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Horses in the PRC

Equestrian Camping

Woman riding a horse on a trailElk Hill Campground: (11’N 26’W) Established with the help of horseback enthusiasts, Elk Hill overlooks the Pigeon River on the North Spur of the Shore to Shore Riding and Hiking Trail. This ten-site campground is the only campground in the PRC that allows horse camping. The river site has fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, potable water from a hand pump well, and picket posts and manure bunkers available. There is also a Group Camp that is designated for group camping with advanced reservations and requires a special permit. Camping at the river site is first-come, first-served, but reservations may be made by using the Michigan State Parks Reservation System or calling (800) 447-2757. Non-horse camping is allowed.

Girl riding a horseElk Hill Trail / Johnson Crossing Group Campground: (2’N 25’W) Allows horses and is on the North Spur of the Shore to Shore Riding and Hiking Trail. It is gated and only available by reservation by calling (989) 732-5485.

Horses can have a major impact on the fragile sandy soils of the PRC and the plants that grow in them. Using the picket posts provided and the maintained paths to the river will reduce that impact. Do not ride in streams. It causes erosion that destroys fish and aquatic insect habitat.

Horseback riding is allowed on the county roads, forest roads designated as open access roads, the North Spur of the Shore-to-Shore Trail and service trail road posted as open to horse use.

Woman riding a horse on a trailThere are four dispersed horse campsites available:

Dispersed campsites are marked with a sign but have no amenities (no fire ring, toilet, or water). They are available first-come, first-served at no charge with a Camp Registration Card. Each site is limited to 4 trailers and 12 people.

Riding 

Woman petting her horseRiding or leading horses, other riding animals, or pack animals is allowed only on the following:

  • The North Spur of the Shore-to-Shore Riding/Hiking Trail.
  • County Roads.
  • Forest Roads that are designated as “open” on the PRC State Forest Access Map.
  • Designated equestrian trails that are a combination of fire lanes, service roads and single track trails posted and mapped as “open”.

Safety First! Please use caution when riding. Open roads are shared with cars, trucks (including logging trucks), snowmobiles, and mountain bikes as well as horses.

How do you know where to ride?

Kids riding their horsesThis information, is meant to clarify where you can legally ride in the PRC. If you still have questions, feel free to stop in at the PRC Headquarters, or call (989) 983-4101.

For day trips from the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground, some optional loop rides are shown on the Equestrian Trail Map. These loops combine parts of the North Spur of the Shore-to-Shore Riding/Hiking Trail, open roads, and two sections of service roads that are posted as open for horse use. The approximate distance given is round-trip from Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground.

Designated equestrian trails that are a combination of fire lanes, service roads and single track trails posted and mapped as “openRecent Land Use Orders” have changed the way horses, other riding animals, and pack animals can be used in the Pigeon River Country (PRC) State Forest. For more information, see Land Use Order of the Director effective February 16, 2016.

Other Options

On state forest lands outside the PRC, horses may ride on roads, trails, and cross-country unless specifically restricted. Dispersed camping is allowed on state forest lands outside the PRC unless specifically restricted. See the DNR website, call the Gaylord Operations Service Center at (989) 732-3541, or the Cadillac Operations Service Center at (231) 775-9727, for more information on state lands in the Northern Lower Peninsula.

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