Rancho Oso guest Ranch & stables, Santa Barbara, California
Closest city: Santa Barbara, California.
Travel distance: 25 miles.
Driving directions: From Los Angeles, take U.S. Route 101 north to Santa Barbara. Exit at State St./Hwy. 154. Stay on Hwy. 154 approximately 12 miles to Paradise Rd. Turn right on Paradise Rd. Go 5.5 miles to the resort entrance.
Terrain: Rancho Oso is located on 310 acres of rolling hills covered with grasses and chaparral. Native oak trees dot the landscape; the Santa Ynez River flows through the area year-round.
History: The area now occupied by Rancho Oso was once home to the Chumash Indians, who lived in the Santa Ynez Valley and beyond for centuries before the coming of Spanish Missionaries in the late 1700s.
In 1845, the governor of Mexico awarded the area in a land grant to Jose Dominguez. Consisting of 48,728 acres, the area became known as Rancho Los Prietas y Nagalayegua. It passed through the hands of several owners until a parcel of the original land grant became Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Stables in 1992.
Top ride: The ridge side of the Aliso Canyon Trail loop provides panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and Santa Ynez River after several steep, but short, hill climbs. Wildflowers bloom seasonally, including California poppies, Chinese houses, lupine, golden yarrow, and Indian paintbrush. Continue to the Upper Oso trail, which leads to the Camusa Connector trails, for a four- to five-hour ride.
Amenities: Rancho Oso has more than 30 corrals with water hoses nearby, easy trailer access, an arena, and a round pen. Guided rides are available.
Map: For a trail map, go to www.rancho oso.net/rancho/downloads/trailmap.pdf
Contact: Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Stables, (805) 683-5686; www.ranchooso.net.
Perry state Park, Ozawkie, Kansas
Closest city: Topeka, Kansas.
Travel distance: 20 miles.
Driving directions: From Topeka, take U.S. Route 24 east toward Kansas City. Turn left onto Kansas Highway 237 north. Perry State Park is on the right.
Terrain: Rolling hills covered with upland forest, streams, and open prairie make up Perry State Park, located on the southwestern shore of the 11,630-acre Perry Reservoir. The park includes native oak and hickory woodlands.
History: The Perry Reservoir was constructed in 1966 along the Delaware River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help control downstream flooding in northeastern Kansas. The earth-rolled dam was built to be 7,750 feet long, and to rise to 95 feet in height above the streambed. In 1968, the USACE reached a long-term land usage lease with the Kansas Parks and Resources Department, allowing for the development of Perry State Park.
Top ride: The Rocky Top Trail, made by the USACE, is a 10.5-mile loop accessible from inside the park. The trail starts off through beautiful meadows, hay fields, and a woodsy sprawl area. According to frequent Perry State Park trail-rider Hope Ann White of Basehor, Kansas, you’ll pass through beautiful prairie, under shady trees, and up to scenic viewpoints. “The trail is hilly in places, but suitable for riders of all levels,” she says. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, hawks, deer, and wild turkey.
Amenities: Perry State Park offers overnight horse camping at Wild Horse campground.
Map: For a trail map, go to the Kansas Horse Council website, www.kansashorsecouncil.com/perry-lake-horse-trails-inkansas/.
Contact: Perry State Park, (785) 246-3449;
Uwharrie National Forest, asheville, North Carolina
Closest city: Raleigh, North Carolina.
Travel distance: 93 miles.
Driving directions: Head to the Badin Lake Recreation Area of the national forest. Take U.S. Highway 1 south to U.S. Route 64 west. Turn right onto North Carolina Highway 49 south. Make a slight left onto N.C. Highway 8. Make a slight left onto North Main St., and turn left onto N.C. Highway 740. Turn left onto Old Whitney Rd. The Badin Lake Recreation Area is up ahead.
Terrain: Uwharrie National Forest is made up of wooded areas, streams, and rocky outcrops. Trails follow the Uwharrie River and many of its tributaries. The forest includes the eastern shoreline of Badin Lake.
History: The 50,189-acre Uwharrie National Forest is one of the most recent additions to the National Forest System. First purchased by the federal government in 1931 during the Great Depression, it was decreed a national forest in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Badin Lake, the center of the forest’s recreational area, was created in 1917 when the Yadkin-Pee Dee River was dammed to support a nearby aluminum smelting plant.
Top ride: For a 20- to 25-mile loop, start out from Canebrake Horse Camp to Indian Trail. Ride to Todd Trail, then take Leslie Trail to Tony Trail. “I love the rock formations on this section, and a detour to Badin Lake is always nice,” says Nancy Sluys, a rider with the Region 5 North American Trail Ride Conference, which holds competitive trail rides in Uwharrie. Tony Trail will return you to the end of Todd Trail, where you can ride over the mountain on Bates Trail or Frailey Trail. “Frailey is longer and more challenging, but it’s spectacular, especially when the leaves are off the trees and you can see the views,” says Sluys. Both trails will take you to Berner Trail. From there, it’s an easy ride back on Morgan Trail.
Amenities: Uwharrie National Forest offers overnight horse camping at Canebrake Horse Camp.
Map: For a trail map, go to http://tinyurl.com/oqajlge.
Contact: Uwharrie National Forest, (910) 576-6391; http://tinyurl.com/q2c3gfo.