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Since the beginning of horses in North America, travelers have used pack animals to haul their gear through the backcountry. A backcountry trip supported by mules or pack horses can be a joy. You can enjoy walking with as well as riding the horses. Mules have long served as pack-only, generally not for riding. A more recent trend is to use llamas. These South American natives are strong, sure-footed, and gentle. People generally walk with, rather than ride llamas. See our accompanying story, Llama Packing for Beginners, and our llama-packing gallery, below.

Still, it’s not unusual to travel hundreds of miles on the CT and never see a pack animal of any kind. Fortunately, conflicts between humans and these beasts of burden are rare.

Horse packer leads a string of loaded horses through wildflowers.If an incident does occur, it’s usually because the packer fails to observe some basic recommendations, such as:

  • When picketing or highlining your horses (or other pack animals), select a dry spot at least 100 feet from the camping area. If camping for more than one night, move your picketing or highlining area every night to disperse the impacts on vegetation and soils.
  • Scatter manure away from campsites to prevent flies from gathering and to speed decay.
  • Shovel manure from parking areas into your trailer before your trip and after you load your animals back into your trailer.

In national forests, groups may include up to 15 people and additional horses to equal a total of 25 (people and horses counted together).

For more detailed information on traveling with pack animals, check out these sites: