It is surprisingly refreshing to come upon a park devoted solely to horseback riders. Like mountain bikers, the riders of four legged beasts enjoy going fast, and generally don’t get the opportunity to do so because a 1000lb behemoth rocketing down the trail at 40mph tends to have trouble stopping quickly when the random family with the baby stroller pops out of the shrubbery unexpectedly.
An added perk to this wonderfully horse and hiker only slice of heaven is I have it from the mouth of a Cherokee County park service guy that goats may use the trails, provided they are on leash, and don’t commit suicide by freezing in the middle of the trail when a horse comes around the corner at a gallop
Is it goat approved? Yes. Per the park service guys and one member of the Garland Mountain trail maintenance group. However, it is a park devoted to horseback riders which is maintained by a volunteer force of horseback riders, so horses ought to come first.
How you get there: You want to go down Highway 140. Just after you pass through Waleska, GA, (a nice spot to grab a sandwich) it’s a few miles further on. You’ll see the brown and white sign for it just before Garland Mountain Road which is not surprisingly the road you want.
Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 4 miles round trip, using the orange, yellow, and green trails
Best season to do this hike: It wasn’t too buggy in the summer, but I would avoid the weekend during nice weather for horseback riding as this place is super popular.
Trails to Take
Start off at the parking lot. To the right of the trail kiosk is the trail you want. Its an orange and yellow blaze. Take a good look at the trail signage – it’s indicated with horse shoes pointing in the appropriate direction. It takes a minute to make sense.
Follow the orange trail (Sorrel) down, crossing over some small intermittent streams and past a nice picnic area with lots of horse tie outs. Then go up a short hill and you’re on the green trail, the “Garland Greenway”. This trail feels like an old road or rail line and is wider with more grading. Follow that up until you reach a pair of gates blocking further forward movement. The yellow trail comes into your left, and you can get back on that to go back around.
All in all, the park is well maintained, with good signage and only a few random side access trails made by users in search of a short cut. It goes mostly through hardwoods, with a preponderance of nut trees, which seem to be common in the northwestern part of Georgia. Elevation gain exists, but since the trails are designed for horses they run parallel to the hillside and their are no grueling climbs, just nice easy up and down swoops suitable for a prolonged gallop. Good little short trip for those days when you really want to be lazy.
- This is a horseback riding and hiking ONLY park. This means that goats will encounter horses that are not familiar with goats. You may spend a lot of time standing off trail allowing spooky horses to pass. If your patience and politeness is insufficient for the job, go on a week day and if possible during very hot or very cold weather – the park is practically deserted.
- Note that bikes and trail runners are not welcome at this park – an important distinction if you enjoy these other hobbies and are tempted, (as I have been), to do something that maybe should be done elsewhere.
- There is mountain laurel in places in this park. Mountain laurel is poisonous to goats. Avoid the green vomit of doom by making sure the horned minions don’t partake of a lot of it.
- Park your car/truck/trailer by backing in. When dealing with parking lots used by horse trailers you want to make it as easy to get out as possible or a 7 horse slant load featherlite may accidentally block you in.
- If horses are a new species to you, keep the goat(s) and yourself as far away from them as possible. Horses that are frightened by these strange horned demons on four legs will kick, rear, or bolt, and may inadvertently clobber you dead in their attempts to get away from you and your animals.
- The trails here are short, so consider this as an easy day out or an after work dalliance, rather than planning a whole day. There are lots of great picnic areas with horse/goat tie ups. Lunch may be advised.
- There is a “horse playground” which has a number of training obstacles that may be fun to try with a goat so long as no horses are using it.
- Watch out for unauthorized ATV riders going 900 miles per hour down the trail. Goat versus bush guard doesn’t end well for the goat.
In sum: Life in the mountains goes at a slower pace. Especially on a nice, empty stretch of trail.