk. After crossing Bull Creek, also cross the Mattole Road and proceed up Squaw Creek Road. The ascent is steep for almost a mile, then becomes gradual for another three plus miles to Whiskey Flat Trail Camp, where there is a water trough. The climb becomes steep again up to the junction with the Hanson Ridge M.U.T. Though Hanson Ridge is only a one-mile-long trail, it has a magnificent madrone that's worth going out and back for.
The signs at the junction of Squaw Creek and Hansen Ridge point to Perimeter Road to the right and Squaw Creek Ridge Road to Bull Creek Camp straight ahead. Proceed straight ahead to climb another 2.3 miles to the intersection with Grieg M.U.T. At this point you are 10.6 miles from Horse Camp. There is a water trough on this section.
Grieg M.U.T. intersects with Grasshopper M.U.T., which takes riders back down toward the Mattole Road (6.6 miles). The descent is long and steep. You will pass the turnoff to the fire lookout and the turnoff to the Johnson Trail and proceed downhill and onto the flat where there is a water trough. You'll ride through a washed-out section of the road (repaired for foot/bike/horse travel) and cross a bridge that requires some CAUTION : stay to one side, as the center boards are spaced so that they could catch a hoof. Grasshopper merges with Squaw Creek half a mile before the Mattole Road. Cross the road, take the narrow trail at the back of the turnout, cross Bull Creek, and turn left at the meadow onto the Homestead Trail. You're 2.8 miles from Horse Camp. Total loop distance is 22.4 miles.
Thornton is 5.2 miles long and connects the Homestead Trail with Peavine Ridge M.U.T. It requires a reasonably fit horse, as it ascends steeply for the first mile, then gradually for the rest of the way. There is one water trough at the top of the steep climb. There is no more reliable water on the rest of the trail.
This trail is usually ridden as part of two longer loops. The first leaves Horse Camp on the Homestead Trail, riding up to and past the kiosk at Albee Creek Campground on the paved road for about 200 yards, then going around the pipe gate. At the top of Thornton is a small meadow - a great lunch stop for both horse and human. To complete a 15.5 mile loop, turn left onto Peavine Ridge M.U.T. and follow it as it joins a graveled road. There is a water trough off the road on the right a short distance from that juncture. After about a mile and a half on the gravel road, leave it for a dirt road as you veer left to stay inside the Park, and follow it to Pole Line Road. Turn left onto Pole Line for a short distance before turning right onto the Indian Orchard Trail back to Horse Camp. This loop can of course be done in the opposite direction, thus avoiding the steep climb at the beginning of Thornton. Most riders dismount and lead down that section of trail.
By turning right onto Peavine Ridge at the top of Thornton, you can do a 19.2 mile loop back to Horse Camp. There is a very long, steep climb on Peavine before it intersects with Look Prairie M.U.T., and there is no reliable water between the mile one trough on Thornton and the trough near the bottom of Horse Camp. (Though most of the trails are in the shade, riders should modify their distance/speed on very warm days.) Look Prairie ends at Harper Creek turnout, where riders join Homestead Trail back to Horse Camp.
Near the top of the Thornton Trail is a unique madrone forest, and there are several outstanding vistas where the trail breaks out into the open.
CAUTION: this M.U.T. is single-track so beware of hikers and bikers at blind turns!