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Utah’s horse world – Beginner-friendly trails for summer fun on horseback

Draper Dell is a favorite trail-riding spot for Salt Lake-area equestrians.
Draper Dell is a favorite trail-riding spot for Salt Lake-area equestrians.
courtesy of Arielle Smith

Looking for some fun summer outings on horseback? If you or your horses are relatively new to trail riding, you’ll likely enjoy some local trails that are neither too technical nor too lengthy.

Arielle and friends riding in Ogden Canyon, UT
photo courtesy of Arielle S.

We polled some of our area’s trail-savvy experts and found a wonderful assortment of scenic trails that will help get you out of the arena or fenced paddock to enjoy some sunshine and relaxation on horseback!

Ellen Nicholson Walker suggests two quality Sanpete county excursions for those who don’t mind venturing south of Salt Lake:

Canal Canyon trailhead east and south of Spring City (roughly an hour and 45 minutes south of SLC) allows parking for a few rigs. This trail is occasionally full on weekends, so a weekday ride is recommended if at all possible. Depending on your level of fitness (as well as the conditioning and endurance of your horse) you can choose to ride for one to eight hours on mountain trails from about 6000 feet to nearly 10,000 feet in elevation. There are two fairly well-maintained trails that make a loop of approximately 8 miles. It may be a bit strenuous due to the altitude change (you may want to practice on some level terrain before tackling these climbs) and the trail can be quite rocky in many places. Ellen recommends boots for barefoot horses. There is some water available for animals along the trail, in the national forest.

Another favorite Sanpete county trail suggested by Ellen is the White Hill wildlife management area, south of Spring City on "old highway 89". A bit easier and even more beginner-oriented than the Canal Canyon route, this is a nice one to two hour loop in juniper/pinion hills. It can get hot in the summer; consider an early morning or evening jaunt to maximize comfort. There is no water so you’ll want to pack some in with your trailer to make sure horses stay well-hydrated after the ride.

Successful endurance rider Janet Tipton (Flying T Acres, Erda UT) and Jaime Topham of Pegasus Event Center in Grantsville are both fans of Settlement Canyon out in Tooele. From Salt Lake you 'll travel roughly 40 minutes west. There’s a nice variety of trails with all kinds of diversity (ideal for riders of most any level). There are no ATVs or hunters, adding to the already-attractive qualities of this west side venue.

Active Salt Lake-area eventers like Sussi Felleson and Arielle Smith have nothing but great praise for the easy-access horse trails at Dimple Dell. Located conveniently close to SLC on the east bench of Sandy, its wide, well-groomed trails accommodate riders, hikers, and dog walkers. There are pleasant hills for reasonable conditioning (not so steep that they’re treacherous, of course) and the footing works well for barefoot equines. The spacious parking lots have room for trucks and trailers, permitting drivers to turn around and maneuver without the aid of traffic cones, flag-waving roadside assistants, periscopes or sedatives.

While Millcreek Canyon trails (on the east bench) are open to horses, riders should be forewarned that mountain bikers utilize the trails on even-numbered days and often travel at high speed; this can be terrifying to horses and unsafe for both horse and rider should a collision occur. Thus we do not recommend riding even seasoned mounts in that area on those days. Dogs are allowed off-leash on the Millcreek Canyon trails only on odd-numbered days. The parking situation in the upper Millcreek area also requires a small trailer and very experienced driver. Big rigs or drivers who don’t know how to negotiate tight turns in a small area aren’t going to have a good time.

As with Millcreek on the even-numbered days, Draper’s Corner Canyon is not recommended (on any day) due to the many high-speed mountain bikes that regularly fly along its trails.

The Ogden valley and Snow Basin area, approximately 40 minutes north of Salt Lake City, has a great collection of beautiful yet simple trails that invite relaxing rides without demands for technical expertise. For confident horse and rider teams who don’t mind sharing a paved trail with bikers, baby carriages and general urban foot traffic, the Jordan River Parkway and Legacy Trail are also open to horseback riding.

Yellow Fork trail in Rose Canyon, near Herriman, (south west of Salt Lake City) allows a nice, easy climb. The ride takes about 2 – 2.5 hours at a walk. While mountain bikers do share this route, they're generally known for being courteous to horses and their riders.

Several horse owners across the Wasatch front also recommend North Fork Park, Cutler Flats, the Bi-Centennial Trail and Antelope Island (particularly if you can plan your ride for a time when the bugs aren’t out in full force).

Be sure to see our other recent trail-related articles to help ensure the comfort, health and safety of both horse and rider as you explore the greater Salt Lake area on horseback.

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