Great Smoky Mountains National Park | HORSEBACK RIDING

8-year-old Sasha enjoys her first non-tethered horse ride

8-year-old Sasha enjoys her first non-tethered horse ride

Note: The terms “horse” and “horseback riding” refer to horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas.


Of 800+ miles of trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearly 550 of them are open to those with horses and other pack animals. There are even five vehicle accessible campgrounds for those with horses, plus plenty of backcountry campsites that can be used when planning overnight riding trips. For additional information about horseback riding in the park, see the National Park Service’s Horse Riding web page.

Be sure to download a trail map so that you can plan your trip. Additional regulations are included on the second page of the PDF. This map is also sold at the park’s Visitor Centers for a couple of bucks, and you certainly will want to purchase a printed copy before hitting the trails.

Smoky Mountains Trail Map (PDF)


CAMPING WITH HORSES

VEHICLE ACCESSIBLE HORSE CAMPS

There are five campgrounds within the park designed for those with horses. All campsites have a tent pad, picnic table, fire ring, and parking spaces. Horse hitch racks/stalls are either located at the site or in a central location.

Only the Big Creek Horse Camp has flush toilets; the rest have outhouses (either plastic portable toilets or pit toilets housed in a permanent structure). Big Creek also is the only campground that has drinking water for humans, though there is water at all campgrounds for horses, either at the campground itself or in a nearby stream. The Cataloochee and Anthony Creek Horse Camps are near the regular campgrounds, so it is possible to get drinking water and use flush toilets if you must, but this is certainly not convenient—especially after dark—due to the distance between the campgrounds. No campgrounds have showers, horse camp or otherwise, but there are private showers outside of the park. Ask a Ranger or campground host for recommendations.

All horse campsites must be reserved in advance—you cannot pay at the campground even if the place is empty. If you show up without a reservation, you must call or book one online, and since it is rare to have phone service in these areas, you most likely will have to travel back to the nearest town to do so. Reservations can be made online at recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777 between 10 AM and 10 PM. If using the online reservation system, search for the Horse Camp name (i.e. Big Creek Horse Camp, not Big Creek Campground), otherwise you may end up making a reservation at the regular campground.

Each campsite holds six people and four horses. Larger groups must reserve multiple sites. Parking varies, but each site can hold at least one vehicle and one trailer. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Horse Camps web page.

Anthony Creek Horse Camp
Located down the road from the Cades Cove Campground, this camp has 3 sites available.

Big Creek Horse Camp
Located down the road from the Big Creek Campground, this camp has 5 sites available.

Cataloochee Horse Camp
Located down the road from the Cataloochee Campground, this camp has 7 sites available.

Round Bottom Horse Camp
Located on the two-way portion of Balsam Mountain Road and accessed via Big Cove Road, this camp has 5 sites available.

Tow String Horse Camp
Located off of Hwy 441 south of the Smokemont Campground, this camp has 3 sites available.

BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING

Horses and riders are allowed to use designated backcountry campsites for overnight trips. See National Park Planner’s Backcountry Camping web page for more information.


GUIDED HORSEBACK RIDES

Cades Cove Riding Stable

Cades Cove Riding Stable

For those who do not have a horse but would like to go horseback riding, there are four authorized concessionaires within Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offer guided horseback rides. A few also offer hay and wagon rides for all ages. See the concessionaire web site for restrictions and fees.

Cades Cove Riding Stables

Smokemont Riding Stables

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

Sugarlands Riding Stables

Guides prepare horses for a trail ride at the Smokemont Riding Stables

Guides prepare horses for a trail ride at the Smokemont Riding Stables


Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on February 12, 2021
Share this article