Mountain Horseback Riding in West Virginia

by Karin Bauer
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West Virginia’s nickname is the Mountain State, a moniker that works since most of the state lies in the Appalachian, Allegheny, and Cumberland Mountain ranges. Viewing mountains from the ground is a sight to see, but you get the best views while at the top. I’m an avid horseback rider, so my way of getting to a mountaintop is on horseback. Mountain horseback riding in West Virginia is a great way to see this beautiful state.

Horseback Riding in West Virginia

On my trip to West Virginia, I stayed in Davis; a small, somewhat remote town in Tucker County. Before my trip, I researched where I could go horseback riding, and found two places–Mountain Trail Rides in Davis (near where I stayed) and Yokum’s Seneca Rocks Stables. The drive to Seneca Rocks was about 30 minutes from Davis.

Mountain Trail Rides

Mountain Trail Rides in Davis is perfect for all riding levels. The ranch is a short drive from the Canaan Village Inn, which was where I stayed. Mountain Trail Rides will take riders in groups or individually. They have trails suitable for beginner and advanced riders. I am experienced so I joined one guide on a more advanced trail.

horseback riding in West Virginia

My horse is named Beauty. She is a Pinto mare.

The ride started off going through a field full of tall grass, and a lovely view of the mountain (which was the mountain where are to ride to the top). The trail going uphill was rather steep, and I had to duck my head low because of the trees with thorny branches. The ground was a little wet from recent rain which added to the challenge of the uphill climb.

I had my GoPro camera on so I could take videos of the ride. Because of the steep hills and muddy grounds, I thought it was best to not take photos while riding.

I feared Beauty slipping on the mud as we went uphill. I kept my weight off her back by using my legs to lift myself up in the saddle, and holding her mane to keep my balance.

Beauty is a good sure-footed horse so she kept her footing up the mountain.

We passed some deer along the way. Two young bucks hid behind the pine trees. The deer looked at us while we and the horses watched them. Fearing the horses may frighten from the quick-running deer, we stopped our horses to let the deer run away. The guide used his voice to scare the deer away.

I was warned bears were in the mountains. The horses would give a warning sign (I will say it will be frightening for beginners) if bears were near. Horses can sense bears before people can. However, all was well and no bears crossed our paths. I hoped it would stay that way.

When we reached the top of the mountain, we took a brief stop to take photos. Here I got the best view of all–on a horse while at the top of the mountain.

The best mountain views can be found while on horseback

The sky was cloudy as it just finished raining. Luckily no rain during the ride.

The Route Downhill

We were to take the same route down. I thought going downhill would be more dangerous. So we had to take it slow and steady.

This is the time when you really must trust the horse. The horses know the terrain very well, as they have done these trails many times. So, I let Beauty have a loose rein and let her walk her own path down the hill. I did not interfere by pulling on the reins. I just let Beauty do her job.

The guide and I made it back down the mountain with no trouble at all. We got back to the ranch, and Beauty went to the barn to have her lunch. I gave the guide a tip and we said goodbye. It made me happy to have such a nice horseback ride in the mountains, despite the cloudy weather and wet grounds. I had a nice conversation with the guide, and had a well-behaved horse, which is what mattered most.

The author’s horse, Beauty, did well on the mountain trails

Yokum’s Stables

The next day was my horseback ride at Seneca Rocks. The drive was longer than the day before, so I had to get an early start and be sure my phone was fully charged, so I could use the GPS.

Karin, with Poncho

Traffic is not heavy on these rural roads, so I did not hit any back-ups. I found Yokum’s Stables with no trouble at all. I saw a few signs pointing to the stable, which was helpful.

Today’s ride had better weather – sunny and clear skies.

On this ride, I was with a larger group. The group was all novice riders. The guides and I were the only ones who truly have riding experience.

My horse is named Poncho. He is an Appaloosa gelding.

The horses are well-trained and safe for all riding levels, and safe for children (age 6 and up) to ride. This ride may not be suitable for those who have an excessive fear of heights. Because of the steep uphill and downhill climbs, this ride was walking only. The warm weather would also contribute to the horses exhausting rather quickly.

The Ride Up Seneca Rocks

The ride consisted of mainly climbing up the mountain then back down. Some parts of the mountain were steep and I was concerned of the footing. The trails were mostly covered with trees, so that helped prevent the trails from being too went from recent rainfall. However, the horses know exactly where they are going and know where to step. The rocks on the trail also help the horses keep their footing.

Most of the way up I had to keep myself lifted out of the saddle by standing up in the stirrups. This helps keep my weight off the horse’s back to make it easier for him to go uphill. Although the horses are sure-footed, I still wanted to be safe and help the horse by keeping my weight off his back. Staying standing up in the stirrups also helps strengthen my legs and keep my balance.

The view while riding up was pretty, with the sun beaming through the leaves on the trees. The trees also help shield us from the hot sun.

We took periodical stops on the trail to let the horses catch their breath. Poncho breathed heavily as we got halfway up the trail. Some parts of the trail flattened out which helped the horses regain their energy. While on the flat parts of the trail, I could sit in the saddle.

The horses know to stay on the trail, and not get too close to the edge. The other way to keep calm is to not keep looking down the mountainside.  That is a long drop down the mountainside!

We reached the top of the hills and got off the horses. The horses rested, drank water and ate their snacks. We had some time to take photos and walk the trails.

The observation deck allows for panoramic views

The sounds of nature were very pleasant to listen to. Birds chirping and the breeze blowing the leaves on the trees. The top of the mountain was also a perfect place to take photos of the woods. This was the perfect day – with bright, sunny skies.

After enjoying the view and taking pictures, we got back on our horses and ride the trail back down the mountain.

Just like the ride up the hill, the rocks on the trail helped the horses keep their footing.

The Downhill Ride

This time I was in the back of the line. We reversed the group order going back down. That way worked better because Poncho is slow going downhill. He also has more of a sway going downhill.

We rode down the mountain, letting the horses walk their own pace and pick their way. The ride going down took longer because we had to allow the horses to walk slow. Going down was a bit more treacherous because of the wet footing. While on the steep parts of the trail, I kept my weight balanced by leaning back and keeping my feet pushed forward. I held on to the back of the saddle to keep my balance.

We finished the walk down the mountain and got back to the stables. Everybody, including me, had an enjoyable ride.

Both days of horseback riding in West Virginia were enjoyable. The ride up Seneca Rocks was more adventurous than other trail rides. At home in Pennsylvania, I do not get a chance to ride up a mountain because there are no mountains in my area.

I finished my day with a delicious dinner at the Alpine Lodge Sawmill Restaurant in Davis. This restaurant is country cooking at its finest.

Apart from horseback riding, I had other opportunities to have an adventure.

Mountain Adventure at Spruce Knob

When heading east to Virginia the next day, I stopped at Spruce Knob Mountain in Pendleton County to see some more mountain scenery. I was not in a rush, so I drove up the mountain. The road was a “spiral” drive up the mountain, and took some time. The roads are narrow, just barely big enough to let a car pass going the opposite way. There were plenty of pull-off spots so I could let a car pass if one came.

I continued up the “long and winding road” that lead to the mountain top. I could feel the higher altitude affect coming on.

Be advised this trip is not advised for those who have a fear of heights. One slip could be deadly. You will see why this road is closed during the winter.

I reached the mountain top, and got a picture of the sign as proof I reached the top of Spruce Knob.

The summit of Spruce Mountain is the highest peak in the Allegheny Mountains. I enjoyed some walks through the trees and observed some wildlife at the top of the mountain.

horseback riding in West Virginia

I took some time to walk the mountain paths, and view the scenery from the top. It sure was a sight to see! I wish I could take scenic drives like this more often. I was not alone here. Other people enjoyed their time at the top of the mountain at the same time.

The time came to head back down the mountain and continue to trip east to Virginia. As I got towards the bottom of the mountain, I saw a sign pointing to Spruce Knob Lake. The lake was a view I could not pass up.

 Beautiful West Virginia Scenery

I could not get enough of the West Virginia scenery. At the bottom of the mountain, I had lunch at a small diner and got back on the highway. I had an enjoyable and adventurous weekend in West Virginia, and a trip I will always remember. Anyone who likes horseback riding in West Virginia and mountain life will enjoy visiting Davis and Pendleton Counties!

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– All photos by Karin Bauer.

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