Horseback riding at DuPont State Forest in North Carolina
The land of the waterfalls...
When I was 13 years old, I watched the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" for the first time. Ever since then, there's always been a calling inside of me that has lead me right back to the movie and the beauty within it. After some research, I found that although the movie was supposed to have taken place in New York, it was actually filmed in western North Carolina, specifically at DuPont State Forest.
DuPont State Forest is located in Transylvania County and the closest major city is Brevard. It is located aproximately about an hour and half away from Asheville. Transylvania County is also known as the land of the waterfalls. And trust me, the nickname isn't a let down!
In May 2010, I decided that it was finally time for me to take a vacation and visit the place that my heart yearned for. I stayed in a lovely cabin in Clyde, NC called Turkey Creek Stables where I was also able to board my 2 horses in a pristine pasture with spring fed troughs. From my cabin, DuPont was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, but well worth it.
How to prepare for your trip
- Make sure you know your horse and what he is capable of. If you normally only ride once a week or less, don't expect your horse to ride for hours on trails that can be steep. And if you are coming from a low altitude such as me (Florida), take the temperature change and the altitude change into consideration. Make sure your horse is FIT before you come!
- Don't make the same mistake as I did and only think that your horse will need front shoes if your horse is normally barefoot. You will DEFINITELY need all feet shod. I was lucky enough to find a farrier while I was already there on vacation and he was kind enough to shoe both of my horse's hind feet. I would recommend protective pads as well if you can afford them. My horse's trucked through everything like I knew they would, but my farrier was cutting out bruises for months afterwards.
- Bring food/water for yourself, bug spray, halters/lead ropes, and a protective boot like an Easy Boot just in case your horse pulls a shoe. What I did, as you can see in the above picture, was to keep a rope halter and lead on my horse at all times when riding, to free up some space in my saddle bags for other things.
- Make sure your horse isn't scared of bicycles, groups of people walking by, crosses water, and can tie without pulling back. I understand you can't prepare your horse for everything, especially training them for certain terrain when you don't have anything similar in your own area (rocky and steep versus sandy and flat), but doing the best you can to prepare your horse for certain things they aren't normally used to is in the best interest of the horse and your safety!
Hooker Falls and Triple Falls
While at DuPont, I took 2 days to visit 4 different falls. Both were easily accessed off of the main road and provided ample parking for many horse trailers. Hooker Falls and Triple Falls are located off of Stanton Rd. and are very close to the parking area. For these falls, I parked at the Hooker Falls access area and rode down to the falls. One of the best qualities about DuPont is that everything is well marked and the trails were wide and clear of debris. At each waterfall access, there is also a tie line that you can tie your horses to so that you can go up to each waterfall and spend some time looking around. To get to Triple Falls from the Hooker Falls access, you must ride your horse through a strea, as seen above. During May, the water is just beginning to unfreeze and the water is still very chilly and the water is slow moving. Expect higher water volumes later in the summer and faster moving water. The trail to get to Triple Falls is also a bit winding and steep and it is shared between hikers and bikers. The tie line for Triple Falls is a bit farther away from the actual waterfall than I would have preferred, but both horses stood well and no one messed with them while I spent a good amount of time at the falls.
High Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
To see High Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, I used the High Falls access trail, formerly known as Buck Forest. High Falls was easily accessed and quickly found from the parking lot. The beginning of the trails are heavily wooded but then become wider and you eventually end up on old logging roads which are now used as maintenance roads for county vehicles which I did pass a few along the way to the falls. I was able to ride over the covered bridge and water my horses at the base of the bridge at an access point. I then continued on the trail down to the High Falls access and found the horse tying area and had lunch on the rocks at the base of the falls. It must have also been a field trip for local students as there was a bus load of children playing at the base of the waterfalls, all taking turns using a rock as a slide!
After having lunch, I traveled back up the trail towards the covered bridge, but then took an adjacent trail after the bridge to see Bridal Veil Falls. It did take some time to get to the falls, and the trail to get there was a bit boring in the fact that I was just traveling down an old logging road instead of covered trails, but the scenery is still beautiful nonetheless and I even saw an old horse farm along the way. This was the waterfall that had entranced me at such a tender age, and I was the most excited to see this waterfall! And it surely didn't disapoint. I was able to climb and run up the rocks that I saw in the movie, and I was even able to walk behind the falls that Daniel Day-Lewis walked behind so many years ago. It was stunning, although I will say that the size of the cave behind the falls and the actual waterfall itself wasn't nearly as large as they computer generated it in the movie to be. Needless to say, I spent most of my time at Bridal Veil Falls reliving one of my favorite movies and imagining what it was like to be a settler discovering this great wonder of the world!
I hope to visit DuPont State Forest soon, as it is definitely one of my favorite places on Earth. Often times when I am riding under the blazing hot Florida sun with traffic racing by and the sound of lawnmowers buzzing all around... I imagine I am riding up a steep cliff, enjoying the cool chill in the air underneath a hammock of dogwood trees, listening to the rushing waters cascading down thousand year old rocks below me, and wishing I were there with my horses. Someday... soon...
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