My Favorite Horseback Rides in Delaware
Mary Everhart shares her favorite places to trail ride in Delaware’s three counties, including trails at Brandywine Creek State Park, Lums Pond State Park, and Delaware’s beaches, as part of Equitrekking’s 50 State Trail Riding Project.
By Mary Everhart
New Castle County’s Piedmont Region Horse Trails
The Piedmont Region stretches from New Jersey south to Alabama. Crossing the northern edge of Delaware, the Piedmont is about 10 miles wide at its widest point while still falling in our small state. The Piedmont landscape is comprised of rolling hills. The highest point in Delaware, located near Ebright Road, is benchmarked at 450 feet.
This region is also referred to as Delaware’s Chateau Country due to the du Pont family influences and their magnificent estates that once dotted the region. Here you will find quaint historic villages and ornate gardens. Winterthur, the former home of Henry Francis du Pont is now a museum, housing the finest collection of American antiques in one place. This area is also the birthplace of America's industrial heritage.
Mary Everhart riding along the Brandywine River during bluebell season.
State-owned Brandywine Creek State Park hosts 7.7 miles of rocky trail along the creek. Riders can access trails from the parking lot at Thompson’s Bridge on Route 92. This is a small lot and can only handle about four or five small rigs. The Delaware Equine Council (DEC) Trails Committee is working to improve access. If you intend to ride in the park, make sure your horse has front shoes, and preferably is shod all around.
The real riding gem of the Piedmont Region is land formerly owned by the Woodlawn Trust. In March of 2013, President Obama designated some of this area as First State National Monument. Trails on this property are accessed from trails in Brandywine Creek State Park. This is a lovely oasis of green juxtaposed to major shopping centers and suburban developments.
Horseback riding is allowed on designated trails in Delaware State Parks at Bellevue, Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Fenwick Island, Holts Landing, Lums Pond (pictured here), and Trap Pond State Parks. Photo Credit Delaware State Parks.
The First State National Monument is comprised of 1,100 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania, stretching from Brandywine Creek State Park to Smith Bridge Road in Pennsylvania, and from the Brandywine Creek almost to US Route 202. The National Park Service owns the First State National Monument, yet Woodlawn Trustees continues a management role at this time. The trails and tracks are wide enough for two riders to ride abreast. With suburban development lying so close to the monument lands, trails are crowded on weekends. Expect to share these multi-use trails with mountain bikers and hikers. The best time to go horse riding is Monday through Friday!
This is one of the best maps of the multi-use trails in the Delaware Piedmont.
Kent County Horse Trails
The most extensive trail system in this area is located in Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area in Felton.
Sussex County Horse Trails
My favorite horseback rides are Cape Henlopen in the winter and the Delaware Seashore. Delaware State Parks offers information about riding Delaware’s beaches. Access restrictions apply so be sure to read the rules for both Cape Henlopen and the Delaware Seashore!
The author getting ready to ride at Blackbird State Forest.
If horseback riding on the beach is not for you, consider Trap Pond State Park or Redden State Forest. Trap Pond is over 3,100 acres. It is the last remaining large tract of the freshwater wetlands that once covered a large portion of southwestern Sussex County. Another thing that makes this state park unique is that it is home to the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress in the nation. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the land for recreation in the 1930s.
Redden State Forest, Delaware's largest state forest totals over 12,400 acres and is located in central Sussex County just north of Georgetown. Loblolly pine is the primary tree species in the forest, although Redden also has stands of mixed hardwoods, including oaks, maple, and gum. With over 44 miles of trails, the 18 tracts of Redden State Forest are popular for hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, and bird watching. The Redden Headquarters Tract is the easiest to navigate, with a six-mile loop and plenty of parking. The Jester Tract also has parking, but is more difficult to navigate without a guide or a good GPS.
How To Ride All Three Counties in a Weekend
The real beauty of riding in Delaware is that all three counties can be ridden during a two night, three day stay. Come camp at Lums Pond. Arrive around midday, ride those trails and get a good night’s rest. The next day, you can drive north and enjoy the trails that are shown on the Woodlawn map. After three to four hours of horseback riding and a picnic lunch along the beautiful Brandywine River, you can head back to your campsite at Lums Pond. The next day you can ride the beaches! Note: parking fees are in effect at Delaware State Parks from May until November.
The horse trail at Lums Pond. Photo credit Delaware State Parks.
Research trip information from the “Links” section of the Delaware Equine Council. You can get to Delaware State Parks from that URL. You can find the names and email addresses of a number of the officers, directors, and chairmen. These people can help you find trails and services in Delaware. For instance, you can camp with your horse at Lums Pond State Park in Bear. The weekday rate for a Delaware resident is $22. The weekend rate for a Delaware resident is $23. Out-of-state is $26 and $27 respectively. This facility is nice because there is a bathhouse, dump station, and other amenities typical of a campground. Campsites are in an open meadow and you need to provide a high tie or speed fence system. There is an equestrian center at Lums Pond and you can rent a ride!
If you can do primitive, Blackbird State Forest (near Smyrna) has free camping for you and your horse. There are only five campsites and only two are suitable for horse trailers so space is very limited. You can’t come with a dozen rigs!
About the author: Mary Everhart is Chairman of the Delaware Equine Council Trails Committee and sits on other councils as an open space and horseback riding advocate. She grew up in Pennsylvania near the Brandywine Valley. She enjoys planning horse vacations with friends. She has completed rides in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina trailering her own horses. Email Mary for advice about riding in Delaware.