If you’re looking for a great place to see beautiful fall foliage from the back of your horse, Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia is a great choice. If you’ve ever driven through this region on the famous Skyline Drive Parkway, you likely (and correctly) surmised that this is a terrific trail-riding venue.
Adjoining the park is Grave’s Mountain, located in Syria, Virginia, about 40 miles south of Front Royal. Upon arrival, you’ll find a fenced field area for rough trailer camping; you can also reserve a stall or paddock for your horse at one of the barns. Tent camping isn’t permitted, and you must have sleeping accommodations in your horse trailer.
My wife, Janell, and I rented a rustic 1860s-era log cabin located several miles away, at the base of Old Ragged Mountain. We purchased an illustrated park trail map from the Shenandoah National Park Association (a nonprofit partner to Shenandoah National Park). We also downloaded regional maps from the National Park Service free of charge.
The map from the association, published by National Geographic, is very detailed and provides complete coverage of the area. All designated horse trails are clearly marked. We could easily navigate throughout the park using the connecting fire roads, which are open to equestrian use. All designated horse trails are marked with a yellow blaze.
The Grave’s Mountain property contains about 50 miles of trails, running through meadows, orchards, and forested mountain areas. These trails are also well-marked — we had no problem using the map provided by the stable office.
Many trails are rocky with shallow stream crossings, so your horse should be well-shod. You can spend many hours riding on Grave’s Mountain, in addition to the hundreds of miles of trails in the adjacent national park.
Ride to the Falls
Leaving our cabin, we rode up Berry Hollow to the gated fire road. This route provided fantastic vistas of Old Ragged Mountain. From there, we headed out another fire road to the top of the trailhead for Whiteoak Falls and the connecting trail down into the canyon.
At the falls, Janell and I agreed it was well worth the trip. A hitching rail was provided to rest our horses while we broke open the saddlebags for lunch before exploring the upper falls. We spent about an hour taking pictures and enjoying the scenery before heading back.
If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy a leisurely autumn ride, Grave’s Mountain and Shenandoah National Park are definitely worth the trip.
For more information on Shenandoah National Park, call (540) 999-3500, or visit www.nps.gov/shen. For information on the Shenandoah National Park Association, call or visit www.snpbooks.org. For more on Graves Mountain, call (434) 978-1411, or visit www.graves mountain.com.