If you like to live life on the edge — of a cliff — this is the spot for you! I, however, prefer to have my horses home by dinner. I mean, nobody likes a crabby mare and I’m totally referring to myself, not my horse.
The Flying W Ranch in Kellettville, PA sits among the Allegheny National Forest’s 500,000 acres. They host the Allegheny Mountain Championship Rodeo and have more to offer than just hauling in to trail ride your horse. You can trailer in for the weekend or just a day, rent a cottage, bring your own horse or go out on a guided trail ride with one of their horses. Flying W Ranch will even cook you dinner at their restaurant and longhorn saloon once you’ve worked up an appetite riding all day.
While these are all appealing reasons to go, I’m not quite certain it’ll be on my list for trail riding again. Other than the creek, which was fun to swim in, I was not impressed by the trails. You’ve read just about every pro to the trip above so I’ll start with my list of Cons for these trails.
Most of the Trails are Not Well Maintained
While navigating these trails we found ourselves following creeks with slippery rocks, which was not a good mix for horses with shoes. We also rode many trails that started nicely groomed that quickly went to deer path type trails. Many of the trails had low limbs, trees down, steep muddy hills and questionable footing.
Don’t Stray From the Trail
Or at least try not to — which is a difficult task that we’ll discuss later. If you stray from the trail, you are bound to get lost. We did — for two-plus hours. Our four-hour ride turned into a six-and-a-half-hour ride. The trails we were following prior to getting lost turned into trail blazing, eventually leading us to a dirt road that led us to a dead end where we went back into the woods just to get lost even further.
There’s no easy loop, at least not that we found. The trails branch out every which way until you don’t know how to get yourself back.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Straying from the main trails is so easy because none of the trails are marked. You may see a pink ribbon here and there but trust me, they mean nothing.
So when I say to keep your eyes peeled it’s not for the pink ribbons, it’s for anything you might be able to remember passing once you’re lost. Big rocks, groups of mushrooms, anything. Remember what you’re passing so you can get back in a timely manner.
Be Ready to Ride
These are not your normal, crack open a beer can and relax type trails. I can attest to this.
You have to actually ride, engage your muscles and constantly steer your horse while you’re navigating these trails. I can not emphasize this enough: these trails are NOT for beginners. A large portion of them navigated us alongside cliffs. Some were so slippery and steep that I prayed my horse with a previous tendon injury would return sound.
While I’m hesitant to ever go back, there are some pros to the ride.
The Trails are Plentiful
There’s no doubt about it, 500,000 acres is a lot of ground to cover. You can easily ride for an entire weekend and not hit the same trail twice. In six-and-a-half hours we rode 15 miles and didn’t even find the trail we wanted to be on.
The Scenery is on Point
Over the creek and through the woods there are some pretty awesome rocks. They are HUGE and super cool to stand next to because they’re so much bigger than a horse!
The creek is also breathtaking. It’s large and mostly shallow, but has spots deep enough to swim which was exhilarating. Honestly, you could just ride the creek for miles and miles.
At one point the trails were lined with evergreen trees, making a cool arch and narrow pathway to walk through. The particular evergreen trees on this trail had a softer needle to them so they felt smooth when the brushing against us and our horses.
After reading this and looking at the pictures you may be thinking, “It doesn’t look that bad.” You’re seeing approximately 10 minutes out of our entire six-and-a half-hour ride. For the few hours that we were lost and screaming at each other or merely just trying to navigate our horses to a safer spot, it was just too dangerous or involved to pull our phones out.
Overall, if you’re a trail blazer, fly by the seat of you pants type rider, this is the place for you. If you like to mosey along on wide, dry, well maintained trails and still be home for dinner, don’t go here. While the trails here are plentiful, it just wasn’t my cup of tea and there’s a high probability I won’t return — unless someone really persuades me.
Stay on the path — or don’t! — but go riding, Horse Nation!