Riding Horses at the Coast and in the Redwoods...
When: Horseback Riding is a year-round activity in Sonoma County. In January, February, and March most of the rainfall occurs, but even then there will be many sunny days, particularly at the coast where fog tends to prevail in the summer.
Where: There are two options for guided horseback riding on rented horses in western Sonoma County, each offering completely different, but equally wonderful horseback riding experiences:
- Armstrong Woods Pack Station, Armstrong Woods State Reserve in Guerneville
- Chanslor Ranch, north of Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast
Armstrong Woods Pack Station
Riders can experience a once-in-a-lifetime ride along a streamside trail through an ancient stand of old-growth redwood trees; longer rides incorporate six different biotic communities, including conifer forests, wildflower meadows, chaparral and oak woodlands. A ride along Gilliam Creek includes hammocks, lunch, and a rest beside this creek which tumbles over boulders to shallow pools for cooling off.
The owners lead all the trail rides and they are very knowledgeable about the history, the geography, and the flora and fauna of the area. Riding instruction is provided for novices. And the horses are simply the best: well-trained, well-loved quarter horses who winter over from year to year.
Overnight trips include a comfortable mountain tent camp with great meals, beds, hot showers, Happy Hour refreshments, lounge chairs, evening campfire sessions, and the chance to become friends with Laura and Jonathan Ayers, the personable, friendly owners of Armstrong Woods Pack Station. The ride itself is into a valley accessible only by horses and hikers, up to the pristine headwaters of Austin Creek. This stream is a protected spawning ground for steelhead trout. River otters play in the swimming hole. With many habitats to explore and spectacular mountain vista to enjoy, this ride is never to be forgotten. Groups are small (six to eight), service is great, and fresh Sonoma County cuisine is prepared to individual requests. Some overnight trips do have vehicle access so that non-riding members of a group can join the campsite in the evening.
One very special trip is an overnight educational adventure for a group of six to eight children. They will learn a lot about horses, riding, basic camping and survival skills, natural and local history, and Native American lore. Every child has a horse and adults take part in the camp activities.
With many miles of trails that take you from lofty mountain tops, grassy meadows, coastal dunes and white sand beaches, the Sonoma coastline is the perfect environment to enjoy horseback riding. Chanslor Ranch is a working horse ranch, offering guided trail rides, private rides, pony rides, riding lessons, as well as overnight and monthly horse boarding.
Four popular short rides (½ hr to 1½ hours) are available:
- Beach Ride. The beach ride follows trails through state park sand dunes and then up the coast (subject to the trails being open)
- Salmon Creek Ride. This ride follows the Salmon Creek Canyon and then into the hills to enjoy spectacular views of the coast and western Sonoma County.
- Eagle's View Ride: a short scenic ride with gorgeous views of the Sonoma Coast and Bodega Bay. Suitable for beginners and children.
- Osprey Trail: a beautiful trail that explores our Protected Wetlands. You see views of the North Salmon Creek beach, Salmon Creek and lush grasslands of the ranch. Beginner friendly.
- Wetlands Ride: a slow-paced ride through the Wetlands Wildlife Preserve, also suitable for beginners and children.
Private rides, including lunch (only for bookings far in advance), are available and are customized according to the riding ability and interests of the riders. Parties and special events can also take place here, with a good old-fashioned hay ride as part of the fun.
If you want to bring your own horse, you're both welcome at Armstrong Woods and Chanslor Ranch, and also Salt Point.
Armstrong Woods Pack Station
Armstrong Woods State Reserve (follow the signs from downtown Guerneville)
Chanslor Guest Ranch
Highway One, just north of Bodega Bay
Salt Point State Park