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Saddle Up: The Best Spots for Horse Riding in California

Top Spots for Horse Riding in California

If you are an equestrian enthusiast looking for incredible trail rides in California, you have come to the right place. The Golden State offers an array of spots where you can saddle up and ride through verdant forests, over majestic mountains, along scenic beaches, and through iconic landmarks.

Whatever your level of experience or preference, there is something for everyone. This article explores some of the top spots for horse riding in California, including national parks, beaches, and equestrian centers, and why they are worth a visit.

National Parks

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is an equestrian paradise, boasting more than 700 miles of trails that weave through valleys, up mountains, and along streams and waterfalls that cascade down granite cliffs. The park offers numerous equestrian-friendly campsites where you can pitch a tent or park your RV, as well as guided rides, trail riding stables, and pack trips that allow you to explore the backcountry with a team of mules carrying your gear.

Some of the popular spots for trail riding include the Yosemite Valley Loop, the Wawona Meadow Loop, and the Glacier Point Trail. Sequoia & King Canyon National Parks

Sequoia & King Canyon National Parks offer a plethora of opportunities for off-trail stock use, which requires a permit that can be obtained at visitor centers or online.

On-trail riding is also allowed in the designated areas, but riders must adhere to the regulations and guidelines to protect the ecosystem. Guided trail rides are available at several stables in the parks, including the Grant Grove Stables, Cedar Grove Stables, and Wuksachi Lodge Stables.

Some of the must-see landmarks you can visit on horseback include the General Sherman Tree, the Tokopah Falls, and the Roaring River Falls.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area encompasses more than 150,000 acres of rolling hills, steep canyons, and coastal bluffs, and is home to diverse wildlife, from mountain lions and coyotes to bobcats and red-tailed hawks. The park features an equestrian campground where you can spend the night with your horse, as well as guided trail riding trips that lead you through scenic vistas and historic landmarks such as the Mott Adobe, the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center, and the Paramount Ranch.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a natural wonder that stretches for miles along the Pacific Ocean and boasts equestrian-friendly trails that lead you through forests, meadows, and along the beaches. Horse rentals are available at several stables in the area, such as the Five Brooks Ranch, the Point Reyes Horse Rentals, and the Western Adventures Ranch.

You can also book a guided trail ride that takes you through the stunning Drakes Estero, the Tule Elk Reserve, or the Tomales Bay State Park.

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks offer a unique opportunity to ride along the beaches and through the meadows and forests that house some of the tallest trees on earth. The park provides designated trails and beaches where horses are permitted, as well as trail riding facilities that cater to riders of all levels.

One of the highlights of riding in the park is seeing the Redwood Creek Buckarettes, a group of cowgirls who organize an annual horse drive to round up the cattle that graze in the park.

Russian Gulch State Park

Russian Gulch State Park is a hidden gem that offers equestrian-friendly trails that meander through lush forests, over rocky hills, and along the rugged coastline. The park features an equestrian camping area where you can spend the night under the stars with your horse, as well as picnic areas, a visitor center, and fishing opportunities.

The trails range from easy to challenging, depending on your level of expertise and fitness, and offer breathtaking views of the Mendocino coast.

Best Beaches for Horse Riding in California

Ten Mile Beach

Ten Mile Beach is a majestic stretch of sand that extends for miles and is known for its Gray Whale migration during the winter months. The beach is home to Ricochet Ridge Ranch, which offers guided trail rides that take you through the rolling hills and along the wetlands that are teeming with wildlife.

The rides vary in length and difficulty, and are suitable for riders of all ages and experience levels.

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara Beach is a secluded oasis that features miles of white sand, crystal-clear water, and stunning coastal bluffs. The beach is home to

Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides, which organizes guided trail rides that take you along the beach and up into the mountains, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.

Montara State Beach

Montara State Beach is a picturesque location that is nestled between the Montara mountain and the Pacific Ocean and offers an idyllic setting for a horseback ride. The beach is home to Sea Horse Ranch and Moss Beach Ranch, which provide horses and guides for trail rides that take you through the beach, along the coastal bluffs, and into the surrounding hills.

The rides are suitable for riders of all skill levels and offer plenty of photo opportunities.

Morro Strand State Beach

Morro Strand State Beach is a spectacular location that features a scenic beach, abundant plant and animal life, and easy access to hiking trails. The beach is open to horses, but riders must bring their own horses and equipment and follow the rules and regulations to ensure the safety of all visitors.

The beach offers incredible views of the Morro Bay Rock and is a popular spot for surfing, birdwatching, and picnicking.

Best Places to Ride a Horse in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not just a concrete jungle; it is also home to several places where you can ride a horse and soak up the scenic beauty. Here are some of the must-visit locations in L.A for horseback riding.

Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables

Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables offers day and evening trail rides that take you through scenic canyons, hills, and ridges that overlook the city skyline. The rides are suitable for riders of all levels, and are led by friendly guides who provide historical and cultural insights into the iconic landmarks you pass, such as the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, and the Burbank Studios.

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is a municipal park that covers more than 4,000 acres of hills, forests, and meadows, and is home to numerous trails that are ideal for horseback riding. Some of the popular trails include Mount Hollywood, Hollyridge, Old Zoo, and Amir’s Garden.

The park provides ample parking, restrooms, maps, and water stations, and allows riders to explore at their own pace.

Malibu Riders

Malibu Riders offers guided trail rides that take you through Zuma Canyon, a picturesque valley that is home to diverse wildlife and flora, and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The rides also visit Malibu Creek State Park, Paramount Ranch, and other scenic spots that offer opportunities for photography, wildlife spotting, and relaxation.

Circle K Riding Stables

Circle K Riding Stables offers guided trail rides that explore the hidden gems of

Griffith Park, such as Amirs Gardens, Dante’s Point, and the Observatory. The rides are suitable for all skill levels and provide a unique perspective on the city and its natural beauty.

Best Horse Riding Centers in California

If you are a beginner or an intermediate rider looking to improve your skills or learn new ones, or if you need a place to board your horse, there are several equestrian centers in California that can cater to your needs. Here are some of the best ones.

Various Equestrian Centers

Various equestrian centers across California offer riding lessons, boarding, state-of-the-art facilities, knowledgeable staff, and fun events that allow you to bond with your horse and other riders. Some of the popular ones include the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, the Anaheim Equestrian Center, the Bishop Mule Days Celebration, and the Horse Expo Pomona.

The centers offer a wide range of disciplines, such as dressage, jumping, western, and natural horsemanship, as well as trail riding, horse camping, and horse shows. California’s Topography for Horse Riding

California’s topography is a horse rider’s dream come true, offering a diverse range of landscapes that provide incredible scenery and picture-perfect trail rides.

From the mountains and forests that house giant sequoias and redwoods, to the beaches and deserts that are bathed in sunlight and sea breeze, California has it all. Riding a horse in California is not only a fun and healthy activity; it is also a way to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the land.


In conclusion, California is a paradise for horse riders, offering an abundance of national parks, beaches, equestrian centers, and scenic trails that cater to all skill levels and preferences. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner, there is something for you in the Golden State.

The key is to choose the location that best fits your needs, pack your gear, and saddle up for an adventure of a lifetime.

Equestrian-friendly Accommodations

When planning a horseback riding trip, finding a comfortable and convenient place to stay is essential. Fortunately, many national parks and state parks in California offer equestrian-friendly accommodations that cater to riders and their horses.

Whether you prefer to camp, park your RV, or stay in a cabin or lodge, there are a variety of options to choose from. Below are some of the popular equestrian-friendly accommodations in California.

Equestrian-friendly Campsites

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular destinations for horseback riding in California, offering more than 700 miles of trails that lead to stunning vistas, waterfalls, and forests. The park features several equestrian-friendly campsites that allow riders to stay overnight with their horses.

The campsites provide amenities such as water, restrooms, and fire pits, as well as corrals for the horses. Some of the campsites in Yosemite that welcome equestrians include Bridalveil Horse Camp, Crane Flat Horse Camp, Wawona Horse Camp, and Tuolumne Meadows Horse Camp.

Equestrian Camping

Russian Gulch State Park is a hidden gem that offers riders a chance to explore the rugged coastline, forests, and mountains on horseback. The park has several staging areas that allow you to park your trailer and set up camp with your horse.

The staging areas provide corrals, water troughs, and pit toilets, as well as picnic tables and fire rings. Horse camping sites are also available at the park on a first-come, first-served basis.

However, it is recommended to make a reservation beforehand to ensure availability during peak season.

Equestrian Campground

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a vast wilderness that spans from the beaches of Malibu to the canyons of Calabasas, and offers incredible opportunities for horseback riding. The park features an equestrian campground that allows riders to spend the night with their horses in a spacious and wooded area.

The campground provides corrals, water, and restrooms, as well as picnic tables and fire rings. The campground is located near the Backbone Trail, which is a popular route for trail riding that spans for miles along the ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Types of Trail Rides in California

Guided Trail Rides

Guided trail rides are a popular option for riders who want to explore California’s wilderness but do not have their own horse or are unfamiliar with the area. Guided trail rides offer a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery while a knowledgeable guide takes you on a journey into the heart of nature.

Many stables in California offer guided trail rides that cater to riders of all levels, from beginners to advanced riders. Some of the popular guided trail rides in California include Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures, Wawona Stable, Grant Grove Stables, Cedar Grove Pack Station, Five Brooks Ranch, Ricochet Ridge Ranch, Sea Horse Ranch, and Moss Beach Ranch.

Off-trail Stock Use

Off-trail stock use is an option for more experienced riders who want to venture off the designated trails and explore the backcountry. Off-trail riding requires a permit, which can be obtained from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

The permit is designed to protect the environment and ensure the safety of riders and their horses. Off-trail riding allows you to discover hidden waterfalls, meadows, and high mountain lakes that are not accessible by the designated trails.

Walking Trail Rides

Walking trail rides are an excellent option for beginners who want to enjoy a leisurely ride. Walking trail rides are led by experienced guides who lead the horses along a comfortable and scenic route.

Riders can take in the natural beauty and wildlife of California while traversing at a slow pace. Some of the popular stables that offer walking trail rides in California include

Circle K Riding Stables and

Malibu Riders.

Day and Evening Trail Rides

Day and evening trail rides offer the perfect opportunity for riders who want to experience the beauty of California’s wilderness under the sun and stars.

Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables, located in the heart of Los Angeles’

Griffith Park, offer riders a chance to take a day or evening trail ride through the park, allowing a unique perspective of the city from above.

During the day, riders can explore the beautiful nature, and at night, they can see the sparkling lights of the city skyline. Riders can enjoy dinner, drinks, and music under the stars after their evening ride.

In conclusion, California offers an abundance of equestrian-friendly accommodations and trail rides that cater to riders of all levels and preferences. Whether you prefer to camp with your horse, enjoy a guided trail ride, wander off-trail or take a leisurely day or evening ride, there is something for everyone.

Whatever your choice, escape into the beauty of the natural world of California on horseback.

Benefits of Horseback Riding in California

There are countless benefits to horseback riding in California, ranging from stunning views and unique experiences to inclusive accommodations. If you are considering a horseback riding adventure in California, here are some of the top benefits to keep in mind.

Incredible Views

One of the most significant benefits of horseback riding in California is the incredible views that come along with it. California features an array of landscapes, from majestic mountains to picturesque beaches, and horseback riding allows you to experience them in a unique and unforgettable way.

Whether you are riding through Yosemite National Park and taking in the beautiful mountain views, taking a trail ride on the scenic beaches of Santa Barbara, or riding up to the Hollywood sign, horseback riding in California guarantees you amazing views that you won’t forget.

Unique Experiences

Horseback riding in California is more than just taking in incredible views. It is also an opportunity to experience unique adventures that you can’t find anywhere else.

For instance, several horseback riding stables offer guided trail rides that take you whale watching off

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