Horseback riding can be done all year long in Sonoma County, though it can get a bit muddy in winter. Even so, smack in the middle of January or February plenty of sunshine is bound to come along and dry up the trails. Depending on where you ride, you’ll encounter deep woods, mountains, lakes, creeks, Pacific Ocean views, historic buildings, and wildlife.
Many state and regional parks in Sonoma County welcome equestrians, including:
Pristine and largely undeveloped, 5,092-acre Trione-Annadel State Park — on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa — is home to a hilly terrain that supports seasonal streams, meadows, redwoods, grasslands, a 26-acre lake, dense chaparral, volcanic rock formations, and what many biologists consider to be a prime example of undisturbed northern oak woodlands. And, thanks to more than 40 miles of multi-use trails geared to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, you can explore much of this wonderful place on your own.
Equestrians are welcome to share certain trails at the park with hikers (you’ll find those trails on this map). You can also take guided trail rides here through Triple Creek Horse Outfit. Either way, you’ll ride through old growth oak woodlands, past ancient winery ruins, and you’ll often be in sight of premium vineyards.
A beautiful 216-acre park in Petaluma, Helen Putnam offers nearly six miles of horse trails that wind through lush woods to arrive at far-reaching ridgeline views. You’ll also find good wildlife viewing, a gazebo, picnic area, fishing pond, and a children’s playground.
One of the county’s most popular parks, Spring Lake offers equestrians dirt trails surrounding the lakes and crossing the wooded hillsides. Equestrian trails also connect with Annadel State Park. You can access horse trailer parking at the Newanga Avenue entrance. Other amenities at the 320-acre park include camping, fishing, many picnic areas, trails for walking, hiking, bicycling, a three-acre swimming lagoon with an inflatable water park, and a 72-acre lake.
Note: Sugarloaf trails are temporarily closed to horses to allow the land to recover from the October 2017 wildfires; visit sugarloafpark.org for trail status updates. Sugarloaf is big (3,900 acres), home to the headwaters of Sonoma Creek, and many of its 25 miles of trails are open to equestrians (as well as hikers and cyclists). The trail head can accommodate 12 horse rigs; there’s also a watering trough and hitching posts. You’ll encounter plenty of wildlife, including deer, raccoon and gray fox. On a clear day you’ll see as far as the Golden Gate Bridge from the 2,729-foot summit of Bald Mountain.
Stunningly beautiful, Salt Point is characterized by rocky promontories, panoramic views, kelp-dotted coves, and the dramatic sounds of pounding surf; it’s also home to open grasslands, forested hills, pristine prairies, and pygmy forests. You’ll also have 20 miles of hiking trails and equestrian trails to explore, along with more than six miles of rugged coastline, and an underwater park. You can enjoy picnicking, fishing, skin and SCUBA diving, and camping. Trail maps are available at the entrance station.
Note: Hood Mountain closed temporarily after the October 2017 wildfires; a portion of the park reopened in January 2018 and the rest of the park, including the Pythian Road entrance, will reopen sometime in 2018. Visit the Regional Parks website for status updates. With 1,750 acres, Hood Mountain offers 19 miles of trails, many offering sensational views. The terrain here is rugged and can be challenging, so it's best left to experienced riders. You’ll find trailer parking and a horse trough one mile southeast of the Pythian Road trailhead.
Of course, these seven parks are just some of the many delightful options available. For more ideas, read Sonoma County on Horseback and check our listings of Horseback Riding Trails and Horse Rentals and Trail Rides.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.