Riding at The Canyons is a good way to see and learn a bit of Florida History. Established in 2011 as a zip line attraction, this abandoned lime rock quarry near Ocala also offers a tour on horseback.
Even if you have never ridden a horse before, this ride is suitable for beginners. All horses are saddled and waiting for your arrival, each chosen to match the ability of the rider. A tutorial of dos and don’ts on the trail is given and off you go.
While it is a pretty simple ride – single file, walk only – the variation in terrain makes it interesting. There were a few hills that the horses really had to work at in order to reach the top. The only problem I had was keeping my horse off the rear end of the one in front of me, mostly due to my taking pictures throughout the ride, but different stride lengths and personality are also factors.
Throughout the ride, the lead guide reveals bits and pieces of information whether history or of sightings of a local alligator named Elvis as well as other wildlife. Zipline participants laugh and scream while barreling full speed overhead, but the horses are used to it and pay little attention.
Vines and Florida fauna cascade down towering rock walls, and trails meander through a landscape that is now home to wildlife. With the exception of the “canyon” walls, time has pretty much erased any indication of an industry that employed and fueled a local economy for decades. What once was dug and stripped bare has become a “natural” habitat for many species of plants and animals.
While this is most certainly a tourist attraction, I enjoyed the ride. The guides were friendly and well versed and I saw a bit of a “before and after” Florida. I must say I like the “after”.
The Canyons ride is currently priced at $60 plus tax. While it is listed as a two-hour ride, part of the two hours is being hauled on a tram to the barn and then getting the group mounted. The horses are obviously well cared for and have thriving pastures to reside on. I overheard the guide tell another rider that some of the horses were rescue horses, and once they came to The Canyons they had a permanent home even after being retired.
There are other activities besides zip-lining and horseback riding at The Canyons! A “Taste of History” Tour which features the Mine-n-Wine Wagon, where you tour while sipping wines from Island Grove, as well as a kayaking tour, are offered. You can also mine gems starting at $5.00. (Various levels of bundling these activities are available.)
I would say The Canyons is a pretty entertaining place to visit; maybe I will try the zip-line tour next!
For More Information:
zipthecanyons.com | 352-351-ZIPS (9477)
8045 NW Gainesville Rd. (CR 25A) | Ocala, FL 34475