Hitting The Trail at Arnett's Gulfside Trailrides
April 21, 2016 by Audrey Johnson
When the SoWal crew went horsing around at Arnett’s Gulfside Trailrides, I purposely left my phone in the van. It was a wise decision. Horseback riding through the tall pines of Pt. Washington State Forest was more relaxing than a massage.
Unplugging, breathing in fresh, pine-scented air and being surrounded by a sea of green is the perfect way to rejuvenate. It’s also a great way to learn about a part of our unique SoWal environment.
Most people visit South Walton for the beach. Who can blame them? It’s beautiful and relaxing in its own right. But inland lies our most precious and underrated resource, the Longleaf Pine ecosystem. It’s the 6th most biodiverse area in the continental U.S. and only two percent remains intact. Luckily for us, it's right in our own backyard.
Beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders alike find solace on the trails. The guides are not only expert equestrians, they’re also knowledgeable about the 15,000-acre forest the trails cut through. Our trail boss was able to point out evidence of the tapping and logging efforts that whittled down the forest. And she was able to show us where conservation efforts are taking place, ensuring the forest will remain intact for generations to come.
Back at the stables, a donkey meandered around nibbling on grass and posing for the camera, while chickens clucked around their coop. Unsaddled horses took the day off and grazed in the sun, while children took riding lessons in the arena.
Arnett’s offers horseback riding lessons for both adults and kids on a regular basis, in both English and Western disciplines. Kids have another opportunity to unplug and experience our beautiful natural world during Arnett’s summer camps coming up in June and July. Students will participate in nature walks and rides through Pt. Washington State Forest, and they’ll learn how to care for their gentle horses while learning valuable lifelong skills. Kids as young as four can sign up!
The 20-acre horse ranch is kept up nicely, and the grounds are a popular place for all kinds of gatherings, from weddings to birthday parties. The staff at Arnett’s will even help you plan your event. Kids will lose their minds with joy when introduced to pony rides, bounce houses, fresh air, and cake.
Brides-to-be will adore the Tack Room, a rustic event space that comfortably accommodates up to 150 guests, complete with a beautiful view of the grazing horses. The Tack Room is popular among brides and serves as the perfect backdrop for rustic-chic wedding. Arnett’s also has The Patio, a screened in pavilion for intimate events.
If you need a great pair of Western boots for your wedding photos, or just because, Arnett’s Boot Shop is the place to find unique kicks. You’ll also find jewelry and cowgirl hats to complete your look. And it wouldn’t be a horse barn without a resident cat.
Campers with horses will love Arnett’s campsite, a 16 space RV park that backs up to Point Washington State Forest. The campsites have full hook ups, wireless internet, washers and dryers, restrooms and showers. And you can’t beat the view.
The campgrounds overlook the forest on two sides, as well as grazing horses and a tranquil pond. As a horse camper, you’re free to ride your horse at your leisure on the endless trails in the State Forest. Campers also have access to the covered pavilion, complete with a grill and a good old fashioned campfire.
Arnett’s Gulfside Trail Rides is situated on 20 acres flanked by Point Washington State Forest and Hwy. 393 in Santa Rosa Beach. For information about trail rides, lessons, parties, events, camping and all that Arnett’s has to offer, please call (850) 208-3114 or visit their website. For news about special events, like the popular annual Pumpkin Fest, follow Arnett’s Gulfside Trailrides on Facebook. Happy trails!