Hoof It Through 5 California National Parks

Three saddled brown horses standing in a golden field of grass at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

It's hard to imagine a more thrilling way to explore your national parks than on horseback. If you’re starting to think about leaving the stable and heading to a nearby trail, California is one of the best places to venture out with your trusty steed. So when the gorgeous weather puts you in the mood for adventure, head to one of these five parks for some California horseback riding. 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

On the High Sierra Trail at Sequoia National Park, a horseback rider carefully travels down a rocky trail followed by his pack
Michael Sheltzer, Share the Experience

Many roads and trails throughout the forests and meadows of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are open to horseback riding, and the park publishes a handy guide to help you plan your trip, including places where you can ride, camp, and let your animal graze. Off-trail stock use is even permitted in many areas, but be sure to familiarize yourself with the guidelines and obtain the necessary Wilderness Permit if you plan to stay overnight. Guided horseback riding trips are available in the park as well. 

Redwood National and State Parks

Pack animals are welcome on designated trails all over Redwood National Park and neighboring Redwood State Park. Pack animals are by no means limited to horses, by the way—ponies, mules, burros, and llamas are all invited. Check out the parks' official guide and map to figure out where to go, and keep in mind that many of the parks' beaches are open to riding as well. 

Yosemite National Park

A stream flowing through Tuolumne Meadows reflects riders walking their horses over a wooden bridge with mountains in the distance at Yosemite National Park
Cheryl Hobbs, Share the Experience

If you want to feel like a cowboy, go horseback riding in Yosemite National Park – it's as simple as that. This park is incredibly welcoming to horses and other pack animals, with just about all of its trails open to equestrian use unless otherwise posted. Guided horseback riding trips are available during the warmer months, and three campgrounds in Yosemite are open to equestrian camping. One major rule to keep in mind: Pack animals are not allowed off-trail. 

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Two horses reined to a post, one staring at the camera at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

A stone's throw from Los Angeles, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area offers a wide range of horseback riding opportunities. The recreation area's rugged mountain landscape is great for riding, and over 500 miles of trails are open to horses. Horse rentals, equestrian camping, and guided horseback trips are available in the park, making this one of the best places to go riding in the L.A. area.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Ranger Phil from Point Reyes National Seashore mounted on a national park decorated horse.

Quite a few trails at Point Reyes National Seashore are open to equestrian use. Of course, the beaches are the main attraction at this Bay Area national seashore, and horses are welcome on many. Maps are available online and at the park visitor centers, making it easy to keep track of where you can and can't ride. A privately operated stable within the park offers rentals and guided trips.

California horseback riding is a great choice for exploring the state’s beautiful scenery, but don’t forget about the countless miles of trails open to equestrian use in national parks from coast to coast! No matter where you live, there's a bridle trail with your name on it in a park near you.

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