Whether you're a first-timer or experienced horseperson, horseback riding is a great way to enjoy the spectacular scenery in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains and the State and National Forests around Asheville, North Carolina. Here are our top picks:
Ride Western Style along trails through the spectacular Biltmore Estate and enjoy an unforgettable guided expedition through woodlands rich with wildlife on a horse chosen to match your skill level. Or bring your own horse and explore more than 80 miles of estate trails—the same paths used by the Vanderbilts and their guests at the turn of the century. Enjoy wide, well-marked trails through pristine forests, green pastures, and along the banks of the French Broad River. Choose from five different 10–30 mile loops. Several trails include optional jumps and are suitable for carriages. Guided Horseback Riding includes a one-hour guided ride on beautiful trails through the woodlands and meadows of the estate. Suitable for beginner to intermediate-level riders. The Private Lunch Trail Ride is a three-hour trail ride and picnic lunch. Some riding experience needed. The Private Trail Ride is a two-hour private trail ride. Plus, attend special events and clinics throughout the year. Go to the Biltmore Estate Web site for more.
Wolf Laurel Stables
Wolf Laurel Stables offers scenic, guided horseback trail and wagon rides on 20 miles of trails, experienced guides, and gentle horses. Take in the fabulous 360 degree views of the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests from the top of Big Bald Mountain at over 5,500’ elevation! Or, enjoy a cool horse ride through beautiful mountain forests along Bald Mountain Creek. Go to their Web site for more.
Smokemont Horse Riding Stables, Great Smoky Mountains
An authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, located in Cherokee. Enjoy a guided horseback ride within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on natural riding trails that feature beautiful wooded scenery, native flora and fauna, and mountain streams and waterfalls. Choose from four options: Hour rides that include wooded scenery and crossing the Oconaluftee River, a 2.5-hour waterfall ride, a 4- hour ride on a wooded trail following along the Oconaluftee River and viewing two cascading waterfalls, or a peaceful wagon ride! Go to their Web site for more.
Pisgah Forest Riding Stables, Pisgah National Forest
Choose between the one hour, two hour, the scenic three hour mountaintop, or the three hour waterfall ride in the national forest. Located near Brevard on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Go to their Web site for more.
Sandy Bottom Trail Guided Rides
This secluded ranch minutes north of Asheville has picturesque trails pass through the high country, scenic mountain meadows and wooded areas of Madison County. Their most popular horseback ride takes you and to the “Little Pine Gem Mine,” located in a remote corner of our ranch. Go to their Web site for more.
Bringing Your Horse? Self-Guided Horseback Trails...
DuPont State Forest Waterfall Loop
Go to DuPont State Forest to see waterfalls. There is a great loop that allows you to see four of the major waterfalls. This loop does involve crossing Little River. The rocks can be slick and the water can be up to two feet deep when the rainfall has been heavy. If your horses have crossed large streams before, there shouldn't be a problem. There are also two wooden bridges. If your horse has not crossed a wooden bridge before, you may want to lead them across the first time. The bridges are wide and very solid. Rangers and volunteers carry free maps. If you need a map, ask any ranger. Large maps are posted at the kiosks. Many loops can be developed by connecting the trails. This loop takes about 2 hours, depending on your speed and how long you stay at the viewpoints. It will get you familiar with many other connecting trails.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
About 550 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains are open to horses. Horses are restricted to trails specifically designated for horse use. If you wish to ride your own horse in the park, please obtain a copy of the park's trail map. This map indicates the trails on which you may ride horses and explains the park's rules and regulations concerning horse riding in the backcountry. It also provides information about backcountry camping, and permit requirements. To obtain an official trail map, stop at any park visitor center or call (865) 436-0120. The cost of the map is $1. You may also download a trail map. Horses are allowed only on trails specifically designated for horse use. Off-trail or cross-country riding is prohibited. Horse riders may use designated campsites located on trails open to their use, however some backcountry campsites must be reserved in advance. These sites are indicated on the park's trail map. A drive-in horse camp that provides ready access to backcountry horse trails in the park is located at Cataloochee.
Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgh National Forest and Nantahala National Forest offer a variety of riding experiences for all levels of riders. Look for trails signed with the horse-use symbol. If the trail is unsigned or a red slash is across the horse symbol, the trail is for hiking only. Open and gated Forest Service roads are open for horseback riding, unless signed closed to this use.
South Mills River Area, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard
Very popular backcountry area for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Numerous trails offer many opportunities for loop rides. Most trails follow historic logging roads and railroad grades alongside streams through hardwood forests.
Cold Springs Creek flows through dense woods and grassy fields on its way to the Pigeon River. The forest shows hints of its past history farming, logging, narrow gauge railroads, settlements, and signs of recent forest management. The grassy ridges of Max Patch Mountain near the Tennessee State line crown the area. Trails combine with Forest Service roads to provide loop riding opportunities.
For More: Guide to Horseback Riding & Trails in National Forests in North Carolina (PDF)