This is a short description of a 5 mile trail ride in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I’m skipping the map I put in previous posts as this one is simple and it’s not a loop, but rather a ride up a trail and back down the same trail so unless you suffer from amnesia then you should be able to find your way back to your truck and trailer.
For this ride I suggest the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #316 Cades Cove – Elkmont Map which in addition to the GSMNP map has contour lines and it’s much easier to distinguish between hiker only and horse and hiker trails.
You can pick up both maps at the Visitors Centers or the Heritage Center or any of the back country vendors outside the park. I can not imphasize enough … Do NOT go without a map. A GPS doesn’t cut it and your smart phone is a brick once in the park. I also suggest a compass, but that’s just me. Also, learn to read a map and learn to identify map features (like contour lines) as they can inform you ahead of time what you are getting yourself into. Orienteering is a life skill that everyone should have. More so if you enjoy the outdoors and being in the back country.
This ride starts at the Cades Cove Riding Stable parking lot. We parked our truck and trailer just outside their gates on a large gravel turn-around area.
From the parking spot ride back across the Cades Cove Loop road and up to the picnic area you first passed on your left (now it will be on right). Head into picnic area where you will be the object of attention to children, dogs, and people visiting the park (of which you will now be ingrained in their memories and photos). For this reason alone, we will not do this ride again.
Ride to the end of the parking/picnic area and head up the Anthony Creek Trail. A few hundred yards out of the parking area is a stock and tie area for horse campers who aren’t brave enough to bold the back country campsites. The Anthony Creek Trail is very rocky. This is why our trip was shorter than we planned (which was to do a full loop up to the Appalachian Trail and back another trail, but our horses had sore feet from all the rocks on this trail). I recommend this only if you have shod horses or endurance boots.
1.6 miles up the Anthony Creek Trail we took left hand fork to continue on the Anthony Creek trail up to the primitive campsite (#9) where the horses rested while we ate lunch before heading back down. As our horses were a bit foot sore, we rode back down rather than continuing up to Bote Mountain Trail to make a loop back to the Russell Field Trail (off the Appalachian Trail).
This ride was a good three hours. While not as rough as the other two rides I’ve listed before, this is still a 3/5 in terms of terrain and skill as it is quite rocky with a half dozen stream crossings. Take plenty of water and some snacks for yourself. A few peppermints for the ponies would be a welcome treat during the breaks.
Things we have in our saddle bags:
- Water Bottles
- Snacks (trail mix, sandwiches, granola bars)
- Small first aid kit
- Wasp/Hornet spray
- Hatchet (for trees on the trail)
- Vet Wrap and Duct Tape (which is like a mini horse first aid kit)