True Equestrian: The Traveling Equine – where to take your horse on vacation

Photo courtesy of Circle Bar B Guest Ranch

By Lauren Mueller | Editor

If you’re anything like me, vacations are nearly impossible. Finding care for our four-legged partners is nowhere near as easy as finding care for Fido. For this reason, many of us decide that ‘stay-cations’ are a better option.

But what if you could take your horse with you on a vacation?

It sounds almost too good to be true. Take my horse with me? No way. But you really can, and the best part is you can stay in California to do it. That means no Coggins test to cross state lines and no overnight parking at sketchy motels with your steed confined to the trailer.

Depending on what you want to do with your horse, you can find many different hotels and ranches that allow you to bring your horse with you. Many of them also provide stables to keep your horse in, and may include feed for an extra fee.

Here are just a few places I’ve found with a “BYOH” (bring your own horse) option in California.

If you like the mountains, Piggly Pines and Kelty Meadow Campground are the places for you.

Piggly Pines is located in Ponderosa, Ca at a little over 7000 foot elevation. It’s a 14 acre ranch and includes its own saddlery – Boz Saddlery. Boz saddlery is open to the public and crafts custom saddles. The little ranch is set in a scenic area, with endless miles of trail through forests of Giant Sequoias, Yellow, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines and Aspen trees. But remember, the nearest large town is an hour to an hour and a half away from Piggly Pines, and you have to bring your own groceries.

Also unfortunate; at Piggly Pines, you must rent one of their stalls at $25 per night, no portable pens or tying to trailers allowed. You must also provide your own food and clean your own pen. However, there is a nearby pack station for day rides and pack trips, so you won’t be far from plenty of fun with your equine companion.

Kelty Meadow Campground is located near Bass Lake, Ca at 3400 feet elevation. It’s a horse-friendly campsite next to Kelty Creek. This is truly “roughing it” with your horse.
Kelty Meadow has campsites large enough to accommodate small horse trailers, slide-ins, tent trailers or tents. Some campsites have hitching posts, but you won’t find any corrals here, so make sure you bring your own if your horse needs one. There is a vault toilet, but no drinking water access. Your horse is, however, welcome to drink from the creek.

If you prefer the beach to the mountains, you may consider Pacific Dunes Ranch and RV resort. This resort is located in the Oceano Dunes Preserve along the Pacific Ocean near Cambria (Hearst Castle, anyone?).

Pacific Dunes has horses to rent if your mount isn’t familiar enough with the beach, but the guided trail rides welcome your mount to find his sea legs and have a great time with you. But don’t think you’ll be able to go out on your own: Pacific Dunes is very specific about not allowing unescorted rides. There are full hook-up RV sites available if you want to bring the comfort of home with you on the road.

If you like sand but don’t like the beach, then Anza-Borrego Desert State Park may be just the place for you. Located on the east side of San Diego County, this park is about two hours from San Diego, Riverside and Palm Springs.

Anza-Borrego is the largest state park in California, encompassing over 600,000 acres of land. There are over 500 mile of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and 110 miles of riding and hiking trails open for the public’s enjoyment. If you choose to stay here with your horse – and want to be at a developed campground – you’ll have to stay at Vern Whitaker Horse camp, located at the mouth of Coyote Canyon.

If you’re looking for something more along the lines of a true resort, your equine partner will have to stay home. But at least you can get your horse fix at places like Circle Bar B guest ranch and stables and The Alisal.

If you decide to go try one of these places, let me know. Send me your pictures and your stories, I’d love to hear all about your adventures with your trusty steed.

Happy Trails!