View Full Version : Suggestions for a 2 night horsepacking trip in George Washington/Jefferson N.F.?

Mar. 19, 2010, 10:50 AM
I may be leading a group of college students (mostly beginners, with SOME but not regular riding time) on a two night horse packing trip in VA next fall. I'm currently exploring options for trails & campsites.

I'd love to hear from people who have ridden this area before... I will be doing some recon riding up there in early fall to finalize whatever trails I end up choosing, so I won't be leading blind.

I'd like to find a trail (or a connecting loop) that is beginner friendly, nothing too rocky or with steep drops, etc. Some steep trail is OK as long as it's not just constantly up/down/up/down... Shallow stream crossings OK, major crossings not so good... I'd like to ride for about an hour or two on the first day, 5 - 6 hours the 2nd day, and then anywhere between 1 - 4 hours the 3rd day.

It doesn't need to be a loop, we will have shuttle for us and the horses available.

We will be going sometime around mid October, most likely. It'll be on a weekend: Friday through Sunday.

These kids are all experienced in outdoor activities, primitive camping, navigation, etc., but horse packing itself will be new. We're fine with more primitive camp sites, back country trails, etc. I am a Wilderness EMT, and we'll also have a Wilderness First Responder on the trip.

I'd like to ride somewhere in the George Washington and Jefferson Nat. Forest...

I'm also interested in the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail in the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area... Thoughts on this trail?

Other ideas welcome. Look forward to hearing from those who have ridden this area before! I'm looking forward to getting out there!

tabula rashah
Mar. 19, 2010, 10:54 AM
No real suggestions from me, but OMG are they going to be crazy sore!!!

Mar. 19, 2010, 11:06 AM
Yeah...preload with 800mg ibprofen before the ride....repeat as necessary :)

Are you actually camping out with the horses? If so you will have to make sure all the horses are picket or hobble trained. You will also have to make sure you have experienced people to load the pack horses so you don't cause them suffering. You will also probably need camping permits. Good luck...sounds like it could either be real fun and or a real disaster :winkgrin: The logistics are scary...water, hay, grain for the horses, food and shelter for the people....

Mar. 19, 2010, 11:21 AM
Oh yeah... I love logistics. :eek:

I've horse packed several times with the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Wind River Range in WY... and will be doing some more in New Zealand this summer... I'm confident in my skills re: camping with the horses, packing, logistics for feed, care, etc... Part of the trip is to teach these students the basics. It'll be 6 college students, myself, and our 'risk manager' who is also an experienced rider, though she's done less camping with horses then I have.

I've just never ridden any of the trails in VA. I'm now living in Western NC, and the VA trails seem to be better then what we've got around here (personal opinion).

I'm going for the 'lots of fun' option. :cool:

Bank of Dad
Mar. 19, 2010, 02:11 PM
Sounds like fun. I'd like to do this area too, so I'll be following this thread.

A long time ago, we did part of the forest near Natural Bridge, VA. The trails were really boring, all switchbacks. There's got to be better than that.

Try emailing Judie Ricci, her place may be near there.


Mar. 22, 2010, 07:45 AM
You might want to contact Don Meuten, don_meuten@ncsu.edu
who is the ride manager of the Virginia Highlands challenge endurance ride. That ride is in the Mt rogers National Recreation Area, based from a local community campground in Ivanhoe, VA. Don might be able to give you some good suggestions about camp sites and trails. The people that help him with the endurance ride trail live right there also. The park that is used for a camp is open for public use, it's run by the local fire dept. It sits right on the New River Valley Trail, on the shores of the river. It's on the edge of the the national forest and if you camp there you can go down the river trail (flat) or climb into the mountains and hit the Virginia Highlands trail or many others. There are a few horse camps and many private horse "camps" in the area. The community park in Ivanhoe is primitive and only asks for donations for it's use.

Bonnie S.

chancy deal
Mar. 22, 2010, 01:47 PM
Is this in the area you're wanting to go?....


Apr. 7, 2010, 12:08 PM
The Glenwood trail system is a relatively good place for this type of situation. There are several trail heads that are accessible from I-81, the best is probably the one near Natural Bridge, VA, but there are also trail heads further south in the Roanoke area as well.

Some place else (further south on I-81) that you might want to consider would be around Ivanhoe, VA, with rides based out of one of the horse campgrounds like Hungry Horse.

Another source might be to check out Trail Rider magazine. Virginia Horse Council also publishes a trails guide for the state of VA that would include information on the trails in the Geo Washington and Jefferson Nat'l Forest areas.

One other source might be the back Country riders group based out of Lexington, VA...not sure how to put you in touch with them. Deb Sensabaugh is one of the organizers of this group and knows the trails in the central Shenandoah valley very well.

Rick in VA

Apr. 7, 2010, 04:26 PM
Someone mentioned the Mt Rogers area, are you familiar with Grayson Highlands? There are several trails starting from there, and it is absolutely beautiful scenery. I hike there at least once a year and come across some riders every once in awhile. Perhaps you could venture into Grayson Highlands as part of the trip?