CALLING ALL TRAIL users! Did you know that horses have right of way on all trails? This information is posted on trail literature and websites. So what does that mean to you, the hiker, walker, or bicyclist using the trails?
Does that mean you can ignore the horses and just speed past them as fast as you can? Does that mean you stop, wave your arms and scream? How about attaching a bell to your bicycle and ringing it when you see a horse approaching?
Answers: No, no and partially true.
If you are riding a bike then a bell is a good idea to ring as a warning, especially when you can’t see around the bend. The correct response, however, is to move off to the side of the trail, stop and wait patiently for the animals to pass by.
Linda Morin, a member of Back Country Horseman’s Peninsula Chapter, asks folks to abide by the three S’s: Stop, Stand and Speak. Stop your forward movement, stand to the side of the trail and calmly speak a greeting.
What if you have a dog? Most trails allow dogs only if they are on a leash. My horses are very accustomed to the family dogs barking at them and playing. However, they can jump, startle and just plain wig out when a strange dog runs up and lunges at them on the trail. Their first instinct is to make a quick 180 degree turn to either run away or to kick the offender and send it flying.
Hence, dog owners are supposed to keep their dogs on a leash. Admittedly, I’m one who thinks an off-leash dog should accompany me on trail rides in isolated areas. For me, and those folks like me, our dogs should be good at the recall and kept close by.
Looking for people to go trail riding with? I think the best way is to hook up with our local Back Country Horsemen groups. Since everyone is welcome at the monthly meetings it’s a good way to get to know people and learn about the vast amount of trails available to us equestrians on the North Olympic Peninsula.
BCH Peninsula Chapter’s territory primarily covers the Port Angeles to Gardiner area. Monthly meeting locations are rotated. For more information visit the website www.pbchw.org, email email@example.com or phone Linda Morin at 360-775-5060
BCH Mt. Olympus chapter’s focus is on the foothills of Mount Olympus and the Sol Duc River Valley, including Mount Mueller. Monthly meetings are held the third Tuesday of the month at the Upper Elwah Community Center, 90 Old State Road, Port Angeles. Directions from Port Angeles: Take Highway 101 past the Elwha River bridge, turn left on Herrick Road, take the first right onto Old State Road, it’s the second building on right. For more information phone Meghan Adamire 360-460-0882.
BCH Buckhorn Range Chapter covers the Port Townsend/Chimacum area. Meetings are held the second Friday of the month at Tri Area Center, 10 W. Valley Road in Chimacum.
On Friday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m. at the Tri Area Center the chapter meeting will include a presentation on “Fear & Riding” featuring psychologist Dr. Heather MacDonald discussing “Fear and Riding with Confidence.”
McDonald is an outdoor enthusiast, equestrian and former international mountain guide. The event is open to the public. All horseback riders who have ever felt afraid to ride are encouraged to come and bring a friend. For more information contact Juelie Dalzell at 360-385-6364
So where’s a good place to go for day rides during the winter? Thankfully, we have many good trails to choose from that are good to ride year-round. Keep in mind state and national parks and forests require a fee to park or display of a Discovery Trail Permit. Parking is free to those displaying his or her own state-assigned disability placard in the windshield.
Port Gamble Trails has approximately 60 miles of trails and service roads that are open for non-motorized recreation. The new Wild West Trail is now open, too. It’s requested to please keep horses off until the ground firms up a bit. Many of the edges are soft and will not hold a horse’s weight yet.
For more information visit the website at www.portgamble.com or on Facebook Port Gamble Trails.
Olympic Discovery Trail begins in Port Townsend. About 7 miles of the trail includes the Larry Scott Trail, which is open for non-motorized use including walking, bicycling and horseback riding.
Trailhead parking: From Discovery Road, take Cape George Road to the west for about 1 mile. Look for signs on the south side that read “Trailhead,” park and enjoy the trail. There is a toilet and water at this trailhead.
Miller Peninsula’s parking area and trailhead is a mile up Diamond Point Road from U.S. Highway 101. The map is posted at the trailhead but not anywhere along the trails. From there it’s a nice, easy four-mile ride to the stretch of beach called Thompson Spit and back. While the beach itself has too many rocks to comfortably ride on, its nice place to stop and picnic.
Know that the awesome new parking lot (with ample room for parking horse trailers, restrooms and a ramp to make it easier for those with limited mobility to get in the saddle), the trailhead — and lots of improvements to the trail system — would not be in place today were it not for the hard work and dedication of some key members of the BCH’s Peninsula Chapter.
Dungeness Trails is a DNR recreational area off River Road in Sequim. A new parking area has been built at the southern entrance gate under thepower lines about ¾ of a mile south of Happy Valley Road. The trail is open to non-motorized use, including mountain bikers, hikers, joggers, dog-walkers, horseback riders and anyone who just wants to wander around the nearly 400 acres.
Thanks to the Olympic Peninsula Bicycling Association (OPBA) and a 2018 Adopt-a-Trails agreement the group has with the DNR, they’ve developed a network of trails designed primarily for mountain bike riders that are also very enjoyable for equestrians and dog-walkers, too.
Trail marker signs on this part of the property are labeled “DTW” (for Dungeness Trails West). There is a large map, announcements and trail brochures (with a map) at the parking area.
Burnt Hill Recreational Trails is a hilly workout. Located between Happy Valley Road and Palo Alto Road, the trailhead parking is off Happy Valley Road near the end of Johnson Creek Road. Elevation ranges from 800 to 2,400 feet. Note: much of this area is also open to ATVs and motorcyclists.
Robin Hall Farm County Park is located between Port Angeles and Sequim. Horse trailer parking is off Pinnell Road. Take Highway 101 to Dryke Road, go right onto N. Solar Drive, then right on Pinnell. Enjoy 2.5 miles of equestrian trails plus access to Olympic Discovery Trail.
DNR’s Cassidy Creek Trailhead parking is off Autumn Road in Sequim. Take Atterberry Road, turn onto Cassidy Road, then left on Autumn Road. DNR gate and parking are to the left. Don’t block the gate. The main looping trail is 3.8 miles. Be careful you don’t get lost.
Mt. Mueller’s lower trail is usually a good place to ride year round for a half-day ride, but bring a saw with you if you go right after a storm because there could be some downed tree limbs in your way.
Camping and horse trailer parking are located at the base at Littleton Horse Camp. Located at Forest Service Road 3071 near Milepost 216 off U.S. Highway 101. Note: Vehicle parking spur sites are reserved for stock use until 6 p.m. Walk-in sites are first come, first serve for all users.
Special thanks to Backcountry Horsemen volunteers and Clallam County for making this site possible.
Layton Hill Horse Camp is a privately owned horse and RV camp belonging to Del and Judy Sage that’s also open for day rides (with donation). Ride their trail to a gate that opens up to miles of roads and trails on Dept. of National Resources recreational area. Located at 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Sequim. For reservations and availability call 425-737-7404 or visit online at www.laytonhillhorsecamp.com.
Olympic Adventure Trail is a 25-mile point-to-point single track trail from Hwy 112 to Lake Crescent featuring long inclines and descents along the way. However, smaller day rides and looping trails are available from the Dan Kelley Road trailhead. Take Highway 101 to Highway 112, left up Dan Kelley Road and look for the sign on the left saying Olympic Discovery Trail/Adventure Route Equestrian Parking and Trailhead.
Reminder: Trails close to cities, such as the Olympic Discovery Trail, are also used by bicyclists, walkers and hikers. So if your horse plops some road apples (manure) on the trail, please get off your horse and kick it off to the side of the trail.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.