Located in the US, the horseback riding in California offers over thirty horseback riding trail routes from which to choose. The best California horseback riding based on popularity are considered to be Big Sycamore Canyon Loop, Cow Mountain - North, Big Basin State Park, San Juan Trail, and Five Brooks Trailhead. For a detailed trail description and printable trailhead map, just select a California horseback riding trail below.
Near Danville east of San Fran in the Mount Diablo State Park, the Mitchell Canyon Trail can be combined with fire roads to form a strenuous 12 mile loop up to one of the worlds most panoramic summits (over 3,000 feet vertical). The horse trails are of crushed granite with great drainage.
East of San Diego and El Cajon, the 18 mile Nobel Canyon loop offers some of the most beautiful scenery around for horseback riding. On the western slopes of the Laguna Mountains, the route passes through light pine and oak forest, and combines rocky horse trail with fire roads for a total vertical of almost 2,000 feet. This is a challenging, rocky trail acending scrub brush covered mountains.
East of Santa Rosa in the Sonoma Valley, the 5,000 acre Annadel State Park has miles of meandering trails dirt roads open to horseback riders. The trails are well signed and pass through open meadows and oak/fir forests. As Annies Dell used to be an old quarry, the routes can be quite rocky. Keep in mind that Annadel is extremely popular with mountain bikers since they've been forced out of other regional preserves, so keep an eye out.
South of Eureka and Honeyew in the King Range National Conservation Area, the King Crest Trail is a 9.9 mile horseback riding route from Saddle Mountain Trailhead in the south to North Slide Peak Trailhead in the north. This is a challenging horse trail with over 4,000 feet of climbing while passing through forest, burn areas and chaparral. There are nice vistas from several of the summits.
Northeast of Nevada City in the Tahoe National Forest, the South Yuba Trail is a 13 mile stretch of pristine horseback riding trail. This rolling trail is mildly technical bordering above the Yuba River on a cliff with lots of swimming holes and skinny dippers.
West of Redding near Weaverville in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area has miles of trails perfect for horseback riding. The best horse trails include the Swift Creek Trail, the Union Trail, and the Eagle Creek Trail. Most of the trailheads are accessible near Weaverville.
East of San Diego and El Cajon in the scenic Laguna Mountains, the Big Laguna Trail is a 4 mile one-way route open to horseback riders. The Big Laguna Trail offers a pleasant ride through mountain meadows dotted with pines and large boulders where you can take in the view of Big Laguna Lake.
Southeast of Santa Barbara in the Los Padres National Forest, the Romero Canyon Trail is open to horseback riding and is a rocky scramble up an old narrowing fire road into the Santa Ynez mountains. It's a five mile switchback ascent over 2,000 feet to the crest by unparalleled ocean vistas towards the Channel Islands through Chapparel. At the top, either return via the same route or try a challenging narrow trail for a steep descent down along the creek. Since the route is used by mountain bikers, keep an eye out while riding.
North of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest, the Ortega Trail is a difficult 8.7 mile route open to horseback riders. The horse trail offers good panoramic views, including views of the ocean. Wildflowers are common in spring and early summer. Bring plenty of water, as there is none along the trail. An old campsite is located at the 3-mile mark; it is now overgrown and has no water available. Ortega Camp is an additional 3.1 miles away. It contains 4 usable fire rings and 1 table, but it also has no water available.
East of San Diego near Anza, the 600,000 acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has 110 miles of horseback riding trails. The Coyote Canyon Horse Trail from the Vern Whitaker Horse Camp is a great place to start.