Driving along the Shenandoah Valley’s back roads, out beyond those old stone walls, it’s not uncommon to see horses grazing in open farmland, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a beautiful scene. And with an increasing number of horse trails and outfitters in the Valley, it’s easier than ever to climb up yourself and see the region from atop a saddle. Here are five top trail ride options to get the reins in your hands, regardless of your experience. (Outfitters generally require you call for an appointment.)
Fort Valley Ranch
Fort Valley Ranch offers guided horseback trips, with their mounts or yours, in the pristine Massanutten Mountains. You can ride miles of marked trails on the Ranch as well as find direct access to trails in the National Forest. In addition to riding, multi-day Ranch Packages in their bunkhouse cabins are available. If your kids are too small for a horse, ask about a wagon ride along the area’s back roads. Fort Valley Ranch is just minutes from the Shenandoah River and Luray Caverns. And only 1.5 scenic hours from Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. Owner Bill Schumacher told us, “We are looking forward to another exciting season of rides in the National Forest.” Appointments, call 888-754-5771 or 540-933-6633.
Jordan Hollow Stables
Jordan Hollow Stables is located in Stanley, only minutes from Luray Caverns in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a family-owned and operated business offering trail rides for children and adults with all levels of riding experience. They offer group or private walking or trotting pace rides. An experienced guide can take you on well-maintained 150 acres of winding trails through a beautiful wooded area near the border of Shenandoah National Park. Cross the pure waters of Hawksbill Creek and ride through beautiful country fields surrounded by a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge. Many of Jordan Hollow’s horses are rescues from shelters. All are well-trained and good-tempered. Need some instruction? Private lessons for all skill levels are $35 per hour. Call 540-778-2623.
Star B Stables
Star B Stables is located near Staunton in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Here you can escape into the countryside for an hour while you enjoy a guided horse trail ride. Most of the riders have never ridden before or ride once a year on vacation. Experienced guides provide any assistance and guidance that you need to make you feel comfortable and relaxed so that you can have a great time horseback riding. Call 540-885-8855 for an appointment.
Skyland Stables at Shenandoah National Park
Horseback and pony rides are available at Skyland Stables (mile 42.5 on Skyline Drive) scheduled to open May 22nd. Guided horseback rides depart from the stables, cross over Skyline Drive, and travel past the Limberlost area through an old apple orchard. Reservations are required. Call 877-759-3612. You must stick to the route on guided trips, but you can also bring your own horse and go off on other trails. More than 180 miles of trails are open to horseback riding (yellow-blaze trails only). Keeping horses on certain designated trails minimizes impacts on hikers and on the trails and streams. Review the horseback regulations here.
Shenandoah River State Park
Located eight miles south of Front Royal, Shenandoah River State Park is more than 1,600 scenic acres with about five miles of river shoreline. Nineteen well-marked trails can be found in the park, with seven allowing horses. Designated horse trailer parking is available. Choose from an easy half-miler like Shale Barrens Trail or the more challenging five-and-a-half mile Bear Bottom Loop. Hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and ziplining are also popular here. A variety of overnight options include: tent sites, electric-water camping, three yurts, four camping cabins (bunkhouses), regular cabins and a lodge. Admission on weekends April – October is $10; $7 otherwise.
Banner photo courtesy Fort Valley Ranch