With millions of acres of public lands, Florida has one of the best trail systems in the United States. From beach rides and day jaunts to deep-forest treks, few people realize just how many equestrian opportunities Florida offers. Here are some of the top spots to ride in the Sunshine State.
At Blackwater River State Forest in Milton, ride over gently rolling hills in one of the largest state forests in Florida, with more than 200,000 acres of land to explore. Couple 40 miles of scenic trails with full camping facilities for equestrian use, and you have a must-visit Florida riding spot – perfect for trips of varying lengths.
Also in northwest Florida, take a guided ride on the Forgotten Coast at Cape San Blas, where the experience along this pristine shore is sure to be anything but forgettable. Broke-A-Toe and Two-Bit Stables can set you up with a picture-perfect ride in paradise, complete with moonlight trips and romantic rides along the beach.
If you’re an equestrian enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard of Goethe State Forest’s extensive and well-maintained trail system. Located in southwestern Levy County, Goethe offers riders a look at one of the largest stands of old-growth longleaf pines in the state. With miles and miles of multi-use trails and excellent trailhead facilities, Goethe State Forest is a trail rider’s wonderland.
Head over to the northeastern coast for a one-hour guided ride along the beach to discover the natural beauty of Amelia Island State Park with Kelly Seahorse Ranch. The trip is perfect for first-timers and seasoned riders alike. Keep an eye out for dolphins, endangered North Atlantic right whales (during the winter) and shorebirds, such as plovers and terns, in this tranquil setting.
No discovery of Florida via horseback is complete without exploring the trails on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. There’s plenty to see and do on this 110-mile stretch of land, reaching across Central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River. Start with a camp and ride at Ross Prairie near Dunnellon. Convenient facilities make this an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the whole area.
Travel down to South Florida, and you’ll find plenty of fun rides, ranging from mild to wild. DuPuis Reserve near Indiantown has more than 40 miles of trails, as well as stalls, a bathhouse and primitive campsites. Near Punta Gorda, the 65,000-acre Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area offers varied riding areas, plus facilities such as stables, campsites and restrooms. Bring your own horses to Frederick Douglass Memorial Park on South Hutchinson Island and ride along the beach. Fully outfitted tours are also available on Sundays by reservation.
Remember: Wherever you ride in the Sunshine State, make sure to stay on marked trails. Also, public lands require all horses to have current proof of negative Coggins tests.