Location: 1349 Neal Rd (main gate address), San Antonio, TX .
Hours of Operation: Land Heritage Institute is normally open on the 2nd Saturday of the month, but it will also be open the 2nd & 3rd Saturday’s from January through May 2021. Gates will open at 8 am and close at 4 pm. COVID 19 protocols including wearing masks at headquarters check in, maintaining physical distance and no groups larger than ten people are requested. Open dates from now through May 2021 are:
January 9th & 16th
February 13th & 20th
March 13th & 20th
April 10th & 17th
May 8th & 15th
Upon entry, please sign in, provide your donation/fee at headquarters and email your Coggins to (210) 846-9403. Maps if available, will also be located at HQs. The map is also on line and below.
Contact Peggy Oppelt for scheduling an appointment outside of LHI’s open days or to inquire of events or special programs such as LHI Trail Masters.
In San Antonio on the South side, from HWY 410 and S. Zarzamora St., travel south on S. Zarzamora. Pass Texas A&M University SA, pass Zarzamora Ranch, turn left at the light onto Applewhite. Pass the Toyota Plant, cross the Medina River, pass the Medina River Greenway Trailhead, and then turn left on Neal Road. The main entrance gate will be about a mile on the left with a stone sign to the right of the gate. Once in the gate continue down the paved road, maybe about a little less than a mile, you will see a sign and orange barrel in the middle of the road directing you to the right gravel road. Camps sites and horse pens are on the right and straight ahead is a large field, then the headquarters and bunk house.
Fees: $10.00 donation per rider and $3 per non rider for the day and $25 a night for water/electric camping sites. Fees are subject to change; always check with LHI for the most up-to-date rates.
Facilities: LHI has a designated equestrian center for day riders and campers with electric hook ups, water, pens, and also a restroom / shower in the headquarters building. Between the bunk house and the headquarters building is a shared water trough, a tall wooden mounting block, additional picnic tables and a water fountain. A restroom and shower is located at the back of the headquarters building. Be sure to admire the magnificent Long Horn cattle located in the pen/pastures behind the bunkhouse and headquarters.
Overnight Camping: Ten RV / living quarter trailer hook ups with electricity and water, horse pens and picnic tables. Camping for small groups is by reservation only or at organized events.
Bunkhouse Rental: $250 a day, call for details. Fees are subject to change; always check with LHI for the most up-to-date rates.
Cell Phone Service: Good
Restrictions/Rules: A few of the rules to follow (check LHI website for a full list):
- No open flame fires
- No smoking
- No alcohol
- No firearms
- Pets must be kept on a leash no more than six feet long
- Clean up after yourself
Manure Management: Please clean up manure in stalls and day area use. Deposit manure in the designated area. Wheel barrels, muck buckets, and shovels are provided. Bring your own rake.
Mileage: Approximately 20 miles of trail.
Terrain: Terrain varies from sandy and mostly flat stretches into rolling grasslands full of Texas prickly pair, yucca, mesquite, lots of cover in dense thickets, to wide open spaces, oak groves, persimmon, a variety of trees and vegetation as you ride down into the riparian zone along the Medina River. The ground, mostly sandy, is easy on the hooves. Hills are mild with inclines increasing when going down into the Medina river trails. Be sure to ride under the shade of the ancient twin oaks where trails 14 and 15 meet at the gravel road.
The Land Heritage Institute (LHI) is a 1,200 acre “living land museum” uniquely combining nature, recreation, culture, education, and the arts in south San Antonio. LHI is located near the Toyota plant and off the Medina River’s south bank. This section of land has an unusual history, which is interesting to learn about and experience. The ground on which LHI exists has more than a deca-millennium of human habitation resulting in over 36 state-registered archaeological sites. LHI is an internationally recognized Beene Site. Informative signs mark significant historical sites on the trail. The Corn Crib is one of them off of the bridle trail and is marked on the map.
The crib was built in the 1850s and is now used to house photographic images linking history and modern day digital technology together, creating an artistic merging of education, art, history, and culture. This is a permanent exhibit. When making your appointment just let Peggy or Mark know if you would like to view this exhibit. The Applewhite House ruins are located just across from the Corn Crib. This house was also built in the 1850s with native stones from the river bed’s edge by Steven Applewhite and his brother. The LHI website details the land’s history and evolution of the institute. The LHI foundation is nonprofit and managed by a board consisting of over twenty organizations including the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association (TETRA). The Institute is continually being developed, and thanks to several volunteers and AmeriCorps, new trails and facilities are continually being added.
This is the only location I know of in San Antonio open to the public for bringing in your own horses to ride trails. I am so very thankful for this resource! Horse back riding is one of the recreational activities offered at LHI along with hiking and cycling on approximately 20 miles of trail. I’ve never seen a mountain biker or cyclist on the dirt trails, only on the paved greenway.
LHI equestrian trails are on good ground, and are wide with mostly flat dirt paths. There are few rocks on the bridle trails, so shoes or boots for most horses will not be a requirement. If you are looking for easy terrain to do some long trots to condition your horse, LHI is the ideal place.
Be sure to take a look at the map, and notice the marked paved hike & bike trails in green, known as the Medina River Greenway. The paved pathway is for hikers and bikers only, not equestrians. Please be respectful and stay off of the paved trails. You are allowed to cross over the paved Medina River Greenway when riding down to the LHI river trails. Be on point, as some horses may spook as the bikes ride by. Especially take care at at the paved greenway crossing between trail 18 and 19. Here the greenway has a high long decent. Your crossing is at the bottom of this decent, so cyclists might be speeding down at an increasing rate, surprising you and your steed. Sections of the LHI trails are paralleled and near the greenway as well. Your horse will alert to the traffic along the greenway. LHI requires you stay on the designated bridle path for good reason. Off trail, especially in brushy areas, there can be all sorts of unseen hazards, prairie dog holes, old fencing, debris, etc. Even on trail there is the occasional hole, so please be observant.
Trails are very well marked and the map is well done. There are a few trails I occasionally manage to get turned around on. Overall, the layout is simple with the Medina and greenway paved path being mostly to the north, Neal Road is towards the south, LHI headquarters / trail head is to the south east and Applewhite road is on the west. Sites and landmarks such as the Corn Crib, Presnall Watson Farmstead, the S.T.R.E.A.M workshop, various “You Are Here” maps along the trail, and sights such as the Toyota plant help keep your bearings and make it hard to get lost.
Enjoy lots of wildlife sightings from the saddle, such as hawks, all sorts of birds, foxes, coyotes, hogs, deer, armadillos, and I’m sure I’ve not seen it all yet. Just driving into the park I recently spotted two red tailed hawks. When camping overnight we were serenaded by a coyote choir in the evening.
To get to the shady river trails you will pass through one of the five or six gates and cross the paved Medina River Greenway. When there has been a lot of rain, making these trails slippery and vulnerable to trail use erosion, these gates will be closed and locked.
Trail 3, the West River Loop, is so far as I know the only river trail having Medina river access, providing your horse a shady drink of cool water. Occasionally there will be water in a trough at the S.T.R.E.A.M. workshop where there is also a mounting block. At the headquarters tail head, there is also a water trough and large mounting block.
A decade ago now, at my first outing to LHI, we were fortunate to have Jack Borchers with TETRA (Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association), one of the permanent director organizations on the board of LHI, give us a tour. He kindly showed us the trails and historical sites of LHI. I thoroughly enjoyed the trails, the company of my fellow riders, perfect weather, and golden green landscapes. The November sky was brilliantly blue and clear with an occasional military aircraft or formation high overhead. Lackland Air Force Base was putting on the Airfest 2010 airshow at Kelly Field that weekend which I was able to enjoy from the saddle.
Where The Trails Are returned to the Land Heritage Institute in San Antonio on April 13th, 2013 to participate in their introductory trail ride. Over sixty trail riders arrived at the facility to enjoy new trails, new features, and the camaraderie of fellow riders.
My favorite trail at LHI is Riverside Run. Riverside Run rests under the shade of a variety of tall mature trees such as oaks and cottonwoods while snuggling up to the cool Medina River, supplying at least a five to ten degree drop in temperature.
LHI has about twenty miles of equestrian trails. I recommend experiencing the Institute by horseback, hiking, biking, or camping and hope that others visit and support this emerging public resource. It has been a pleasure enjoying continued improvements as LHI evolves over the years.