California Horse Trail

Horseback Riding on the California Coast

What kind of California horse trail are you looking for? You'll find numerous places to ride, and a wide variety of experiences - all right on the coast, or pretty darn close to it.

Discover places where you can ride on the beach, or through canyons or redwood forests. There are primitive horse camps in state and national parks. And there are ranches that rent horses, provide guided trail rides, and even offer romantic getaway vacations.

The California horse trail listings below are organized from north to south.

So if there's a particular region you're looking for, just scroll down to find it. Click on the links provided to get more detailed information.

North Coast California Horse Trails

Redwood National and State Parks: You'll find extensive horse trails at Redwood National and State Parks, an area that includes Redwood National Park, Jeddediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The best horse trails are in Redwood National Park in the Redwood Creek area.

There are two trailheads, the Orick Horse Trails and the Redwood Creek trail. You'll find four loop trail options:

  • 3 hours (7 miles)
  • 7 hours (14 miles)
  • 2 days (20 miles)
  • 3 days (32 miles)

There are two camps on these trails, Elam and 44 Camp.

Elam Camp is on the two shorter loops. Three sites are available with picnic tables, bearproof lockers, fire pits, toilets, non-potable water, and a corral. No more than 12 stock animals are permitted.

44 Camp is on the two longer loops. 44-camp is open to backpackers only until further notice. No stock allowed. No water available. Four sites with picnic tables, bear-proof lockers, fire pits, toilets.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: You'll find more horse trails at Jedediah Smith, to the north and just a bit inland from Redwood National Park. This is not really a beach park, but it's a part of the Redwood National and State Park system.

The Little Bald Hills Trail is horse-accessible with a stock-ready primitive camp. The Mill Creek Horse Trail is only for day use.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park: This 7500 acre state park on the Lost Coast offers a drive-in camp at Usal Beach campground as well as two environmental campgrounds where horses are permitted. Horses are allowed on most trails. Roads are narrow and unpaved. Call first to verify road conditions.

MacKerricher State Park: Located north of Fort Bragg, this park boasts 9 miles of coastline, including secluded beaches and sand dunes. Camping is available.

Richochet Ridge Ranch: This private concession near MacKerricher SP provides guided horse rides in designated areas. They offer daily rides along the ocean at Ten Mile Beach, as well as though redwood forests and coastal ranch land. Riding vacation packages are also available.

Howard Creek Ranch Inn: This historic farm, only 300 yards from the beach, bills itself as "a romantic retreat, oriented toward adults. It offers horseback riding on the beach, in the mountains, and through the redwoods. There's a hot tub, sauna and German masseuse. Offers a cabins, suites, or rooms.

Russian Gulch State Park: The park features 4 primitive equestrian campsites for up to 4 people. There are twelve miles of hiking trails, some of which are available to horses.

Salt Point State Park: There are over 20 miles of hiking and horse trails to explore in Salt Point State Park, California. Trail maps are available at the entrance station.

Chanslor Guest Ranch: Located in Bodega Bay, the ranch offers horseback riding on the beach, horseback tours of the wildlife preserve, and a variety of riding options. Accommodations include ocean view rooms.

San Francisco Bay Area California Horse Trails

Point Reyes National Seashore: You'll find extensive trails and camping facilities. The maximum number of horses is eight per campground. Horses are not allowed at Glen Camp. All of the campgrounds have pit toilets, a water spigot, and a hitch rail for horses. Each campsite has a table, charcoal grill and tent space.

Guided trail rides, horse boarding, and other equestrian services are provided by Five Brooks Ranch.

Samuel P Taylor State Park : Located to the east of Point Reyes National Seashore, on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The park features 3 separate equestrian sites, with horse trails around the campground. There are 6 pipe corrals and 2 pasture areas.

Half Moon Bay State Beach: Includes Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, and Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay, California. A horse trail parallels Coastside Trail from Roosevelt Beach to Francis Beach. Horses are restricted to the designated horse trail and are not permitted on the beaches.

Guided horse riding tours or horse rentals are available at Sea Horse Ranch & Friendly Acres. They can accommodate riders from beginner to advanced. No reservations required.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park - Waddell Creek - Rancho del Oso: The Park has over 80 miles of trails. The Waddell Creek - Rancho Del Oso area has an equestrian trail camp. Reservations required via Rancho del Oso. The horse camp has six sites, up to six people per site. One tow vehicle and one horse trailer per site.

Trail maps are available at the park. You can also download an "unofficial" map at Virtual Parks.

Wilder Ranch State Park : This historic ranch offers 33 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails through coastal terraces and wooded valleys.

Central Coast California Horse Trails

Salinas River State Beach : Located 1 mile south of Moss Landing, this beach has interesting sand dunes and numerous bird species. Horses are permitted on the beach and the interdune trail.

Andrew Molera State Park: This Big Sur park offers miles of trails and outstanding scenery. The Big Sur River winds through the park. Camping is available.

Guided horseback tours are offered by Molera Horseback Tours, a concession within the park.

For an online map of Big Sur and to download a tour guide, see The Big Sur Chamber of Commerce.

Montana de Oro State Park : Located south of Morro Bay, California. 50 miles of trails, some open to horses. Equestrian camp area contains two camps, each limited to 25 horses and 12 vehicles. Corrals available. Reservations required.

Nojoqui Horse Ranch : Located in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Gaviota, this private working ranch offers training and boarding services. They also offer riding lessons for all levels, and have horses available for lessons. The ranch boasts hundreds of acres and miles of scenic trails.

Circle Bar B Riding Stables: Located adjacent to former President Reagan's ranch, a 30 minute drive north of Santa Barbara, California. Horse trails through woods and mountains. Guests can enjoy views of the canyons, Pacific Ocean, and the Channel Islands. Offers daily morning and afternoon trail rides for adults and children.

Also offers guest accommodations and a "Romantic Escape Package."

South Coast California Horse Trails

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area : Circle X Ranch: over 30 miles of hiking/equestrian trails. Reservation Required. Located on Yerba Buena Road in Malibu. Has trails leading to the highest points in the Santa Monica Mountain Range. Drinking water, pit toilets, tent spaces are available. Pets are permitted.

Malibu Creek State Park : This park, just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, covers 4,000 acres. There are 15 miles of trails. Enjoy streams, woodlands and chaparral.

Topanga State Park : You can enjoy spectacular views of the ocean from the trails in this park. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, within the Los Angeles city limits. The park features 35 miles of trails and fire roads winding through open grasslands and oak woodlands. Equestrian campsites with drinking water.

Santa Catalina Island: You can see Santa Catalina’s natural scenic wonders by guided horse back rides through the mountains above Avalon. Enjoy great views of the bay. Catalina Stables: open year round, 600 Avalon Canyon Rd. 310-510-0478.

But first, you'll need to get there. You'll find extensive information on travel and accommodations at Catalina Island's official web site.

Crystal Cove State Park: Located between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. The park features 2,000 acres of undeveloped woodland, which is popular with horseback riders. There are three environmental and equestrian campgrounds with a total of 32 sites.

Border Field State Park: At this California beach, an obelisk set into the fence marks the international boundary between Mexico and the U.S. that was established in 1848. Horse trails with corrals located outside the park gate. Several stables in the area rent horses.

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