Darley Newman just may have the most covetable job in the United States. She is not only the host and producer of PBS travel shows Travels with Darley and Equitrekking, but she makes her living hitting the most compelling equestrian trails around the world. Better still, her family often comes along for the ride — and on horseback to boot!
Newman, however, recommends planning a family horseback-focused vacation during the fall months and relatively close to home. Why? Equestrian culture is part of America’s DNA, and, therefore, there will be destinations offering adventures for all families, from the most experienced riders to those new to the experience. Furthermore, fall is an ideal time for this sort of trip, with temperatures cooling down and foliage brightening up the trails.
“Riding horses together is a great way to bond with each other and new equine friends, capture truly amazing photos for your own memories or to share on social and to learn new skills while playing outdoors,” affirms Newman. “As outdoorsy families often will want to simply hop in their car and drive to a vacation destination, I’ve highlighted destinations across the U.S. with ideal fall weather … (home to some resorts offering) discounted and off-season rates, so families with diverse budgets and vacation goals can enjoy these riding destinations.”
Newman advises looking for family-friendly ranches, resorts and farms known for their exceptional trail riding and horseback riding lessons. Her destination picks, spanning Vermont to California, provide horseback riding guidance. Some specialized resorts, such as the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm, are best for families that have some riding experience. Complete beginners with young children, meanwhile, should look into some of the other destinations concentrating on riding lessons.
“Families wishing to ride together should make sure that the destination they choose will have options suited to their children’s age group and skill levels,” Newman continues. “Destinations providing additional activities to fit the goals of the whole family, including swimming pools, kayaking, biking, and cookouts should be taken under consideration, as should those with all-inclusive packages to make it easier to determine what will fit the family budget ahead of time.”
There’s no better place to ride amid New England’s famous changing leaves. Both destinations are family friendly: Kids 10 and over are welcome at Vermont Icelandic and must be 8 or older for trail rides at Mountain Top, which also offers pony rides for younger kids. The Icelandic Horse Farm offers the unique opportunity to ride Icelandic horses, a smooth ride because of their particular gait and a smaller, but hardy horse suited for Vermont’s varied landscapes. The Mountain Top Inn offers diverse activities in addition to horseback riding, including a heated pool, tennis, fishing, volleyball and more.
Southern Cross Guest Ranch, Georgia
This guest ranch, just an hour from Atlanta, offers unguided riding, giving a more experienced riding family the freedom to explore trails on horseback together. Southern Cross raises pretty Paint and Quarter horses, making for great photo opportunities. Guests can learn horsemanship skills and enjoy a cost-effective all-inclusive vacation here. The weather is beautiful in the fall, with cooler Georgia temperatures and changing leaves.
Tanque Verde Ranch, near Tucson, Ariz.
While you may not see changing leaves here, super family-friendly Tanque Verde Ranch welcomes families to ride in the stunning Sonoran Desert in Tucson and brings modern amenities to this historic ranch, including a swimming pool, fitness center and nature center. The ranch also offers special activities for kids. I personally recommend getting up early for the breakfast ride and participating in the cowboy cookouts!
C Lazy U, Colorado
Travel here for the ultimate Western immersion: fall colors, cattle work, trail rides in the Rockies and lots for kids of all ages, including teens. This ranch also has a spa for parents to enjoy after a day in the saddle and is known for its exceptional cuisine.
The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Santa Barbara County, Calif. Santa Barbara Wine Country is home to this upscale ranch resort, known for its complete riding program for adults and kids, great year-round weather and charming nearby towns such as Danish-inspired Solvang.