Horseback Riding with Whispering Woods Riding Stables
Jessi Wilbers relies on jokes to calm the nerves of anxious riders at Whispering Woods Riding Stables in Georgetown.
“I’ll say to them, ‘Have you all ridden before? No? Me neither,’” said Wilbers, lead trail guide and promotional manager for Whispering Woods Riding Stables. “They love that one. Rides here are like real trail riding that you would do with a group of friends. We talk and hang out. When we take beginners, I help them with the turns and remind them what do.”
Horseback-riding beginners and seasoned riding veterans alike enjoy riding through the 250 acres of trails and forests at Whispering Woods. Guides explore trails based on the preferences and comfort levels of the riders.
“We don’t go the same way over and over like some places,” said Wilbers. “With kids, I go on straighter paths. With more experienced riders, I won’t stay on the trail at all.
Larger groups that need two trail guides can divide into beginner and experienced teams, so some can ride at a faster pace if they want to. The woods offer numerous ways to reach the same destination, so guides can make sure the group meets up at the end despite taking routes with varying degrees of difficulty.
Groups can choose from 50-minute to 90-minute rides. Guides assign horses to participants based on weight and rideability. Riders receive a helmet, a saddlebag for storage and a horseback-riding lesson. During the ride, groups can spot foxes, raccoons, possums and other wildlife.
Guides lead groups to a flat, open area for a photo shoot before heading back.
Elk Tours at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
When daylight breaks over the mountains and an elk bugle pierces the air, bleary-eyed travelers not accustomed to the early hour perk up quickly. Groups agree to these tours starting at 5:30 a.m. because they expect something incredible. They find that memorable experience on an elk tour at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg.
“We get a lot closer to these elk than just viewing round dots on the side of a hill,” said Trinity Shepherd, park interpreter for the Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. “People can see them with the naked eye. The elk are usually around 100 yards or closer.”
After a 150-year absence, elk were reintroduced to Kentucky in 1997; the elk now number 10,000. The tours shuttle guests to see the area’s largest elk herds, which reside on privately owned lands normally closed to the public. Set tours run from September through March, though the park will arrange additional dates for interested groups.
In addition to the early morning tours, the park offers an evening tour that concludes at dark. Both tours include a meal as part of the package. Discounts are available to groups also staying at the park’s lodge.
As guides search for elk, they share information on creatures and how they relate to the area’s history, culture and ecosystems.
“It’s not just an elk tour,” said Shepherd. “There is so much more. In the mid-1800s, we didn’t take care of this resource. We were not good stewards of the land. To have these animals back, as well as white-tailed deer and turkeys, is a great testament to conservation efforts. You used to have to take a plane to go see them. To be able to see elk in this state is not something to be taken lightly.”