Trail maintenance is the mainstay of Back Country Horsemen of America’s mission to keep trails open for horse use. In every season, in all weather, on any given weekend, BCHers across the country commit themselves to the hard, exhausting, sometimes grueling work of making trails accessible and safe.

In 2015, BCHA members logged $11,238,375 of volunteer value, with over 300,000 volunteer hours, and over 1.5 million travel miles from 25 different states. BCHA is first and foremost a service organization, so every year is a high volunteer donation year. The grand total of BCHA’s volunteer value for the last 20 years is 4,432,081 hours with a remarkable donated value of $126,651,135.

Many of those volunteer hours were spent improving multi-use trails, multi-use trailheads, and sometimes even trails where horses are prohibited.

Below are some of our stories, and a way in which you can support us!

Nez Perce National Forest

North Central Idaho Back Country Horsemen recently spent a full day removing fallen trees from the Hanover-Martin Trail Loop in the Nez Perce National Forest. This loop is a favorite of hikers and horseback riders. Because the majority of the trail is in designated wilderness, the crosscut saw was the tool of choice.

The members broke into two groups. One group worked with two 6-foot crosscut saws on one end of the trail while the other group used shorter crosscut saws at the other end. The entire trail loop was littered with downfall; the largest tree cleared by hand was a sizable 22” in diameter. About seven miles of the loop are in non-wilderness land, so chainsaws were used there.

By the time the two groups met in the middle, the entire 16-1/2 mile trail had been cleared. Passing hikers thanked the North Central Idaho Chapter members for their hard work in making the trail passable again.

Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah Ranger District Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of North Carolina recently assisted in re-routing the Lower Trace Ridge Trail in Pisgah National Forest. This heavily traveled trail serves as a major link in a varied, interconnecting system of trails popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Due to age and overuse, deep gorges and huge boulders made the trail almost impassible by foot let alone stock or mountain bikes.

The National Forest Service did not have the budget or the manpower to accomplish the badly needed trail re-route. But the Pisgah Ranger District BCH worked with the local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the Pisgah Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association to get it done. Working together ensured that all users have the opportunity to experience the high peaks, cascading waterfalls, and heavily forested slopes of this striking landscape.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Back Country Horsemen believe that open communication is key to accomplishing their goal of keeping trails open for all users. They have a number of Memorandums of Understanding and Agreements with a variety of agencies and groups.

The Mammoth Cave Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Kentucky recently signed an agreement with Mammoth Cave National Park. Still struggling with inadequate funding, park representatives had noticed a significant decline in the condition of trails especially in the last five years, including severe erosion, mires, and trail braiding.

The agreement states the park and Mammoth Cave Back Country Horsemen will meet biannually to develop and review an annual work plan, and to discuss organized workdays. BCH will provide the muscle and sweat, the park will provide the tools and materials.

Due to safety concerns, volunteers are not normally allowed to use chainsaws in the park, but park representatives have agreed to allow BCHers to do so after they’ve received the required training and agree to conduct operations in accordance with the park’s chainsaw plan. Downed trees constantly block trails, so this change alone will make a big difference in keeping trails accessible.

Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the world’s longest known cave system and part of the Green River valley of south central Kentucky. Ninety miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians meander through an ecologically diverse and beautiful landscape.

Both sides feel this agreement is a big step toward improving the condition of the park trail system and keeping those trails open, enjoyable, and safe. They look forward to a long-term partnership that ensures trails are maintained and preserved for the enjoyment of all users.

Join the BCHA $5 a Month Club!

If trails are your passion and you’d like to see them kept open into the future through BCHA’s many efforts, then please join the BCHA $5 a Month Club.

$5 a Month Club

The $5 a Month Club is a grassroots support network. Members of this club pledge to donate $5 per month to help BCHA grow and prosper.  All funds received go to the TRAILS FOREVER FUND, which is used to expand Back Country Horsemen of America’s resources and programs. $5.00 is less than most people pay for lunch at their favorite fast food restaurant. some may even pay that amount for a fancy coffee, or a banana split.  Becoming a
sustainable supporter of BCHA through the $5 a Month Club is a small way to help your trails.