Deep Creek Boarding Stables and Camping, Bryson City, North Carolina
Closest city: Asheville, North Carolina.
Travel distance: 64 miles.
Directions from Asheville: Take Interstate 40 west to Exit 27 (the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). Continue west on U.S. Route 74 past Waynesville, Sylva, and Dillsboro to Bryson City. Take Exit 67 to Veterans Blvd./Downtown Bryson City.
History: Deep Creek Boarding Stables and Camping is located near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years, from the prehistoric Paleo-Indians to early European settlements in the 1800s, to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century.
Terrain: You'll ride through mountainous terrain covered with deciduous trees, including maples, oak, and birch. Creeks, rivers, and waterfalls abound in the area, and course through elevations from approximately 800 to 6,000 feet. Vegetation is lush and includes a vast number of flowering plants native to the region.
Map: Visit the Deep Creek Boarding Stables and Camping website, http://deepcreekhorsecamp.com/diagram.html.
Top rides: There are a variety of riding trails in the area, ranging from one to eight hours in length. The Deer Park trailhead is located one mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This one-hour trail goes through the Nantahala National Forest and offers distant, panoramic views of the park. The eight-hour ride from the Deer Park trailhead offers scenic vistas and long-range mountain views of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Area wildlife includes deer, turkey, squirrel, bear, wild hog, and an abundant variety of birds.
Contact: Deep Creek Boarding Stables and Camping; (828) 736-1270 or (828) 488-6961; http://deepcreekhorsecamp.com.
Vermont Equine Tours, Orwell, Vermont
Closest city: Burlington, Vermont.
Travel distance: 50 miles.
Directions: Take U.S. Route 7 south to Shelburne Rd. Turn right on Vermont Route 22A south. Go to Cook Rd./Stevens Orchard Rd., and turn right. Take the second right onto Bascom Rd. The ranch is on the right-hand side.
History: The Lake Champlain and the Mount Independence areas are known as the largest undisturbed Revolutionary War sites in America. Mount Independence is home to Fort Independence, where Patriots fought against the British. Before Europeans settled in the area, the region was home to Native Americans.
Terrain: Champlain Valley features scenic fields and rolling hills. Farms, pastures, and woodlands are all part of the scenery. Lake Champlain offers miles of waterfront trails.
Top ride: One of the best rides covers an eight-mile loop that passes an osprey nest and several small ponds. If your horse likes water, this trail allows him to wade through Lake Champlain. You'll find ample parking for your vehicle and trailer.
Map: Contact Vermont Equine Tours, (802) 948-2713; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Vermont Equine Tours, (802) 948-2713; www.vtfarmstay.com/equine.
Panther Creek Campground and Horse Trails, Tuscumbia, Missouri
Closest city: Jefferson City, Missouri.
Travel distance: 40 miles.
Directions from Jefferson City: Take U.S. Route 63 south to Vienna. Turn right on Highway 42, just past the Break Time Station. Turn north on Highway 17. Turn right on Route A, and go about four miles. Turn left on Humphrey Creek Rd. (road sign will be on the right), and go about one mile. Turn left at the ranch entrance, and follow the road back to the campground.
History: Panther Creek Campground and Horse Trails was established in 1999. The first full year of scheduled rides was in 2000. The ranch prides itself on having a down-home, friendly atmosphere.
Terrain: The Osage River area, four miles from Panther Creek, features diverse native plants, animals, and scenic areas. It offers some of the largest springs in the region and a number of caves. You'll find grass prairies, rich forests, barren glades, hills, and crystal-clear streams. Many of the natural areas are managed and protected for their scientific, educational, and historic value.
Map: Visit the Panther Creek website, www.panthercreektrailrides.com.
Top rides: Panther Creek offers 4,000 acres to enjoy on horseback. Although the facility holds a number of scheduled rides using ranch mounts, horse owners are welcome to day ride the ranch's miles of wooded trails, which include scenic overlooks, large meadows, and rocky ravines. Horse camping is also available.
Contact: Panther Creek Campground and Trail Rides; (573) 793-2372; www.panthercreektrailrides.com.
Audrey Pavia (www.audreypavia.com) is a freelance writer based in Norco, California. She's the author of Trail Riding: A Complete Guide (Howell Book House) and Horse Health & Nutrition for Dummies (Wiley). Pavia rides competitive trail with her 9-year-old Spanish Mustang, Milagro.