Vermont Rail Trails

Horseback Riding

Two individuals riding horses

Horseback Riding on the Vermont Rail Trails

The Vermont rail trails are open to equestrians. Take a ride through Vermont’s rural countryside and idyllic downtowns and villages on horseback, and enjoy this accessible, multi-use resource along with a variety of other trail users.

 

What is a Rail Trail?

Rail trails are multi-purpose, public paths created from former railroad corridors. Flat or following a gentle grade, they traverse Vermont’s downtowns, villages, and rural countryside. Ideal for bicycling, walking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, equestrian and wheelchair use, rail trails are extremely popular for recreation and transportation. Since the 1960s, more than 26,000 miles of rail trails have been created across the United States.

 

How Do I Find a Rail Trail to Ride?

The VHC Trail Connection connects riders and drivers with information on the many wonderful horse trails in Vermont open to the public. You can click on the interactive map below to find trails in your area, or peruse the list of trails next to the map.

Find a trail – Vermont Horse Council

Two individuals riding horses

Safety

Rail trails can be busy thoroughfares on weekends or near trailheads. Remember that rail trails are shared trails with many other users—equestrians and non-equestrians—so be a good trail ambassador! Let’s all follow these guidelines to ensure that everyone has a good experience in our beautiful Vermont landscape:

  • Keep in mind that some trail users do not know how to interact with horses and riders. Speak to them in a calm voice, telling them what you would like them to do for everyone’s safety.
  • Be aware of your impact on the terrain and take steps to minimize it. Do not ride on wet trails during mud season.
  • In fragile terrain, stay on the path to avoid damaging vulnerable plant life.
  • When on a heavily used path shared with bicycles and walkers, such as a rail trail, dismount and kick manure off the trail.
  • On wilderness trails, keep your horse moving when s/he drops manure so there is not a big pile. It will decompose quicker if spread out.
  • Remove all manure from parking areas.

For helpful equestrian-specific safety tips and resources:

More information on Safety and Trail Etiquette are on the Vermont State rail trails System website Etiquette – Vermont rail trails and on the Vermont Horse Council website Safety Resources – Vermont Horse Council and Safety & Etiquette – Vermont Horse Council.

 

Parking

Information on formal parking can be found on the Vermont rail trails maps. Overnight parking is an option with permission at some trailheads. For more information, contact the rail trails Program Manager.

Two individuals riding horses

Rules and Regulations

Allowed Uses

The Vermont rail trails are open non-motorized uses, with the exception of snowmobiles, motorized wheelchairs, and authorized maintenance vehicles. You’re sharing the trail with others, so be a good ambassador!

Pass & Yield Guidelines

  • Stay to the right of the trail except when passing.
  • Yield to the slowest users, and yield to livestock and other animals.
  • In the winter, yield to snow machines.
  • In other seasons, yield to horses.

Clear communication is key! Give a clear warning and SLOW DOWN before passing other trail users. All users should operate at a reasonable speed and should slow down when engaging in passing maneuvers, especially when passing other use types.

Horses are animals with minds of their own. Since they are prey animals, horses (even now as domesticated pets) are always on the lookout for predators, which in a horse’s mind can look like a biker quickly approaching from behind or a hiker walking briskly towards them. A rider will not always have control over their horse, especially in a scary situation. It is this lack of control that can make an encounter with a horse a potentially dangerous one…for horse, rider, and for other trail users.

A trail sharing sign that you will commonly see on multi-use trails is shown here.
The rules are:

  • Bikers yield to hikers and horses
  • Hikers yield to horses

The concept is that bikers are potentially fast and could come into conflict if passing other users too quickly. Bikers can stop and go easily; thus, they let other users have the right of way. Horses are big and unpredictable, so horses get the right of way.
What should you do when you encounter a horse:

1. Stop or Slow.
If you are hiking, move to the side of the trail remaining within sight of the horse.
If you are biking, slow down and then move to the side. If a horse is acting up, you may need to stop and get off your bike. This helps the horse recognize that you are a human.

2. Communicate, say “Hello”
This is probably the most important thing you can do. If the horse sees you standing there and not saying anything, instinct tells it that you are a predator. Smile and say hello to the rider. Perhaps, try to strike up a conversation. This will calm the horse and also does wonders for relations between all trail users.

3. Ask the rider what you should do.
Sometimes the rider will ask you to continue walking or riding while they wait on the side of the trail. Sometimes they will pass by while you wait. Again, remember that horses have individual personalities and only the horse’s owner/rider knows that personality. Trust their judgment.

4. Take EXTRA care if approaching the horse from behind.
Horses cannot see directly behind themselves, so approaching from behind can be dangerous to both the equestrian and the hiker or biker. Horses may kick out in what they perceive as self-defense. Again, communication is critical: gently announce, well in advance, to let the horse and rider know that you are approaching from behind and ask/wait for direction from the rider.

Quick Facts

  • Vermont law prohibits the operation of snowmobiles on streets and highways. The maximum snowmobile speed limit on state lands is 35 mph.
    E-bikes are permitted.
  • Motorbikes, ATVs, and ORVs are not permitted on the trail.
  • Camping on the trail, in the trail right of way, or at trailheads is prohibited.
  • Overnight parking at trailheads with VTrans permission.
  • Discharging firearms from or across the trail is strictly prohibited.
  • Smoking, alcoholic beverages, and illegal drugs are not permitted on the rail trail right of way.

For further information, visit our Etiquette page.

Two individuals nordic skiing the rail trail system
Two children biking on the LVRT
A family walking on the Rail Trails
A person biking during a sunset
Vermont Rail Trails*** July 2, 2024