By Suzie Maichak, HRL Guest Author
If you are looking for a beautiful day ride or a wonderful camping experience with your horses, Shangri-La trailhead in Marion Oaks, FL is one trailhead that should not be passed over! The day trail parking area has lots of room to park, even for the largest truck and trailer. The restrooms are located in the parking area are clean and sufficiently lighted for early bird riders or afternoon/ evening riders returning from their rides later in the day. Wash racks are available along with water for your horses.
The trails are well marked, however, if you have use of a GPS would be highly recommended if you are a first-time rider on this trailhead. The Greenways cover many square miles and there are several different entrances to the Greenways. You may also want to ask the park ranger for maps of the trails. Also, remember while riding you may pass or be passed by bicycles and backpackers.
If you are looking for camping with your horses, there are many pull-through campsites. All the sites offer high ties for your horses, but you may want to consider a portable electronic fence. The site does not have any electricity or water at the sites; water is available, but remember to bring a generator if you need some sort of electricity. I personally have a small generator and a battery-operated fencer I purchased from Amazon that runs off two D cell batteries. I use the push-in plastic poles with the white electric fence tape to make two fairly good size stalls for my horses. If you are on a budget, use your imagination – including my fencer, it cost me less than $100.00!
If you are avid camper, tents are allowed at the sites (or if you wish to bring the Hilton with you for camping, that works too). The park offers clean bathrooms and showers with pavilions for cookouts and parties. The staff and the park ranger are friendly and helpful. Your smaller fur babies are also welcome, but must be kept on a leash or tied up at all times. Please be considerate and clean up after them, though; there is nothing more miserable than waking up at two in the morning with the incredible pungent smell of puppy poo on your shoes because somebody is not respectful. Also, the park does not have firewood available – so if your ideal experience involves s’mores and singing campfire songs, remember to bring your own firewood.
Now for the real reason you are reading this article: the trails! I know some of you are saying, “You made me read the above to get to the part I am really interested in?” The answer is yes I did, and besides, you did!
What is the best word I can think of to describe the riding trails…how about…WOW!!! These trails are well maintained, well-marked and gorgeous. You are riding with the smell of pine from the tall pines and the shade from the large beautiful Oak trees. You can ride among the trees on flat ground, or if you are feeling a little risky, you can ride the Florida Mountains. (If you are from up north or thinking Florida does not have mountains, Sunshine! – keep in mind that a sand hill taller then ten feet qualifies as a mountain in Florida.) But really, you can ride up and down many hills in the area or ride along one of the ridges…the terrain is diverse!
Bring plenty of water, snacks, a first aid kit, and a whistle in case you fall off and someone has to come look for you. (We know, the last part isn’t fun to think about.) Be safe, be courteous – and most of all, enjoy the ride!
Sunshine is an amateur barrel racer and avid trail rider. Visit her website at sunshineshorsesnthings.com