Carolina Horse Vacation at Biltmore and Leatherwood Mountains
Susan St. Amand takes her horse with her on a vacation at Biltmore Estate and Leatherwood Mountain Resorts, enjoying the trails in Western North Carolina.
Just as some people like to travel with their dogs, I love to travel with my equine companion. I think my horse enjoys it as much as I do, as she is always ready to hit the trail and see whats around the next bend.
This particular journey took us to Asheville, NC to the renowned Biltmore Estate, established in 1895 by George Vanderbilt as an escape from everyday life. This private park-like setting is comprised of 8,000 acres of trails, wilderness, working farm, winery, gardens, and of course the large French Renaissance style mansion.
The Biltmore Equestrian Center has stables for its boarders, as well as a guest barn for short-term overnight stabling. Primitive camping is available as well as large electric fenced paddocks on the premises along the French Broad River that passes through the estate. Day riders are also allowed to use the trails. Trail maps are available at the Equestrian office. There are eight different marked trails ranging in lengths from 8 miles to 16 miles.
“Sunday” checks out the surroundings out of the window of her stall at the Guest Barn.
On the first day, we rode the smaller loop of the Blue East side trail. The following day we ventured out on the smaller loop of the Red North trail. Throughout the rides through the pine trees, we encountered many species of natural wildlife such as turkeys, rabbits, deer, Canada geese, and a groundhog.
On the last day, we rode alongside the French Broad River on another portion of the Red North Trail to the lagoon.
Continuing on past the lagoon, the trail veered inward through fields and from here we got a view of the Biltmore mansion from horseback.
During the afternoon breaks from riding, we toured the mansion as well as the winery and farm village. Quaint shops and antique farming equipment were on display at the village as well as ironworking and woodworking craftsmen. Here is where I found a unique lifesize horse on display built with burlap bags and hay baling twine.
While April is the best time to see all the beautiful flowers in bloom in the gardens, it is also one of the busiest times of the year for tourists at Biltmore. If you are in need of overnight accommodations for yourself while your horse stays at the guest barn, I would recommend staying at the Village Inn located on the premises for easier accessibility to your horse versus traveling the distance of over five miles off the premises for other hotel/motel accommodations, as you are responsible for feeding your own horse at the guest barn.
Next on this journey, we traveled to Leatherwood Mountains Resort area, a premier vacation resort and equine gated residential community located in Ferguson, NC. Leatherwood Mountains falls within the Blue Ridge mountain range. Overnight camping is available as well as barn stalls to accommodate your horse at the Leatherwood Equestrian facility. Other activities include fishing, a swimming pool, bike rentals, and “Saddlebrook Grill & Bar”. Be sure to pack all the necessities you may need for your stay, as the nearest grocery store or shopping is about a 20-mile drive. This truly makes it a “get away from it all” vacation.
For this part of our horse vacation we rented a cabin through VRBO.com called “Rollin' In The Hay” located within Leatherwood Mountain gated resort. Appropriately named, as the barn shaped cabin contained four horse stalls on the bottom, and living quarters on the second floor with awesome mountain views from the deck as well as overlooking a paddock that “Sunday” was able to graze in when not on the trails. We doubly had the best of both worlds!
Adjacent to this property, we were able to directly access one of the trails. Maps of the many trails, which also indicates level of riding (easy, moderate, or difficult) are available at the Leatherwood Equestrian facility. All the trails were well marked. However, with the mountain topography, your horse should be conditioned to the up-and-downhill riding and switchback trails along mountainsides that this riding area entails.
On the first day we rode the Deer Run to Silverado to Bob's Branch trails.
On the second day, we rode the Elk Ridge trail to the Daniel Boone trail, which was an easier, flat riding trail. Half-way on the Daniel Boone trail was a picnic area to stop and tie your horse to enjoy your lunch.
Vacationing during the weekdays in this area during springtime gave us the opportunity to have the trails to ourselves and rarely encountered other riders. During the summer, the Leatherwood Equestrian center sponsors many weekend equestrian events and experiences increased equestrian traffic. One of their most popular events is a Mule Days weekend at the beginning of May.
All in all, “Sunday” & I enjoyed “steppin' out” on the trails in North Carolina on this horse vacation!
How you can go: Learn more about riding at the Biltmore and contact the equestrian center for more information on bringing your horse to ride by calling 828-225-1454 or by firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Biltmore%20equestrian%20from%20Equitrekking%20article">emailing Biltmore. Get information on how to visit and ride at Leatherwood Mountains.
About the Author: Susan St. Amand is a Board Member of the Shenandoah Trail Riding and Horseman's Association and employed with the Virginia Cooperative Extension as a 4-H Youth Program Assistant. She grew up in Northern Maine with horses on a farm and has been a transplant to Virginia for the past 25 years. She enjoys planning horse vacations with friends and has currently completed many rides in Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, as well as Virginia, trailering her own horse.