Horses on the Appalachian Trail? Whoa, Nellie!

Two horses on the Appalachian Trail and two horses' asses riding them. ~ Photo by Misty Ward & Karla Banks McCarty

Two horses on the Appalachian Trail and two horses' asses riding them. ~ Photo by Misty Ward & Karla Banks McCarty

On a hike from Hog Pen Gap to Unicoi Gap in Georgia, two ladies saw an unusual sight: horses on the Appalachian Trail.

Misty Ward and Karla Borders McCarty captured the moment from their October 5, 2016 walk in the woods and posted it on Facebook. They were kind enough to grant me permission to use their photographs.

Horses are great. John Wayne rode several, so that settles it for me. But it is against federal law to ride horses on the Appalachian Trail. Even if you think you're John Wayne.

According to the US Forest Service:

The A.T. is ... is a foot trail - travel by horse, bicycle, or motorized vehicles is not allowed.

No bicycles, dirt bikes, off-road vehicles or horses are allowed, except in small portions of Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We're not just trying to be prissy and territorial. Horses destroy pristine trails that are lovingly maintained by thousands of volunteers along the 2189.1 mile national scenic park known as the Appalachian Trail or AT, for short.

Formal Definition of the Appalachian Trail from the "A.T. Management Principles"

"The Appalachian Trail is a way, continuous from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, for travel of foot through the wild, scenic, wooded. pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a means of sojourning among these lands, such that visitors may experience them by their own unaided efforts.

Thanks Misty Ward and Karla Banks McCarty!

Thanks Misty Ward and Karla Banks McCarty!

In practice, the Trail is usually a simple footpath, purposeful in direction and concept, favoring the heights of land, and located for minimum reliance on construction for protecting the resource. The body of the Trail is provided by the lands it traverses, and its soul is in the living stewardship of the volunteers and workers of the Appalachian Trail community."

The AT is a footpath, not a horse path. If you see someone on horseback on the Trail, kindly remind them to vamoose. Don't go all Lone Ranger on them.

Take their picture. Pass it along to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Send photos of horses on the Appalachian Trail here. They'll know what to do. Probably.

Tags: Attractions, Tourism, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Appalachian Trail Community, News, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Clubs, Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Conservation, Hikers, Information, appalachian trail hikers, and horses on the appalachian trail

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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DC Meeks on Oct 6, 2016
Perhaps those who are guilty do not know that horses are not allowed. Maybe signs should be posted @ trailheads stating "NO HORSES ALLOWED - FOOT TRAFFIC ONLY" . But, when you look at the wording, "the Trail is usually a simple footpath" , --- would that not mean dogs are not allowed also??? I am not arguing here - I am just simply asking a question. What makes it okay for dogs and not horses? Is it due to the clean up of animal poop or the heaviness of the hoof or paws ? The definition of footpath is: a path for people to walk along. Oh, I think this can open a whole can of worms. YIKES !!!! What are your thoughts on this ? Anyone ?
Flatline42 on Dec 1, 2016
I know this is comment necro but...

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That probably can answer the dog question.

Now, assuming you were being rhetorical, which I actually figure you were... Horses chew the trail up if the trail wasn't properly constructed with them in mind. Also, in singletrack paths where the width is, at most, 3 feet, horses basically force everyone off the trail and into the sidegrowth. Most places that's not a big deal but in some places it could be.

This isn't actually a whole can of worms.