Late fall is an ideal time for families to go for a trail ride on horseback — the air is crisp and the leaves are crunchy and still a bit colorful.
“You see the world differently on a horse,” says Caroline Namrow, a Montgomery County mother of five whose children frequently ride through Wheaton Regional Park. “Trail riding is a great experience as a family.”
Maryland and Virginia stables offer trail rides geared toward families with little or no horse experience. Some of the organized rides cross through parks and farms and last just an hour or so. Others are all-day adventures.
“It’s something that the family can do together,” says Karen Anderson, owner of Southern Grace Farm in Charles County. “If you go to the beach, the kids might be in the water but not the parents. Or if you go the fair, the kids will be on the rides. This is something you experience together.”
This is a great time of year to hit the trails. Fall sports and activities are winding down, and the weather is still pleasant.
“It’s something different for families,” says Amanda Manown, owner of Happy on Hooves ranch in Hampstead, Md. “It’s great to be outside together. … I know it sounds strange, but it’s actually relaxing.”
Be forewarned, however, that your kids might become attached to horses. After a family trail ride at Wheaton Regional Park seven years ago, the Namrow children were hooked and have been taking weekly riding lessons ever since.
If you are interested in taking the family riding, check out the following selection of places to ride in the area plus tips.
Where to saddle up
Here is a list of places that offer trail rides beginning with those closest to Annapolis. Prices vary depending on length of ride and expertise, so call for pricing. Expect prices to start at $40/hour.
Beech Grove Farm, Gambrills
See the fall foliage and fields on this 114-acre Anne Arundel County farm. You might catch a glimpse of a deer or other wildlife on the 4- to 6-mile trail. Riders need to be 16 or older, but exceptions are made for those with riding experience.
Hours: Daily by appointment, weather permitting
1575 Underwood Road; 20 minutes from Annapolis
Wheaton Regional Park, Wheaton
From its formal gardens to its elaborate playground (with historic merry-go-round and train ride), this Montgomery County park is a D.C.-area family favorite. But not as many know about the riding stables, which offer 1-hour rides through the wooded trails on Sundays. Riders must be 8 years old and weigh no more than 180 pounds. Pony rides are available on Tuesdays and Sundays for children ages 3 and older.
Hours: 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Sundays; reservations required with a deposit
1101 Glenallen Ave.; 45 minutes from Annapolis
Piscataway Stable, Clinton
Ride through pastures and woods and across the streams of this 250-acre property. Children should be 4-feet, 6-inches tall to ride (about 9 years old). Special arrangements can be made to use a lead line for younger passengers — or nervous adults. Weight limit is 275 pounds.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends and weekdays by appointment.
10775 Piscataway Road; 55 minutes from Annapolis
Happy on Hooves, Hampstead
Eight horses give rides through the farm country at the Carroll County-Baltimore County border. Choose between a leisurely ride through open countryside and woods or a fast-paced gallop across streams and up hills. Riders must to be at least 12 years old and weigh less than 350 pounds. Free pony rides are offered on the second Thursday of the month.
Hours: 10 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Friday-Sunday, weather permitting
5014 Mount Carmel Road; 1 hour, 5 minutes from Annapolis
Fairwind Stables, North East
Wind through the woods and pastures and past a pond near a charming Cecil County bed and breakfast. Pony rides and carriage rides are also options. Riders must be 8 or older. Weight limit is 260. Helmets are provided.
Hours: Daily, year-round, weather permitting; reservations required
41 Trailwinds Lane; 1 hour, 15 minutes from Annapolis
Southern Grace Farm, Bel Alton
Ride around this historic, 52-acre horse farm in Charles County, traveling through woods, along train tracks and across a small creek. You may spot deer or even wild turkey. Younger children can ride double with an adult. There is a 300-pound weight limit.
Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, year-round, weather permitting; reservations required
8950 Doctor Spencer Road; 1 hour, 15 minutes from Annapolis
River Valley Ranch, Manchester
Meander along the Gunpowder River and through forests surrounding this Christian camp in Carroll County. The 1-hour escorted rides are for ages 10 and up. Pony rides are available for younger children. Helmets are provided.
Hours: Mondays-Saturdays except during summer camp season (closed Sundays); reservations required
4443 Grave Run Road; 1 hour, 20 minutes from Annapolis
Fair Hill Stables, Elkton
Once the cattle ranch of the DuPont family, this nearly 6,000-acre Cecil County property has become premier horse country. More than 80 miles of trails cross woods and rolling fields that are now state-protected land. In addition to trail rides for ages 8 and older, the stables also offer pony rides, carriage rides and hay rides. There is a 270-pound weight limit, and helmets are provided.
Hours: Daily year-round, weather permitting; reservations recommended
64 Kennel Road; 1 hour, 30 minutes from Annapolis
Skyland Stables, Luray, Va.
The guided tours in Shenandoah National Park follow the Old Rag Fire Road through oak trees and past an old apple orchard, a hemlock patch and a small waterfall. Riders must be at least 4-feet, 10-inches tall and weigh less than 250 pounds.
Hours: Fridays-Sundays, see website for times. The 2016 season ends Nov. 16.
Mile 42.5 on Skyline Drive; 2 hours, 30 minutes from Annapolis
Circle R Ranch, Oakland
Trails lead through forests, along fields and streams and through old apple orchards.
Riders need to be age 7 or older. Those younger than 16 must wear a helmet. There is weight limit, which varies by horse.
Hours: Weekends, weather permitting
4151 Sand Flat Road; 3 hours, 15 minutes from Annapolis
Click next below for horsback riding basics