Leaf Peeper—8 Places to Trail Ride in the Fall
By Terisè Cole
Fall is known for its foliage, crisp weather, and if you live in New England, an influx of leaf peepers. What better way to see the turning leaves than on the back of a horse? Whether you want to stay in the Northeast or head West, we’ve found eight places that are perfect for fall trail rides.
Green Mountain Horse Association
South Woodstock, VT
New England is a great place to leaf peep on horseback and Vermont is no exception! Whether you are taking an outing on your own or participating in one of their many scheduled rides, the Green Mountain Horse Association has access to a whopping 70 miles of trails. Most of the trails feature Vermont’s elevation changes—hills—but they offer amazing views of the state’s scenery in shades of orange, red, and, of course, green during autumn. Multiple access points make getting there easy and nearby public trails are open freely if you choose to ride later in the fall outside of the association’s May to October season.
Indian Cave State Park
Dubbed one of the most beautiful riding spots in Nebraska by Sarah Rinne of the North American Trail Ride Conference, Indian Cave State Park is stunning whether the leaves are changing or not. Sixteen miles of trails and a camp with accommodations for horses are set in a heavily forested area with terrain for a more advanced trail rider. “The trails are barefoot friendly and well groomed, but it is recommended that your horse is in fair condition as the trails are very hilly with some long steep climbs throughout,” says Rinne. “But it is a rainbow of colors with exceptional views on the Bluff Trail that overlooks the Missouri River.”
Myles Standish State Forest
If you prefer your rides to last days instead of hours, a trip to the Myles Standish State Forest may be right up your alley. Aside from the 35 miles of horseback riding trails that take you into the forest, the park has an entire section dedicated to camping with horses—the Charge Pond area. Take the time to stop and smell the pine trees and then stay the night to do it all over again!
Kanopolis State Park
“Kanopolis State Park trails are truly a ‘wow’ ride for avid trail riders—one of the many gems in the Smokey Hills region,” says Rinne. “In the fall, the trees and sumac turn to fiery colors and the weather is comfortably cool.” If the weather turns out to be a little warm, as it can vary in Kansas, the park’s water crossings will cool you and your horse off before you continue on across open prairies and breathtaking canyons. It is a sight to see in the autumn, and if you’re lucky you may even spot a prairie dog or two!
Goddard Memorial State Park
The beach isn’t just for the summertime! Arguably one of Rhode Island’s best places to ride along the sand—and along the 18 miles of trails—Goddard Memorial is a perfect destination for the fall season when the weather cools off and the beach-goers go home. The easy trails with soft, equine-friendly footing run alongside Greenwich Bay and Greenwich Cove so riders almost always have a waterfront view—with two fuzzy ears in the middle.
Bridle Trails State Park
Horses are the priority at Bridle Trails State Park—the right-of-way is given to equines and their riders at all times, visitors are warned to be careful of spooking any horses on the trails, and trailer parking is accommodating. Appropriately named, this 482-acre park is crisscrossed with bridle paths favored by Washington’s equestrians since the 1930s. Even back then fellow riders loved the area and pushed for the land to be set aside for a park, just as it is today. Because the majority of the park is forested, a ride along the 28 miles of trails in the fall will offer you the Pacific Northwest’s changing leaves and the path will be as dappled (with sunlight) as your horse’s coat!
Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor, ME
Surrounded by trees, mountains, and lakes is just the way to spend a day on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. “Acadia National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list,” states Rose Zariczny of the Bay State Trail Riders Association. “The scenery is just spectacular in the fall.” With historic carriage roads extending miles into the park dotted with stone bridges, wildlife, and waterfalls, how could it not be? The famous roads give equestrians a chance to ride back in time—to the 1930s to be exact—and see the park as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. did when he built them.
East Fork Stables at Big South Fork
The ultimate destination location for trail riding, East Fork Stables boasts over 100 miles of Tennessee’s best trails with amazing sights to see, plus a number of stalls and a campground for overnights. “It is a stunning place to ride in the fall months, “ says Rinne. “With the heavily forested landscape and breathtaking views from some of the lookouts, late fall with the changing leaves is incredible.”