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Horse camping on Forest Service lands

In an out-of-the-way location, securely separated from other recreation vehicles, I recently saw an RV that attracted my attention. Both the RV and its contents were significantly different from the 35 to 50 other RVs clustered around the Forest Service camping area near Cottonwood, Ariz.

The RV excited me with memories of my horse camping and trail riding years in central Illinois. Yes, an RV with living quarters for both humans and horses. This equestrian RV provides a suitable lifestyle for two horses and a human couple, Ron and Kaye, from near Bozeman, Mont.

Many times, during one of my past lives, my ex-wife and I had taken two horses in a towable trailer behind our motorhome and traveled to different “horse camps” or equestrian campgrounds in Illinois state parks. Trail riding in the state parks enabled us to enjoy the countryside during most of the year.

There, the trails looped through the forests, around the lakes, across the hills and valleys. In the evening, after a long day of riding, we rested, ate and slept peacefully, far from the hustle and bustle of cities and towns.

While RVing in the southwest, among the vast miles of mountains, canyons, rivers and deserts, it has seemed to me that a wonderful way to view the scenery and enjoy the open spaces is via horseback. In Arizona and throughout the southwest, there are many locations which cater to the horse campers.

Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, has four or more corrals where anyone may camp and secure horses for short time periods. Bumblebee, north of Phoenix on Interstate 17, offers a dude ranch with corrals. Other horse camps are in Apache Junction and around the state.

Check online at for the locations of numerous horse-friendly sites for camping and trail riding.

When boondocking and horse camping on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service land, it is necessary that you plan well in advance to have the proper provisions for the riders and the horses or mules.

Here’s a brief list of equipment and provisions that will make your equestrian adventure more enjoyable:

  • Feed, hay and grain.
  • Sufficient freshwater in secure containers.
  • Horse trailer/RV with living quarters for horses and humans.
  • Horses that trailer and travel well.
  • Medical supplies for the horses and humans.
  • Electric fence, posts and mall for driving posts.
  • Battery and fence charger.
  • Horse tack and replacement gear.
  • Manure scoops and containers to clean up the horses’ waste.
  • A wheelbarrow
  • Large plastic buckets for feed and water.

Kay and Ron have traveled from Montana to Arizona with their horses, a fox trotter name Morgan, as “snowbirds and snowhorses” this winter. It has been an interesting and eventful trip into the southwest where there are many state and local fairgrounds, state and federal lands, plus private and commercial campgrounds — all of which are horse friendly.

Horse camping and trail riding offer a wonderful, freedom lifestyle for horse lovers and it’s a great way to see out-of-the way places.

About Dr. Bob Gorden

Dr. Bob Gorden is an RVer, hiker and writer. He has a PhD in microbial ecology from the University of Georgia in Athens. He is a retired research scientist from the University of Illinois Natural History Survey. He has owned and operated more than 55 RVs of various types, and has visited every state, except Hawaii, in his RV. He also traveled by RV in New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. He currently owns and travels in a 1978 GMC 26-foot Class A and 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome. He has a compelling desire to be “On the Road Again!”

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