Nick and I are always hunting for fun ways to spend our days off together — which are few and far between. We look for things that are close to home since we typically only have the time the kids are in school or daycare and are things we don’t typically get to do.
My sweet momma told us a week ago that one of her bucket list items was to go horseback trail riding, so we checked our schedule and found when we had a couple of hours free and made the reservations at Smokemont Riding Stables in Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Nick and I had been to Smokemont before, being the amazing human I am, I planned a weekend getaway early on in our relationship that included a trail ride. While some of the activities that weekend nearly killed him, our time at Smokemont was awesome so we were happy to return.
The Smokemont Riding Stables offers some of the best horseback riding in North Carolina. They have tons of different options from short hourly rides, longer excursions to Cherokee’s waterfalls or wagon rides through the Cherokee landscape. They have a permit with the forest service that allows them to take riders through the National Park. The first time Nick and I went we did the hour ride and it was in the summertime. We rode through a tunnel and got to cross the river, which was really neat. The hour was a good amount of time to spend on the back of the horse, especially since neither of us rides horses often.
Yesterday, we decided to try the longer ride, which was a 2.5 ride out to Chasteen Creek Waterfall. Let me tell you, I was NOT expecting to views we got. It never crossed my mind that it was leaf season — and for as long as I have lived here I don’t think I have ever experienced Fall in a more beautiful way. We always go leaf looking, we always drive on the parkway or up to Wayah Bald, but never has it been more breathtaking than seeing it on horseback. It was an entirely different experience that I would recommend everyone do.
When you get to Smokemont you sign in and then wait for your reserved time. Yesterday we were the only three on our 2.5 hour trip, but the first time Nick and I went we were part of a larger group. Both experiences were great. Yesterday we mounted our horses — my momma got paired with a beautiful black stallion named Dan, Nick got an easygoing mare named Sarge, and I got the old, ornery grump of the bunch named Buster. You set out on the trail with a tour guide— ours was named Cody and he was awesome. Cody pointed out native plants and trees — and a cool change from the Summer ride we did, Cody told about the cycles of each tree when Fall sets in and when their leaves start to change, and even when they are expected to fall. He was fantastic. He pointed out historic landmarks like Smokemont Baptist Church and even made sure we saw where hogs had been rooting in the dirt. He answered all of our million questions, like how many horses Smokemont Stables has — 55— and their routines for upkeep and care.
We rode out to the Chasteen Creek Waterfall and got off of our horses. From there, it was a short 50-yard walk to the waterfall, which of course was beautiful. We got about 15 minutes to enjoy the area, which was lovely and draped in stunning colorful leaves. After a short break and some time with our horses, we mounted back up to head back to the stables.
The riding trail meanders through a combination of horse trail and walking trail that extends beyond Smokemont Campground. We did encounter a few hikers along the way, but it was never crowded. We rode beside the river, which was cool and refreshing. The horse trails in the mountains were exciting, up and down hills and along cliffs. It was a nice experience of “authentic” trail riding.
The 2.5-hour trip was relaxing and beautiful, but needless to say, my bum is a little sore today. If you want to the kiddos for a ride, they allow ages 5 and older to ride. I would recommend the one hour trip for the kiddos as I don’t see many younger kids staying occupied on the 2.5-hour trip. They also have a wagon ride that is great for even younger kids too.
It’s not cheap — but I promise it is worth it. The one hour ride is $35 a rider and the waterfall ride is $87.50 a person. They also have a four-hour ride, which I am sure is amazing, however, there is no way my bum could handle that!! That ride is $140. The wagon rides are just $15 a person.
If you want a new way to experience the annual beauty of Fall in Western North Carolina, you have to try it out. You won’t be disappointed!