Horseback riding in The Great Smoky Mountains is a magical experience. New rider or experienced, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have riding opportunities for you.
In the national park, there are 3 concession horseback riding stables open from mid-March through late November.
Rides on scenic park trails are offered from 45 minutes to several hours. All rides proceed at a walking pace. Rates are from $30 per hour. Weight limits and age restrictions may apply so be sure to call before you go.
In famous Cades Cove, near Townsend, Tennessee, explore the wilderness “as it appeared to some of America’s first settlers.” Visitors are guided off the beaten path, under the forest canopy. Guides share stories about the history and settlement of the area.
CADES COVE RIDING STABLES
Cades Cove Riding Stables handpicked horses for “their calm temperament, athletic ability, and willingness to please.” Rides are matched with a horse that suits their skill level. Riders also receive an orientation with the horse before the ride begins.
The stables also offer guided 1.5 to 2-hour hayrides and 20 to 30-minute carriage rides through beautiful and unique Cades Cove. Ranger-led hayrides are also offered on some evenings on a first-come, first-serve basis. See the Schedule of Events for scheduled ranger-led hayrides.
The forested area features meandering mountain streams, towering trees, and majestic peaks. You may see some of the wildlife on your ride: deer, bears, and wild turkeys.
Find Cades Cove Riding Stables at 10018 Campground Drive Townsend, (865) 448-9009.
SUGARLANDS RIDING STABLES & SMOKY MOUNTAIN RIDING STABLES
Here, all rides are for beginners or advanced riders. The stables have 40 head of “well trained and experienced mountain trail horses.” Horse sizes range from 13 to 17 hands tall to meet the needs of all our riders. Rides are at walking pace because of the mountain terrain, which if you haven’t noticed is NOT flat.
Located off of U.S 441 inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just before the Sugarlands Visitors Center, (865) 436-3535 or (865) 436-5634
Smokemont Riding Stables near Cherokee, North Carolina, is 29 miles from Gatlinburg and offers a variety of ride options based on how long you want to ride and what you want to see.
Hourly Rides — This one-hour ride departs every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Riders ford the Oconaluftee River, go through a tunnel underneath US 441 and then make a 3-mile loop on the mountain.
Hourly rate: $35 per rider.
Waterfall Ride — The 2.5-hour ride departs three times a day at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. The ride takes you a mile above the Smokemont Campground. Then you ride alongside mountain streams until you reach the Chasteen Creek Waterfall with a15-minute break at the waterfall.
Waterfall rate: $87.50 per rider.
Four-Hour Ride —departs once a day at 10 a.m. and features a wooded mountain trail, miles of creek-side scenery and two cascades.
Four-Hour rate: $140 per rider.
Wagon Rides — The wagon ride travels down the Old Turnpike Road, alongside the Oconaluftee River. You pass fields where wildlife often is seen and hear stories of historical information.
Wagon Rides: $15 per rider.
Among them are Big Rob, Cindy, Jesse, Cherokee, Bubba and Molly!
Find Smokemont at 135 Smokemont Riding, Stable Road, Cherokee, NC, 828-497-2373
Other riding stables near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge include Jayell Ranch in Sevierville, which offers 4-mile, 1-hour shady trail rides with views of North Carolina, Mount LeConte and Shield’s Mountain Fort in Cades Cove.
Mount LeConte 6,593 ft it is the third highest peak in the national park at 6,593 feet.
Full Horseback ride for only $29. Fine Jayell Ranch at 1131 Jayell Road, Sevierville, TN, (865) 776-1593.
Big Rock Dude Ranch is open all year – seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 909 Little Cove Rd, Pigeon Forge, (865) 428-9398 or (865) 428-2251.
Next to Heaven – is another multi-experience ranch and offers unguided horseback riding tours. Located in historic Townsend on Wears Valley Road, Next to Heaven offers unguided scenic rides of various durations.
There are also three separate zip lines from mountain to mountain. The lines range from 1000 feet up to at 1/4 mile.
Find Next to Heaven at 1239 Wears Valley Road, Townsend, TN, (865) 268-6314
What to wear
Wear long pants to protect legs from chafing against the saddle, and close-toed shoes with a small heel to keep feet from slipping out of the stirrups. Avoid all clothing that could get tangled in equipment including scarves, thin tank top straps, and long, loose sweaters or shirts.
Wear a helmet – most stables provide them and some require them, especially for those under 16 years of age.
Check out these other beginner horseback riding tips.
Bring your own horse
Want to bring your own horse to the Smoky Mountains? You can!
About 550 miles of the park’s hiking trails are open to horses. Horses are restricted to trails specifically designated for horse use. Make sure to buy or download a copy of the park’s trail map if you want to ride your own horse in the park. The 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. Stop at any park visitor center or call (865) 436-0120.
There are five drive-in horse camps that provide ready access to backcountry horse trails in the park. Camps are located at Cades Cove (Anthony Creek), Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Towstring. Horse camps are open from April through October, according to the National Park Service.
Here’s what the National Park Service says about riding your own horse in the park:
Caution is advised in the backcountry. The park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature determine trail conditions. Please be prepared for swollen streams, bridge washouts, downed trees, and trail erosion-riding is not recommended from early December until May due to the seasonal nature of the trail maintenance program.
Fun facts about horses from Science Kids
Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up.
- Horses can run shortly after birth.
- Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years.
- A 19th century horse named ‘Old Billy’ is said to have lived 62 years.
- Horses have around 205 bones in their skeleton.
- Horses have been domesticated for over 5000 years.
- Horses are herbivores (plant eaters).
- Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land.
- Because horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees at one time.
- Horses gallop at around 44 kph (27 mph).
- The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 88 kph (55 mph).
- Estimates suggest that there are around 60 million horses in the world.
- Scientists believe that horses have evolved over the past 50 million years from much smaller creatures.
- A male horse is called a stallion.
- A female horse is called a mare.
- A young male horse is called a colt.
- A young female horse is called a filly.
- Ponies are small horses. More pony facts.
Ready to Book Your Smoky Mountain Vacation and Horseback Ride?
Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun and entertainment for staying in your cabin or getting outside in nature on a horse but away from crowds.
Check out our recent blog post on Wears Valley cabins.
How about a horse-themed cabin? Find that in Horsin’ Around – a luxury plus cabin that sleeps 10 in a 3-bed, 3-bath cabin with spectacular views.
For more adventures, go to our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide
We look forward to seeing you in the mountains soon!