July 29, 2016 by Joe Kukura

Anyone chomping at the bit for some quality horseback riding should look to northern California wine country. The cream-of-the-crop backdrop for horseback riding is wine country’s unspoiled northern region of Lake County, where great weather, spectacular scenes of nature and the cleanest air in the U.S. combine to make for a world-class riding experience far from the hustle and bustle of the city.

In addition to pristine riding trails, Lake County horseback riding offers an impressive line-up of ranches, stables and equestrian centers for lessons, guided rides and horse boarding. Let’s take a look at Lake County’s best horse-riding facilities, and why you’ll want to get your hindquarters to this fantastic riding region.

Whatever your needs or skill level, we’re here to help you get a leg up and enjoy extraordinary horseback riding in Lake County.

Horse-Riding Lessons and Horse Rentals

If you don’t have your own horse, of course you can find a horse to rent, riding lessons or guided trail tours at many of these Lake County horseback riding facilities. Here’s a list of ranches and centers with horses on hand, and we note some that are especially friendly to kids.

  • Owen Ranch in Middletown is especially well-equipped for kids, even offering kids’ rodeo camps in the summer months. But horseback riders of all ages will be interested in their riding lessons, guided trail rides, programs, workshops and a friendly fleet of horses that’s ready to ride.
  • Cole Creek Equestrian Center in Kelseyville offers horse riding on 85 acres of wooded mountain paradise that borders the oldest lake in North America, Clear Lake. Their horse-riding trails will take your breath away, yet the facility also has an obstacle course, a lighted open arena and stalls for horse boarding.
  • Williams Equine Enterprises brings decades of rodeo and show riding experience to Lakeport, with lessons for riders and resistance-free training for the horses themselves.
  • Gaddy Shack Ranch just outside Kelseyville offers lessons for those with and without their own horses, and has kid-friendly instruction sessions, too. There’s overnight boarding for those who bring their own horse, and horse training is also available.

Where to Go Horseback Riding

Lake County has a premier network of hiking trails with unbelievable, high-altitude mountain-top views. Best of all, they’re free to access, and many of these trails allow for horseback riding, too.

  • Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest has 22 miles of high-elevation trails with meadows, forests and lookout points galore. Located a few miles south of Clear Lake, Boggs Mountain has clearly marked trails used by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, and offers overnight camping for $10 per night.
  • Cache Creek Wilderness Area will make horses feel right at home. This 27,000-acre habitat for wildlife, plants and nature does not allow motorized vehicles. You might see bald eagles or Lake County’s famed tule elk on the Cache Creek, but you’re sure to see woodlands, canyons, Cache Creek and all of its tributaries.

    Horseback rider

    Beautiful views at Highland Springs Recreation Area

  • Mendocino National Forest is California’s only national forest without a paved entrance road, and its nearly one million acres remain pristine and unspoiled. The horse-riding trails are complemented by countless lakes, rivers and mountains, and opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, boating, fishing and camping.
  • Highland Springs Recreation Area has horseback riding trails that have been used for more than 130 years. This rugged, gorgeous terrain features trails with panoramic mountain views, incomparable meadows of wildflowers and amenities like good washrooms, frisbee-golf courses and even a spot to play horseshoes when you’re done horseback riding.

Lake County is saddled with terrific resources for horseback riding. Some of you might be able to trot your own horses to Lake County to gallop these magnificent trails. Others may need to tack on a horse rental, or get some horseback riding lessons or guided rides. Whatever the scenario, plan your next horseback excursion in Lake County, where the horses are so friendly and the trails so beautiful you’ll find it hard to harness the energy to leave.