Nearly 200 horses and riders attended the 2nd annual Chilly/Chili Ride, held November 14, 2009, at the Pennyrile State Forest. With temperatures in the low 70s and abundant sunshine, the day was tailor-made for trail riding.
Members of the West Kentucky Chapter of the Women on the Edge Trail Riders Association (www.womenonthededgetrail riders.org) have been hosting rides in the Pennyrile since fall 2007 to reintroduce trail riders to our forest trails.
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park sits on 15,000 acres of woodland adjoining three counties, Christian, Hopkins, and Caldwell. It’s our mission, along with the nonprofit Friends of the Pennyrile Forest Foundation, to renew interest in this area as an equine camping and riding destination.
For the past several years, the forest has been largely ignored by trail riders, due to poorly maintained trails and a lack of up-to-date maps. Also, there wasn’t a designated trailer-parking area, and virtually no one to aid first-timers. But the riding was beautiful for the few of us locals who frequent the area.
We’d been making headway in improving existing trails and creating new ones, when the ice storm of January 2009 hit. The devastation to this area was heartbreaking.
However, the disaster worked in our favor. The Federal Emergency Management Agency helped with cleanup efforts, and the state of Kentucky awarded Pennyrile $1.1 million for improvements. Future plans include a five-acre, graveled day-parking area, and a 15-site equine campground with a new bathhouse and horse shelter. In the meantime, primitive camping is free, and the trails are well on their way to being restored to their original beauty.
Trails will be suitable to ride year-round, but be aware that late July through August is the peak horse fly season, depending on the weather.
When complete, Pennyrile will offer more than 45 miles of trails that will be clearly marked and mapped for an enjoyable trail ride through the beautiful Western Kentucky woods.
The Pennyrile Lodge offers beautiful accommodations and delicious dining for those who’d rather not rough it. The new horse-camping facilities will be located close to the lodge.
On the Trails
I’d rate the Pennyrile trails as easy to moderate, made up of several miles of dirt logging roads that wind throughout the majority of the forest. Horse paths fork off these roads, snake their way through native hardwoods, and cross creeks.
Creeks generally swell in the spring and run up until mid-summer and usually begin running again in the fall and throughout the winter months. There are two lakes, Pennyrile Lake and Lake Beshears.
Watch for wildlife; there’s an abundance of white-tail deer and turkey. Geese fill the lake during their migrations, and you’ll likely spot small game. It’s a good idea to have your seasoned trail horses leading the pack!
Hunting is allowed during regular seasons, but the Pennyrile is closed to riding only during the two-day quota deer hunt the first weekend of November.
The scenery is some of the prettiest in this part of the state, with large rock bluffs and cliff overhangs jutting up out of the forest floor.
I’d definitely add Pennyrile Forest State Resort as a must-see destination for a camping and riding vacation!
For more information on Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, call (800) 325-1711, or visit www.parks.ky.gov/findparks/resortparks/pf/. For more on the Friends of Pennyrile Forest Foundation, visit www.friendsofpennyrile.com.