By Heather Mullinix
With more than 125 miles of interconnecting trails, East Fork Stables offers a chance to explore new areas of the more than 12,000 acres of private horseback and wagon trails.
“There’s ponds, creeks, waterfalls,” explained Phil Hopson, manager of the stables and trail riding facility. “We’ve got trails on the rock edge of the Plateau and some that are below the rim. You can see the caves, sheer rock walls. But I’d say most people like riding all around the edge of the bluff and enjoy the views of the valley below.
“And it’s not difficult riding. The trails are flat and have a sandy base.”
East Fork Stables, in Jamestown, opened in 1994, just as equestrian tourism was starting to grow in the area. It began with one campground and a barn converted from the old stockyard operation.
East Fork is considered one of the country’s premier equestrian vacation destinations, according to Tom Seay, host of Best of America by Horseback. It’s been featured on the RFD-TV show twice and Seay is returning for a third visit soon.
One of the draws East Fork Stables offers are all-inclusive events, with daily rides and all meals. For example, the Oktoberfest Ride, set Oct. 16-20, begins on Thursday with dinner. Friday and Saturday, riders are served breakfast, lunch on the trail and a hot dinner with entertainment. All riders have to bring is their horses and clothes and East Fork can take care of the rest.
During the Oktoberfest trail ride, a German beer is brewed by Knoxville’s Downtown Grill and Brewery and there’s a German flair added to the meals, whether that be a side or dessert. It’s among the many theme rides offered during the year, including a spring Wildflower Ride, a Luau Ride and more.
The venue also offers a great place to show off special skills, with timed speed racking races, horse shows and more. Just last weekend, the Racking on the Edge event showcased speed racking horses.
“We’ll have 1,000 people here to watch,” Hopson said. “It’s a big spectator sport.”
Not familiar with speed racking? You can see past events online on YouTube by searching for Racking on the Edge.
Those special events are a lot of fun, but Hopson said most riders like to just come and camp and hit the trail early. They’ll do their own cooking and entertaining, and just enjoy their days on the trail.
The business is seasonal, with campgrounds open from the end of March to the first of November. Those campgrounds range from modern campgrounds with full RV hookups available to primitive campsites. For those without a camper, a range of cabin accommodations are available, including the birdhouses, small, one-room cabins with air conditioning that sleep two people.
“If you don’t have a luxury camper, you can still come up here and enjoy a nice, comfortable place,” Hopson said.
Campgrounds have bathhouses and laundry facilities as well as barns easy access to barns. The primitive campsites are further away from the horses, so riders have the option of tying their horses up to corral panels or between trees.
Wherever you stay, you won’t be far from a trail. Each campground has trailheads popping up, providing easy access to the interconnected trail system.
East Fork provides everything a rider needs for their trip, except the horse. Stalls are clean when riders arrive and riders have options for how their horse will be accommodated during their stay.
Those without their own mount can still enjoy the beautiful vistas offered along the ridge. While East Fork Stables does not rent horses, Cedar Creek Cattle Company nearby does rent horses to riders.
To get horses prepared for the trails, there’s an obstacle course available, with jumps, a sew-saw and a tarp to walk through to desensitize a horse before it hits the trail. East Fork hosts clinics, as well, to help riders and horses on their trail riding skills. In the coming year, Hopson hopes to introduce dressage, a competitive equestrian sport that’s growing in popularity. Events often include three-days of contests that test a horse’s training, including arena jumping, dressage and cross country, with jumps and obstacles. Horses are judged and timed.
For those living nearby, East Fork Stables offers a family pass good for one year of trail riding. As these riders live in the area, they don’t need the campground facilities and are able to access the trails year-round. For those without a pass, day passes are available during the season.
Something new Hopson is considering for the coming year is long-term boarding of horses.
“We have many riders that travel from Crossville or Cookeville, and they’ve said boarding would be something they’d be interested in,” Hopson said.
Those interested in boarding services are asked to contact Hopson.
To learn more about East Fork Stables, or to reserve your spot before the season ends, visit www.eastforkstables.com or call 1-800-97-TRAIL. Contact Cedar Creek Cattle Company at www.cedarcreekcattlecompany.com.