One of the best ways to see the mountains of North Carolina is on horseback.
Mountains offer a serene setting for horse lovers from all over the world.
The cool summers in the High Country offer an amazing landscape that provides pleasant days for riding horses through the range of riding trails, where riders can enjoy the scenery of flowing rivers and beautiful mountain views.
Vacationers have the opportunity to ride through the mountains with their own horse or with a guide and a horse from the local riding stables.
High Country horse sport history began in 1898, when Moses Cone, the successful merchant and textile pioneer, ordered the first shipment of building materials to begin construction of Flat Top Manor, not far from Main Street in Blowing Rock.
Cone’s passion for engineering and construction led to the building of 36 miles of carriage roads and horse trails through his lush 3,000-acre estate.
As Blowing Rock continued to grow as a tourist destination, a horseback ride on the Cone Estate became a “must do” activity for summer visitors.
Blowing Rock offers a charity horse show event. The first Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show was held 91 years ago at Green Park Inn. Since then, it has brought equestrian fanatics to Blowing Rock every August for competition and camaraderie.
The show lasts for a three-week period at the L.M. Tate Horse Show Grounds at the Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve located just west of downtown Blowing Rock off of U.S. 221.
The saddlebred portion of the show will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 5 to 8, and the hunter/jumper division will be held Tuesday through Sunday, July 22 to 27, and Wednesday through Sunday, July 30 to Aug. 3.
CONE MANOR AND BASS LAKE
Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Blowing Rock, Moses Cone Memorial Park and Bass Lake both provide riding trails that are perfect for horse enthusiasts.
Moses Cone Park is open year-round and sees 225,000 people each year being the most visited recreational place on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For access to Moses Cone riding, horse owners should drive their trailers to milepost 294 of the Blue Ridge Parkway and pull off at the Cone Manor and Parkway Craft Center. Riders can access the trails just past the manor.
For Bass Lake trail access, horse owners should pull off U.S. 221 into a large parking area next to the Bass Lake vehicle entrance. For more information, call the National Park Service information desk at Cone Manor at (828) 295-3782.
Leatherwood Mountains is a premier gated vacation resort and residential community centered on the Equestrian Lifestyle. Established in the early 1980s, Leatherwood Mountains is located on more than 4,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Known as a “horse lover’s paradise,” Leatherwood offers horseback riding seven days a week.
There is something for every type of rider at Leatherwood. The horseback riding trails range from easy wide forest paths to rugged mountain trails. Leatherwood’s facilities include 75 stalls, a show arena and round pen.
Leatherwood has a first class guided trail ride service available to the public and an extensive riding lesson program. Leatherwood has a trail system that winds through lush mountain valleys and skirts high ridges, with close to 100 miles of trails.
Lead line rides are available for younger children ages 2 and older. This is a one-on-one ride that is given by a trainer handler in a controlled environment. Leatherwood also offers horseback riding birthday parties.
Leatherwood also offers full service month and nightly boarding for guests bringing their own horses.
“Year-round equine events occur at our facility, so there is always something for every discipline,” Abbie Hanchey, event and marketing director, said. “Once Leatherwood Mountains gets into your soul, you may never want to leave.”
Leatherwood Mountains is located at 512 Meadow Road in Ferguson. For more information, call (800) 462-6867, or visit www.leatherwoodmountains.com.
DUTCH CREEK TRAILS
Dutch Creek Trails, located in Vilas, is open year round for ages 6 and older. Trail rides last a little more than an hour and cost $50 each, payable by cash or check.
Participants will enjoy wooded trails, old farm fields and views of the valley surrounded by beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Dutch Creek Trails’ owner, Keith Ward, is also a “cowboy poet,” who provides fun-filled entertainment for people of all ages.
Rides start at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., during the summer on Monday through Saturday. The trails are closed on Sunday.
Riders sign up at the house and get on the horse at the guide shack. Dutch Creek Trails has a “shuttle service,” which is a hay wagon ride to and from the place where participants will be riding.
It is best to call a week in advance for reservations to ensure you are able to ride on the dates you choose.
To makes reservations, call (828) 297-7117. For more information, visit www.dutchcreektrails.com.
BANNER ELK STABLES
Banner Elk Stables offers memorable horseback riding in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the flanks of scenic Beech Mountain. Open year round, visitors can enjoy nature’s beauty and often the wildlife that inhabits the mountains all on horseback.
There are many horses for visitors to choose from. No matter the level of experience, there is a horse to complement each rider. Riders have the opportunity to choose which horse to ride, including some that have been featured in films, such as “National Treasure,” Shallow Hal” and “Cinderella.”
The riding tours follow a high mountain trail, offering scenic vistas of Beech Mountain. Banner Elk Stables is located at 796 Shoemaker Road in Banner Elk. For more information, call (828) 898-5424, or visit www.bannerelkstables.com.
YONAHLOSSEE RESORT SADLE CLUB
The equestrian center at Yonahlossee offers horse boarding and riding instruction in the High Country.
The Saddle Club at Yonahlossee features a large indoor arena, outdoor arena, a cross-country course and miles of beautiful riding trails with views of Sugar Mountain and Grandfather Mountain.
Barn manager and head trainer Tempe Hickman and her staff are available to assist both the beginning level rider and the more accomplished equestrian with all their riding needs.
Yonahlossee Saddle Club services include boarding, grooming and exercise for horses whose owners are out of town.
The Yonahlossee Saddle Club is located at 226 Oakley Green. For more information, call (800) 962-1986 or (828) 963-6400, or visit www.yonahlossee.com.
BURNT HILL STABLES
Located in Laurel Springs in Ashe County, Burnt Hill Stables offers miles of guided scenic mountain trails and back roads to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Horses are available for all skill levels. Burnt Hill Stables offers one- and two-hour rides for $25 per hour per horse.
Burnt Hill also offers riding lessons, carriage wedding services and horse boarding.
Burnt Hill Stables is located at 1102 Burnt Hill Road in Laurel Springs. For more information, call (336) 982-2008, or visit www.burnthillstables.com.