A visit to the mountains of East Tennessee probably conjures images of rolling hills, misty mornings, babbling brooks, scenic hikes, and some cute black bear cubs. You may not immediately think of a “dude ranch,” so Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa may be a pleasant surprise. Situated between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, this riding stable and outdoor adventure destination is a trip back in time to glimpse how early settlers may have experienced the region some 200 years ago.

In addition to the Smoky Mountains horseback riding, this escape from the usual tourist traps features gem mining, all-terrain vehicles, a petting zoo, a fishing pond, a heritage museum, general store, and shaded picnic areas. No reservations are required, and the ranch’s promise is “Guaranteed Best Ride in the Smokies!”

Best Smoky Mountains Horseback Riding

Big Rock’s riding trail is a 3.5-mile mountain ride with beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains. The 80+ head of horses in the Big Rock herd have been selected for their good temperament and disposition, ensuring a smooth trip for every rider.

Big Rock is proud to hold the Gilliham & Associates #1 rating for safety, achieved through meticulous safety guidelines, training and precautions. Riding helmets are available upon request, and loading ramps are used for easy mounting. V.I.P. rides are available for small children, and larger horses are available for larger adult riders (based on availability).

For those who prefer four wheels to four hooves, the ranch offers 4×4 automatic all-terrain vehicles. The one-hour guided ATV ride takes you through creeks and scenic mountain trails.

Mining, Fishing and Critters

For something a little different, use the ranch’s gem mining flume to mine your own gems! Purchase a three-pound bag full of precious stones such as quartz crystal, amethyst, pyrite, blue calcite, serpentine, agate, rose quartz, jade and turquoise. These mining kits contain rocks from all over the world but the experience of finding them like a real miner is the fun part.

Didn’t bring your angling gear on vacation? No problem! Big Rock’s fishing pond is stocked with blue gill, crappie, catfish, and bass. Buy a three-day pass that includes rod, reel, and bait, and catch and release ‘til your heart’s content. Enjoy picnic tables and swings around the pond between casts. No fishing license is required.

The farm’s free petting zoo will be the highlight of any young guest’s visit. Big Rock is home to goats, ponies, rabbits, llamas, emus, peacocks and all varieties of farm fowl. Pick up a bag of feed at the onsite General Store for three bucks and turn the kids loose to enjoy and interact.

All the Rest

Big Rock Dude Ranch boasts a heritage museum where visitors can see treasures and relics from the Civil War, as well as local primitives. Browse through the exhibits with the help of the accompanying information and learn about the region’s bygone era. The museum is located inside the General Store, where you can also pick up snacks and choose among hundreds of possible souvenirs to commemorate your trip to the Smokies.

With more than 100 acres of trails and terrain, Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year around, weather permitting. You can find the ranch at 909 Little Cove Road in Pigeon Forge – just turn onto Little Cove from “the Parkway” (Hwy 441) at traffic light #10, and the property is just two miles on the left. Discover more about Big Rock, including rates, specials, and coupons, by visiting HorseRidingBigRock.com.

Close to Your Cabin

Big Rock is just a hop, skip and jump to any of Smoky Mountain Realty Partners’ many area cabins. Whether you want to stay in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, or Gatlinburg, we’ve got a vacation rental to suit your needs, with local attractions such as the Ponderosa only a short drive away. Contact us today to reserve your unit and start planning your action-packed getaway to the Smoky Mountains.