Horseback Riding the Bucktail Trail in West Virginia

Riding the Bucktail Trail in the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia, part of the 50 State Trail Riding Project.

by Susan St. Amand

On another late, crisp autumn day, the Shenandoah Trail Riders and Horseman's Assocation organized and sponsored another spectacular trail ride on the Bucktail Trail situated across the western state border of Virginia into West Virginia. The Bucktail Trail is located within the George Washington National Forest, a large wilderness and recreational area stretching along the Virginia and West Virginia border, falling within the Appalachian Mountain range as well.

George Washington National Forest horsback riding

The Bucktail Trail is a lovely mountain trail for horseback riding as well as hiking. The duration of this trail loop is approximately 3 1/2 hours. We encountered several hikers on the trail taking advantage of the last days of autumn as well. A map and seating benches were located at the trail head parking area to assist in familiarizing yourself with the park. Keep in mind the terrain in this area is very rocky and shoes on the horses hooves are a necessity. At a few of the small creek crossings, the hoofbeats of the horses reverberated on the small wooden bridges, loudly echoing into the woods as we crossed to get to the other side.

George Washington National Forest horsback riding wooden bridge

ducktail trail George Washington National Forest horsback riding

We stopped and tied our horses as we devoured our packed lunches by an old, abandoned iron ore furnace. These iron ore furnaces reflect a historical cultural occurrence in days past and many are found in this Appalachian Mountain area. Iron ore was mined heavily for a time for the processing of steel. To this day, if someone uses a metal detector, it will detect iron ore within rocks in this area. It is also awes you how people worked laboriously in the remote areas of the mountains, how the ore may have been discovered, and the difficulty of traveling by foot or horseback through the rough rocky terrain of the mountains.

Luckily for those of us living in the current day, the trail is marked and wide enough to comfortably ride leisurely and enjoy the mountain scenery. With the majority of the leaves now on the ground, unobstructive views through the trees leave wildlife more vulnerable for human eyes.

iron ore furnace George Washington National Forest horsback riding

George Washington National Forest horsback riding

Once again, another memorable day of autumn trail riding was enjoyed by all in the George Washington National Forest along the Appalachian Mountain range.

Directions: Off I-81 in Virginia, take exit #296 taking Route 55 West to Wardensville, WV driving 19 miles (approximately 27 minutes). Go through Wardensville and turn left onto Trout Run Road. In 6.2 miles, a sign will indicate the Bucktail Trail Parking lot on the left.

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 as well as Virginia trailering her own horse.