Horseback Riding in The Great Smoky Mountains and the National Park
Road Closure: Cataloochee Entrance
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers horseback riding for riders of all experience levels. Whether you bring a horse to the national park or are renting a horse from one of the national parks stables you are sure to have a good time.
Find out about bringing your own horse to the national park in the Smokies, learn about trail riding in the Smokies, National Park horse regulations, drive in campsites and back country campsites on our horse trails and camping in the Smoky Mountains National Park page.
Not willing or able to ride a horse on your own? Well, you can still enjoy the parks equestrian experience by taking a horse drawn buggy ride through Cades Cove.
Horseback trail riding in the Smoky Mountains
Horses and carriage rides in Cades Cove GSMNP.
Horse Rentals in the Smoky Mountain National Park
When renting a horse in the park you will be guided and in most cases the ratio of horseback riders to guides will not exceed 6 riders per guide. Children or adults with special needs can still have the opportunity to ride horses in the national park and may have as many as one guide per rider. I have found that the folks at the Smokemont Riding Stables in Cherokee NC just inside the park on Newfound Gap Highway near the Smokemont campgrounds were most accommodating with special need riders.
Be advised at most places where you can rent a horse, you are not allowed to get off the horse along the trail to take pictures or just walk around. The reason behind this rule is that most people who ride rented horses in the park are not very experienced riders who will have difficulty in getting back on the horse and regardless of your equestrian experience, this rule applies to all who rent horses.
The Smokemont riding stables has a variety of tours including trails to the mountain tops passing many streams and interesting back country as well as high country tours with outstanding vistas. I recommend the special waterfalls trail ride which is a wonderful experience on horseback. The waterfall trail ride departs twice daily at 9:00 am and 11:30 am and takes approximately 2-1/2. hours. This special horse trail tour cost $55 per horseback rider and I strongly suggest that you reserve in advance during peak season and on weekends.
There is also a new program which visitors love which is a horse-drawn wagon ride along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike for only $10 per rider with no age or weight restriction. We highly recommend this tour.
There is also a 4 hour guided horseback ride with river views and cascades for $100 per rider and a 1 hour horseback ride which features a crossing of the Oconaluftee River for $25 per rider.
The Smokemont stables trails are very well groomed and I found the horses to be in good condition and exceptionally well tempered. You can rent horses from this stable from April to October from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm all week long. Horses are rented by the hour for $20 or up to 8 hours for $115 per rider. At 5 hours you get a discounted rate of $75 per rider.
The Smokemont stables have a 225 pound limit and a minimum age of 5 years old on anyone who wishes to ride a horse. Unlike some of the other stables in the park, they accept Visa MasterCard and Discover. The Smokemont Stables can be reached at (828)497-2373.
Another very popular place to rent a horse in the Smoky Mountain Park is the Cades Cove Riding Stables who are located near the entrance of Cades Cove in Tennessee near Townsend Tennessee. The Cades Cove Riding Stables are open 9:00 am to 4:30 pm March 15th through November 30th.
The Cades Cove Stables offers visitors the opportunity to take a guided ride on horseback on the valley floor for $25 per rider. This guided horseback tour of cades cove takes approximately an hour and although it takes you through a limited area of Cades Cove, is still a great way to see what the low country looks like and being on a horse can take you back 100 or more years to what it felt like for the farmers and other settlers of Cades Cove to get around.
The Cades Cove Stables also offer 30 minute horse drawn carriage rides with up to 4 passengers per carriage for $8 per person. The horse drawn carriage ride is a great alternative to get the feel of yesteryear with the sounds and sights of horses along with the comfort of a carriage. The carriage ride is perfect for those who normally could not or would not ride a horse.
The Cades Cove Riding Stables now offers wheelchair accessible carriage and hay rides.
Although not horse drawn but pulled by a truck, there is a hayride you can take in Cades Cove. The 1-1/2 hour Cades Cove Hayride starts and finishes at the following times:
- From March 15th to May 31st: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
- From June 1st to August 15th: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
- From August 16th to November 30th: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
The cost of this hayride is $6 per person and reservations are necessary. The hay rides has been a favorite of families and group gatherings in the Cove for years.
There are hayrides guided by park rangers which cost $8 per person. These are available on a more limited basis running from April to October with hayrides departing at 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 6:30 pm, and the last tour leaves at 8:30 pm. Fall Harvest hayrides are on the last Week of October and they run from 7:00 to 10:30 pm.
Unlike the Smokemont Stables of North Carolina if you wish to ride in Cades Cove bring cash as they do not accept any credit cards and have no plan to do so in the future. You can contact the Cades Cove riding stables at (865) 448-9009.
Horses can also be rented in the Sugarland area of the Smoky Mountain National Park. The Sugarland Riding Stables are 1 mile from the parks Gatlinburg Tennessee entrance right by the Sugarland Visitor Center.
The Sugarland Stables feature horses ready to take on the local mountain terrain and where you are surrounded by mountain streams and wonderful wooded scenery. Riders age 5 and up with experience of all levels will feel comfortable riding with the Sugarland riding stables. The weight limit for rides at this stable is 225 pounds.
With more than 20 years of experience showing visitors to the park how to enjoy the park on horseback, you should be very comfortable with the folks at the Sugarlands Riding Stables.
The hours that they rent horses for trail riding vary by season. The spring and fall hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and the summer extended hours are from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Contact the Sugarland Riding Stables at (865)436-5634.
Another riding stable located in Gatlinburg Tennessee part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables which is located 4-1/2 miles east of the town of Gatlinburg on Highway 321 at light 3.
The horseback riding trails by the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables are similar to those in the Sugarland Stables. Since the Sugarland stables are in a more popular area of the park they can get way more crowded.
The hours of operation for the Smoky Mountain Stables are the same as those for the Sugarland Stables. The Smoky mountain Stables can be reached at (865)436-5634.
More horseback riding information:
My personal favorite month to go horseback riding in the park is May and I always prefer to be in the first group of the day going out or even the last. The lighting for taking pictures is better and it is the best time to see deer, rabbit, wild turkey and so many other animals that become more active at dawn and dusk.
The experience of riding a horse in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one you will remember fondly for the rest of your life. If you happen to own your own horse, check out our trail riding and camping with your horse in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park page.