Effective immediately, Bryce Canyon National Park announces changes to its private horse use reservation system. This change comes as a result of increasing private horse use and in response to health and safety concerns raised by Garfield County officials about conflicts between concessioner and private horse groups on steep, narrow trails. By modifying the reservation system to provide dedicated times for each user group, the park intends to preserve access while mitigating risks. Ultimately, the park will utilize a public planning process to develop a long-term solution that best balances public enjoyment, access, and safety.
When private and concessioner horse ride groups meet on the trail, unfamiliar horses can behave unpredictably, creating interactions that are especially difficult for inexperienced concessioner riders to control safely. Riders may also be forced to turn around, often in areas where steep cliffs and sensitive resources give little room to do so.
The park’s highest priority is the health and safety of its visitors. Park managers are working collaboratively with Garfield County officials to address their concerns. As a result, the park is modifying the private rider schedule to better ensure separation of these user groups by time. To provide dedicated trail time to each user group, the park will suspend the three private ride time slots that previously overlapped with concessioner operating hours of 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Six private ride reservations for up to 10 riders will still be available every half hour from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Private horse use has increased dramatically since the current management plan was established in 2015 when the park saw 124 private riders in 33 groups. In 2021, there were 814 riders in 199 groups. This 650 percent increase in private use occurred as overall park visitation rose 35 percent to a high of nearly 2.7 million visitors in 2018.
Recognizing that this increase in private horse use requires a review and revision of the park’s management plan, the park intends to initiate a new public planning process as soon as possible. Broad scoping of issues, development of alternatives and public involvement will allow the park to develop a plan that appropriately balances the needs and interests of all involved user groups along with public safety and resource preservation.
Experiencing trails below the rim of Bryce Canyon on horseback can be an unforgettable experience. Concessioners are private companies authorized under contract to offer visitor services like these and others not provided by the park. By welcoming the private sector as a partner in park operations, the National Park Service broadens the economic base of the region in general and in the communities surrounding the parks.
For more information about horseback riding within the park, including how to book a ride, please visit https://www. nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/horse.htm.