Sunlight trickles through the trees and spills onto the road in bright patches. To the right is an oak-studded hillside, and to the left there should be water, after all, this is Lopez Lake. Currently, a basin, a bit of green, some rocks and limestone shores are all that remain of the “vanished lake”. The surrounding scenery, though, is breathtaking – still sporting some greenery even in the middle of summer, which contrasts beautifully with the golden hillsides. The road meanders in curves. Signage reminds auto-drivers that pedestrians, bicyclists, hikers and horseback riders could be present, because in this place, everyone shares.
Black Bear Equestrian Camp is located at the end of this meandering road, tucked away from the activity of Lopez Lake Recreational Area, yet close enough to enjoy if desired. My friends, who have booked the camp for a few days, know the area well. Several horse trails are directly accessible from the Equestrian Camp.
Most of the Hiking Trails are Horse Trails
“Most of the hiking trails are also horse trails,” Beverly Poorman explains. “Yesterday, we took a group on Cougar Trail. We rode by the zip-line and passed the very top of the biggest Mustang Waterslide. We waved to our son, who is working at the slides, and said hello to one of his friends who was working at the top post. The horses all did great with the activity.”
Black Bear Equestrian Camp Amenities
Black Bear is part of the Lopez Lake Recreational Area, 10 short miles east of Arroyo Grande, California. It comes equipped with 19 horse pipe corrals. The number of rigs that can be brought in is limited to “eight engines”. There is plenty of room for horse trailers with sleeping quarters, camp trailers and tents; the many trees provide ample shade in the summer heat.
The camp is considered primitive, with only one outhouse for a bathroom and no hook-ups or electricity. There is a flush toilet that is a bit of a walk away at an adjacent group camping area. Water spouts and a main water trough, above ground cooking grills, an oak wood style BBQ and picnic tables round out the amenities. Campers are expected to clean up after themselves and their horses. Lopez Camp personnel clean the outhouse and remove the manure from the two “dumping piles” as needed.
Reservation information can be found on the San Luis Obispo County Parks website. Online reservations for Black Bear Equestrian Camp are not available, but a simple phone call to the Lopez Lake Office 805.788.2381 will do the trick. The website lists the cost at $363 for a two night stay, plus a $3.50 per animal (horse, dog, etc.) charge. This price reserves you the entire camp, and there is also an enclosed dog kennel for your “barking buddies”.
Lopez Lake Recreational Area isn’t just for overnight horse campers, there is a very minimal day use fee of $10.00 for parking, plus the $3.50 per animal fee. An annual vehicle pass (good at other SLO county locations), and an annual animal pass can be purchased and will save you a little money if you become a regular visitor to this beautiful area.
Trails and Lake Activities
It’s truly a blessing to have such an amazing, dedicated recreational area right in our backyard. There are numerous trails that lead out from the Camp, or are accessible from within the Recreational Area, and a trail map is provided at the front gate. Day use horse trailer parking is along the road past the Water Treatment Plant. One popular trail is the Duna Vista Loop Trail.
Black Bear Camp is a great place for families, and one of the best features is the privacy. The camp is looked after by a dedicated group called the Friends of Black Bear Camp. This group is comprised of caring individuals who have donated the corrals, help to maintain the camp and keep it a desirable location for horse campers to enjoy.
Be forewarned though, Black Bear Equestrian Camp is named appropriately as Black Bears do frequent the area. Along with Black Bears, Lopez Lake Recreational Area is home to deer, fox, skunks and possums…oh, and the occasional Mountain Lion. See our story “Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh Yes.” for more info. In addition, over 175 species of flowering plants and more than 150 species of birds have been identified within the park.
San Luis Obispo county locals will enjoy Black Bear Equestrian Camp as a wonderful getaway spot. It is so conveniently located it would be a crime not to put it on your “riding list”, or call on your out of town “horsey friends” for a trail riding meet-up! Other activities to be enjoyed are the Mustang Waterpark and Vista Lago Adventure Park zip-line. Fishing and boating are also enjoyed at Lopez Lake. Yet with all the horsing around to do you may want to plan fishing and boating for another visit!
Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen
Go Camping! Explore the wonder and beauty of the SLO County trails from the best place on earth, the back of a horse. You and your friends and your horses can camp right next to the trails! To help you get packing, you can use this FREE Horse Camping packing checklist. We’ll continue to post horse camping stories on the SLO Horse News website. You can stay up-to-date by becoming a SLO Horse News herd member. Get your Horse Camping Checklist here >.