By Bennie McCann © 2010, All Rights Reserved
The creak of a saddle, the soft sound of hoofs on the trail, the tangy scent of a campfire after a long day's ride. All this awaits you when you book a horseback tour of the Great Smoky Mountains. Covering more than 800 square miles of wilderness, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect vacation spot for nature lovers. The size of the park and the amazing diversity of plants and animals that call the mountains home ensure that each visit is a new adventure. Choosing to see the park on horseback is just one more way to make your vacation a memorable one.
Horseback Riding by the Hour
If your time is limited, or if you're new to horseback riding, you might want to start with hourly rentals. Many area stables offer guided tours of one or two hours. You'll see the mountains much the way your ancestors did: from atop a horse, and with no pavement or cell towers in sight. The park has designated more than 500 miles of trails as suitable for horseback riding, so quiet reflection and peaceful solitude among the trees is readily available, even on a short outing.
Day Trips on Horseback
Want more? Take a day trip and delve deeper into the old-growth forests that cover the Smoky Mountains like a thick green blanket. Follow winding creeks and trails through the valleys and meadows of this mountain paradise. Enjoy a picnic lunch served trail-side while watching the wildlife. With more than 10,000 species of flora and fauna identified in the park, you'll have plenty of opportunities for a photo, so don't forget to bring your camera.
Weekend Camping Excursions
The truly adventurous will thrill at the chance to spend the night in the wild, listening for the hoot of an owl and sleeping under the stars just like the early settlers. Your guide will introduce you to the history of the mountains while you follow along on trails few others visit. Prepare dinner over the campfire before drifting off to sleep amid the night sounds of the forest. Morning brings breakfast, and then it's time to saddle-up for the ride down the mountain. Enjoy the crisp early-morning air and the clean scent of the mountains – it's a treat you'll never forget.
Enjoy your mountain vacation even more by spending nights in a private cabin nestled among the trees. Cabins and chalets sleep several people comfortably, and unlike tents, they feature the modern niceties to which we've grown accustomed (like indoor plumbing!). You'll enjoy your surroundings, while still taking advantage of life's little conveniences.
Horseback riding tours in the Smoky Mountains are available from April through November. You can chose to watch spring unfold, camp out in the warmth of August, or take in the stunning beauty of an autumn day, all from the saddle. Whatever your preference, you'll find a tour and a season perfectly suited for you.