“Are you ready to go faster?” Mike Park turns to me with a grin. I give the thumbs up sign and then, faster than a jack rabbit being chased by a bobcat, we are off in a flash, galloping across the tree-lined trails of Washington State. What’s unique about this Columbia Gorge horseback riding vacation is that we are able to move beyond a walk out on the trail. Loping or cantering on horseback is typically not allowed at most public riding stables in the United States due to outrageously restrictive insurance policy requirements. Happily, I have found one of the best horseback riding stables in Washington.
Northwestern Lake Riding Stables
Driving from Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington to Northwestern Lake Riding Stables in the town of White Salmon was a treat for the eyes for this California girl. Driving parallel to the mighty Columbia River, I caught glimpses of kite boarders and wind surfers cutting and bucking along the rolling, green waves of water. But the only bucking and jumping I was to see that day was on the water, not on land. Northwestern Lake Riding Stables and its friendly horses take horseback riding safety seriously. From the multi-page insurance waiver that I signed upon arrival, to an offer of a riding helmet and a verbal safety lesson for horseback riding, owners Mike and Cindy Park of Northwestern Lake Riding Stables want each an every equestrian to have an enjoyable horseback riding holiday.
Timberland trail ride
Surrounded by the Cascade mountains of Washington, Northwestern Lake Riding Stables sits in a valley ringed by tall timber, mountain streams and offers non-stop views from Oregon’s Mt. Hood to colorful meadows studded with a carpet of wildflowers at High Prairie Loop. Back at the stables, well cared for horses munch contentedly on hay as guests are matched to their horses for one, two, three and four hour trail rides.
I have selected the two hour Timberland Trail Ride and am matched with Whiskey, a highly responsive, roan colored Mustang gelding purchased from a nearby Indian Reservation. Owner Mike Park, riding his Appaloosa ironically named Tiny, and I ride up Mill Creek and wind our way up to the open timber line, Mt. Hood looms in the distance. As if on cue, a mother doe and her fawn leap from the open field into the protective cover of the brush when our horses crest the Timberland Trail. We stop for pictures framed with Mt. Hood in the backdrop.
To clarify with readers, I’m on an advanced trail ride. While all riders age eight years and older are able to go out on the trail, it’s up to the wranglers to determine the guest’s level of riding ability. Nothing thrills Mike Park more than to transform a timid rider into a confident equestrian.
On my next trip to the Columbia Gorge, I’d like to try the Paddles & Saddles package for whitewater cowboys and cowgirls! This is an all day adventure with whitewater rafting, lunch and horseback riding. What a trip! There’s also an opportunity for night riding and plans are in the works for bring your own horse camping adventures in the White Salmon Valley.
Northwestern Lake Riding Stables offers group and private horseback rides. The stables are open year round for all weather trail rides in scenic White Salmon, Washington by the Columbia Gorge.
If You Go:
Northwestern Lake Riding Stables (509) 493-4965
1262 Little Buck Creek Road
White Salmon, Washington 98672
Article, photos and video by Equine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Northwestern Lake Riding Stables. All opinions are my own.