Payette National Forest, nestled in western Idaho, offers horse enthusiasts a plethora of scenic and diverse trails to explore. With over 2.3 million acres of lush forests, rolling mountains, and picturesque lakes, it's no wonder that this national forest is a favorite destination for horseback riding. Whether you're a seasoned rider or just starting out, here are some top horse trails in Payette National Forest that are sure to leave you in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds you.
1. Loon Lake Trail:
The Loon Lake Trail is a popular choice for horseback riding, primarily due to the stunning views it offers. Starting from the Loon Lake trailhead, which is easily accessible from McCall, Idaho, this trail leads riders through a picturesque forest and eventually opens up to reveal the pristine Loon Lake. The trail is approximately 8 miles round trip and offers ample opportunities to spot wildlife, enjoy the tranquility of the lake, and take in the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains.
2. Granite Mountain Trail:
For those seeking a more challenging riding experience, the Granite Mountain Trail is an excellent choice. This trail begins near the Burgdorf Hot Springs and follows a less-traveled path up to the Granite Mountain Lookout. The trail is approximately 9 miles round trip and rewards riders with incredible panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and peaks. The alpine meadows and wildflower displays along the way make this trail a truly unforgettable experience.
3. Hazard Creek Trail:
The Hazard Creek Trail is a 13-mile trail that winds through the heart of Payette National Forest. Beginning near the historic town of Warren, Idaho, this trail takes riders through dense forests, picturesque meadows, and along the serene Hazard Creek. The trail offers a great opportunity for spotting wildlife such as elk, deer, and various bird species. The diverse terrain and breathtaking landscapes make this trail a favorite among horseback riders of all skill levels.
4. Buckhorn Ridge Trail:
Located in the southern part of Payette National Forest, the Buckhorn Ridge Trail offers horseback riders a challenging yet rewarding journey. This 10-mile trail showcases stunning views of the South Fork Salmon River and the surrounding Salmon River Mountains. As riders navigate through dense forests and cross picturesque streams, they are treated to panoramic vistas that stretch for miles. This trail is best suited for experienced riders and horses due to its steep ascents and descents.
5. Lick Creek Trail:
The Lick Creek Trail is a hidden gem within Payette National Forest, offering riders a unique and diverse experience. This 16-mile trail begins near the town of McCall and winds along Lick Creek, through dense forests, and open meadows. Along the way, riders can catch glimpses of the stunning Lick Creek Range, complete with rugged peaks and verdant valleys. With ample opportunities for camping and exploring, this trail is perfect for an overnight horseback riding adventure.
When exploring the horseback riding trails in Payette National Forest, it is important to adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. Ensure that you respect the environment, pack out all garbage, and leave the trails as you found them. Additionally, always check current trail conditions and weather forecasts before heading out and be prepared with proper equipment and supplies.
Payette National Forest truly offers an unparalleled experience for horseback riders. So saddle up, grab your reins, and embark on an unforgettable equestrian adventure amidst the natural wonders of this beautiful national forest. From mesmerizing lakes and rushing creeks to panoramic mountain vistas, Payette National Forest has it all, making it an ideal destination for horseback riders of all levels of experience.