For equestrians who love the outdoors, horse camping is a fun recreational activity that combines sleeping under the stars with endless trail riding. California's stunning landscape offers numerous horse camping opportunities across the state, ranging from primitive sites to full-service amenities.
Lake Perris is located in Southern California, southeast of Riverside. This state-owned campground has seven horse campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, and two horse corrals. Campers have access to horse watering troughs, potable water, and chemical toilets. Each campsite can accommodate up to eight people and two horses. The campground accepts reservations in advance or campers may select from available sites on a first-come-first-served basis. Riders access the 8.9-mile long Lake Perris Loop Trail from the campground, and this trail passes beautiful rocky hills and fields of wildflowers.
Be prepared for long lines at the check-in gate on the weekends, or plan on visiting Lake Perris midweek to avoid the crowds. Bring shade and sunscreen since the campsites have very few trees. The wind typically starts blowing around 2 p.m. each day, providing some relief from the heat, but stirring up the dust. The lake is warm, clear and free of leeches.
Day fees are $10.00 per vehicle and campsites are $21.00 per night.
Green Valley Falls
Green Valley Falls campground is part of Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, located 15 miles south of Julian or 80 miles east of San Diego in San Diego County. This campground has 15 horse campsites, and two of these are ADA-accessible. Each campsite can accommodate two horses and eight campers. Campers have access to flush toilets, camp furniture, potable water, and pay showers. Horse trails pass through oak woodlands and open meadows in Rancho Cuyamaca State Park. The creeks have several swimming holes for cooling off on a hot day. For additional riding opportunities, the horse trails in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are a short drive from the campground.
Many campsites have thick brush around them, creating a private environment. Campers can gather firewood in the surrounding trees, or they can bring their own, but the campground does not have any vendors on site who sell firewood. Due to California's lingering drought, the waterfalls dry up in late summer, leaving stagnant water pools that attract mosquitos, so bring adequate bug spray. Reviewers on Yelp report the Camp Hosts are extremely welcoming and the bathrooms are clean.
Due to inclement weather, this campground is open from May 1 to October 31 each year. This campground requires reservations, and the cost is $30 per night.
Jack Brooks Horse Camp
Jack Brooks Horse Camp is located in Sam McDonald Park in San Mateo County, 11 miles east of Pescadero. This camp has three separate areas that accommodate different sized groups. Area 1 accommodates 40 people and 40 horses. Area 2 and Area 3 hold 10 people and 10 horses each. The campground is open from mid-May to mid-November each year, and campers must make reservations in advance. All three areas share 48 paddocks, six tie posts, and one wash rack. Campers may bring portable corrals as well. The campground has restrooms with flushing toilets and showers. Campers in any area have access to an outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator, freezer, and microwave. The Northwest portion of the park is redwood forests, while the southeast portion is grassy meadows. Riders can see the Pacific Ocean from the ridge tops.
Area 1 costs $150 per night Sunday through Thursday and $275 per night on Friday and Saturday. Areas 2 and 3 cost $75 per night Sunday through Thursday and $150 per night on Friday and Saturday.
Dripping Springs Campground
Dripping Springs Campground is adjacent to the Agua Tibia Wilderness in Southern California, 40 miles east of Escondido. The campground has five horse campsites with horse corrals, potable water, and vault toilets. Each campsite can accommodate eight people and two horses. Trails lead south from the campsite into the Agua Tibia Wilderness's chaparral forests.
Reviewers on AllTrails.com note these trails are stunningly beautiful when the wildflowers bloom, especially the California poppies. The trails are clear with very few rocks, but be aware of poison oak in the area.
The cost is $15 per night.
Montana de Oro State Park
Montana de Oro State Park is six miles southwest of Moro Bay and parallels the San Luis Obispo coast. Islay Creek Campground has three equestrian campsites and two equestrian group campsites available by reservation from mid-May through mid-October, and on a first-come-first-served basis the rest of the year. The campsites are slightly inland, but campers can still hear the ocean. Campsites include water for horses and pit toilets, but potable water is not available. Riders follow trails from the campsite to the beach or through the eucalyptus forests.
Several Trip Advisor reviewers say this state park is beautiful, and February to mid-March is the ideal time to visit. The cliffs are breezy, offering relief from the summer heat. For riders who wish to watch the sunset, arrive at the cliffs early to get the best spot because crowds gather at this time.
The equestrian campsites are $50 per night, and the group campsites are $150 per night. The park has free entry for day use.
Bridalveil Creek Campground in Yosemite National Park has three sites available for horse camping, and each of these can accommodate up to six people and six horses. Campers must haul out horse manure at the end of their stays. Campsites include fire rings, picnic tables, and food lockers. On-site bathrooms feature flushing toilets and potable water. Bridalveil Creek is located 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor, and campers access it by a two-lane road. The elevation is 7,200 feet above sea level, so this campground is only open from early July through Labor Day each year. Riders access trails throughout Yosemite National Park from Glacier Point, located near the campground.
A Campward Bound reviewer warns this campground is cold, even in mid-summer, so pack appropriate clothing. The reviewer also reminds campers to prepare for bears and store food accordingly because this campsite is in the wilderness.
Campers must make reservations in advance, and the cost is $30 per night.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in Shasta County is 20 miles from Redding. Horse Camp is the only campground that allows horses within the recreation area. This campground features two sites that accommodate six people and two tents each. These campsites are primitive but have vault toilets and potable water. The campground is open year-round, and campsites are on a first-come-first-served basis. Horse trails pass stunning waterfalls and old-growth forests as they wind to the tops of the mountains. Elevation ranges from 1,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level.
The Swasey Recreation area has some shaded, well-groomed trails shared by mountain bikers and horseback riders. The creeks have several pools for taking a dip, but reviewers on AllTrails.com say the water is frigidly cold year-round. Late spring is the best time for viewing the falls, and the valley views are stunning from the tops of the trails.
The cost is $15 per night.
Lake Oroville is eight miles from Oroville or 76 miles from Sacramento. This recreation area allows horse camping on the southeast side of the lake at its Loafer Creek Equestrian Campground. The campground has 15 campsites that accommodate eight campers and two horses each. Amenities include horse wash racks, tethering stations, feeding stations and a round pen for warming up horses before riding. The campground also has flush toilets and showers. The campground is open from mid-April to October. Equestrians can ride directly from the campsite into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
For those who want to camp in comfort with their horse, this is the spot to go, according to reviewers in Yelp. The bathrooms are clean and well maintained, and campers who wish to have a fire can purchase firewood on site. The horse facilities are in good repair. Riding trails are suitable for beginners, and riders have access to several eight to nine-mile loops directly from the campground.
The cost is $45 per night.
The Perfect Escape
California's horse camping options vary as much as the state's landscape. For equestrians seeking adventure and escape from hectic daily life, horse camping is the perfect opportunity for extra saddle time while enjoying California's beautiful outdoors.