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Trail Riding at Circle E Guest Ranch, Belvidere, Tennessee

Circle E Guest Ranch's trails feature "pretty rock cliffs that seemed to go on forever," says author Liz James.

Every year, my husband, Joe, and I look forward to an October trail ride to enjoy the spectacular beauty of fall foliage. Last year, we decided to meet friends at a new destination - Circle E Guest Ranch in Belvidere, Tennessee. Located in the Cumberland Mountains on the fringe of 100,000 acres of uninhabited mountain land, the ranch sounded wonderful.

On this trip, I rode my 5-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter, Whiskey. Joe rode his 12-year-old Fox Trotter, Luther.

Organized rides are offered several times a year and are quite popular. We were there during an open ride time. The staff greeted us with enthusiasm and made us feel welcome right away. Although we don't usually ride with a trail boss, we were informed that at Circle E Ranch, trail bosses are available at no charge!

There are full hook-up campsites, as well as primitive campsites available. The barns are very nice with secure stalls and shavings included. Stall cleaning is also available. There's a large dining room, and the shower house is large, spotless, and warm!

Rocky Terrain
We arrived with our friends on a Wednesday and headed out for a short ride. There's something for everyone at Circle E. The color-coded trail map offers a lot of detail. The trails vary in terrain. There are some wide, easy trails, but mostly I'd consider the riding to be intermediate to advanced.

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Our group enjoys the challenging terrain, and we weren't disappointed. The terrain is varied, but rocky. There are beautiful rock formations, waterfalls, and trees. Be prepared to climb up and down steep hills if you're on the narrow trails.

Thursday morning, after eating a good breakfast, we packed our lunches and headed out to ride to Crane Top, which our camping neighbor described as challenging. We got to the top, and challenging it was! It began as a three-foot drop and a switchback around large rocks to a steep descent to the end of the trail.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beauty of the Cumberland Mountains. We stopped at a waterfall and ate lunch. The weather was perfect.

As the forecast predicted, it rained on Friday. We usually don't mind riding in the rain, but this was a horizontal, cold rain. We decided to give the horses a rest and go to the Bedford Tack Store, a huge warehouse that has everything! There are also tours given at the Jack Daniels Distillery. We returned around dinnertime to clearing skies. We enjoyed steaks on the grill for dinner and starry skies while we planned our Saturday ride.

Beyond Good
On Saturday and Sunday, we enjoyed more trails. We found a beautiful pond, another waterfall, and pretty rock cliffs that seemed to go on forever. The grandness of it made us feel so small. It was absolutely beautiful. The wildlife was abundant, and we saw plenty of deer. Life was beyond good.

Although we rode for four days, we still didn't see all the trails at Circle E Ranch. With 120 miles of trails to see, we knew we'd have to come back.

Sunday evening, we met ranch owner Ray Evans. He seemed to truly care about making sure visitors enjoy their stay.

As we headed home on Monday with our Circle E Ranch T-shirts in hand, we looked through our pictures and smiled. We're so blessed to have good friends, good horses, and another wonderful place to ride!

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