Traveler: Joy Rides

Saddle up two ways in Kentucky’s horse country.
Photo courtesy Rail Explorers

IN LEXINGTON, Kentucky, horse country, hopping in the saddle usually means one thing. But Rail Explorers (175 Beasley Rd., Versailles, 877-833-8588) has introduced a fresh adventure that fits the bill. Its cherry-red rail bikes are custom-designed to cruise along railroad tracks, clankety-clanking through bluegrass pastures in Versailles, halfway between Louisville and Lexington. Choose between a two-person or four-person iron horse and pedal to activate the motor, which does most of the work as the carriage whooshes along the tracks for 10 miles round-trip. It goes fast enough on subtle slopes to put wind in the hair. Booze and snacks are allowed on board, as are dogs and babies. The latter tend to fall asleep from the gentle rhythmic rocking. You might see thoroughbreds in the fields en route to the turnaround point, where you’ll stretch your legs over a section of the Kentucky River gorge spanned by a rare S-shaped bridge and a historic trestle bridge. The low-intensity tour takes two hours, about half of which is spent on the move. In addition to daytime rides, Rail Explorers offers lantern-lit cruising at dusk when fireflies twinkle.

Photo courtesy Kentucky Tourism

To trade the rails for trails, look for a riding stable, not to be confused with the 450 working horse farms in the area that cater to jockeys and prize stallions. Big Red Stables (1605 Jackson Pike, Harrodsburg, 502-330-8798) offers guided tours on gentle Tennessee Walking Horses across its lush, hilly fields, and you can add on a meditative grooming session to bond with your steed.

Soothe any saddle-soreness at The Kentucky Castle (230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, 859-256-0322), a landmark hotel with medieval-esque ramparts and turrets. The luxurious destination has a spa, as well as a working farm where you can shear a sheep.

Photo courtesy Castle & Key Distillery


VISIT You might meet Triple Crown winner American Pharoah on a farm tour at Coolmore America, one of the most famous breeders in the area.

HANG OUT Feel daring? A cliff house is built into the rocks at Red River Gorge, accessed by a suspension bridge.

MORE INFO Stroll around the 113 acres of Castle & Key Distillery, home to a botanical garden, tasting room, and grand, restored buildings dating back to 1887.