Horseback Riding at Smokemont Riding Stables

Smokemont Riding Stables is one of the few riding stables that offer horseback rides inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is the only one near Cherokee NC.  Smokemont Riding stables offers a number of different guided horseback rides that provide a wonderful and unique way to see and explore the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This guide is based on our recent horseback ride with Smokemont Riding Stables, and we'll tell you and show you all about our amazing ride out to a beautiful waterfall.

Where is Smokemont Riding Stables?

Smokemont Riding Stables is located inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, and past the Oconaluftee Visitor Center entrance on Newfound Gap Road.  Newfound Gap Road is the main road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and takes you from Cherokee to Gatlinburg.

Smokemont is located about 3 miles from the visitor center and will be on your right if coming from Cherokee.


Rides begin in March and end towards the end of November.  Reservations are highly recommended, although not required.  They do take walk-ins, but your options may be limited.  

To make reservations, call (828)-497-2373.

Available Rides

Smokemont Riding Stables offers a number of different rides to meet both your schedule, experience, and budget:

  • Hourly Rides - Riders cross the Ocnaluftee River, and go through a tunnel below Highway 441, followed by a 3 mile loop on the mountain.  Departure times are daily from 9:30am - 4:30pm.
  • Waterfall Ride - This 2.5-hour ride will take you through the Great Smoky Mountains and out to Chasteen Creek Falls.  You'll dismount for about 15 minutes to enjoy the waterfall, then ride back.  Departure times are 9am, 12pm, and 3pm.
  • 4-Hour Ride - This ride leaves once per day, and features a wooded mountain trail, creekside scenery, and two different water cascades. 
  • Wagon Rides — The wagon ride travels down an old road, alongside the Oconaluftee River. You pass fields with wildlife.  There are no age or weight restrictions on the wagon.  Departure times are: 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm, 1:45pm, 2:45pm, and 3:45pm

For all but the wagon ride, horseback riders must be 5 years old or older.  Maximum weight is no more than 240lbs.

Our Video

Here is the video we did our Smokemont Riding Stables adventure.   The video will give you a much better perspective of our wonderful experience.  We look forward to going back!

Our Ride With Smokemont Riding Stables

Our visit to Smokemont Riding Stables began early in the morning.   Our ride was scheduled for 9:00am, and we needed to be there around 8:30am, in order to get checked in and sign all of the required paperwork.

We're about an hour's drive from Smokemont, so left our home near Maggie Valley NC around 7:15am.   We arrived at Smokemont Riding Stables, after being a bit distracted by some Elk at the Oconolufteee Visitor Center, at around 8:30 as planned.

We have visited the Luftee Baptist Church in Smokemont many times for photos, and to reach the stables, you just go right at the church, instead of left to the Smokemont Campground.  The parking area is just a short distance down the road.  We parked and walked up to the check-in building.    We signed our waivers, hit the restrooms (yes, they have full restrooms with real flush toilets), and then waited in the guest waiting area.

Hitting the Trail!

The guest waiting area is a covered area with snack and drink machines and is the perfect place to hang out.  Shortly after, Cody, one of the managers came over to tell us about our ride and provided all the safety and procedures instructions.

We were then moved up to the loading platform, and they began bringing our horses to us.  Jenn rode Molly, and I was given Sally, both large female horses, who were just wonderful to ride.    Jenn and I don't have a lot of riding experience, so these two horses were perfect for us.  In fact, I am pretty sure they knew and went really easy on us.

The horses moved in behind our guide, Sonny, and we began our ride down a horse trail through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   We went by Luftee Baptist Church, and Sonny educated us on the history of the area, and how it was prior to the park being formed.

We continued riding through the beautiful forest, and our horses were basically on auto-pilot.  You could tell they had done this ride many times before and knew where to go, far better than us.   We even rode above Bradley Fork, which was beautiful.

Bradley Fork Trail

Before long, we reached the junction to Bradley Fork trail, and headed up, following the creek.   Sonny, our guide, kept a close eye, and checked in on us to make sure everything was ok.  He was great about pointing out features, views, the creeks, and sharing more history.  Him sharing all of this, made a wonderful ride even more enjoyable.

After about an hour, we saw the horses from the ride that was in front of us, tied up, so we knew we had reached Chasteen Creek Cascade, the waterfall we were riding out to.  

We had hiked out Bradley Fork Trail to Chasteen Creek Falls before, but doing it on horseback was a very different experience.  Riding allowed us to enjoy the scenery, far more, and well, with the horses doing the hard work, it was much easier as well.

Chasteen Creek Cascades (Falls)

Just a short walk from where we tied up the horses, is Chasteen Creek Cascade, which is really pretty.  The falls are not exceptional, but still very pretty, and make beautiful sounds.  You can see and hear them in our video above.

We spent about 15 minutes taking videos and photographs of the waterfall.  We then mounted our horses and headed back the way we had come.

Heading Back

In total, the ride was 2.5 hours but didn't seem that long at all.  The ride was wonderful, especially being during the early morning with some mountain mist, morning sunlight, and the always beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.

Tips for Horseback Riding with Smokemont Riding Stables

Here are a few tips we learned during our ride, and from the managers and guides:

  • Weather is very difficult to predict in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so dress in layers.  For our ride, it was very cool that morning but warmed up significantly on the way back.  Being able to just pull off a sweatshirt or jacket, made the experience much more enjoyable.
  • Rides are rain or shine, so bring a raincoat.
  • Bring water with you or purchase water in the guest waiting area.  We brought a few snacks as well.
  • You can bring a 10 lbs bag and we would highly recommend doing so, especially to hold your water, extra clothing, rain jacket, and phone/camera.
  • Bring cash to tip your guide.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for horseback riding: This includes close-toed shoes/boots, and long pants/jeans.  If you choose to wear shorts, make sure they are long - The saddles can and will chaff you.   Avoid hiking boots, or boots/shoes with heavy tread, as they make getting out of the saddle difficult.
  • Visit the restroom just prior to the start of your ride.  There are no restroom facilities on the ride, other than nature.
  • Pay attention to the guides and their instructions, doing so will make your ride much more enjoyable.  They tell you all the basics for directing your horse, comfortable riding, and how to most enjoy your experience.
About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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