Cool breezes rippling off the surface of Lopez Lake with oak trees providing welcoming shade can be delightful ingredients of the Cougar Trail to Marina Trail loop at Lopez Lake. This is one of the options of the horse trail rides at Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande, CA.
Diverse Horse Trail Rides Options at Lopez Lake
Several horse trail ride options can be experienced from various starting points within the Lopez Lake Recreational Area campgrounds. Cougar trail takes riders through oak-shaded trails and connects up with Marina trail for some sweet lake views. The staging area for this is a large parking lot across from the group camping area.
Duna Vista Trail takes riders up the above the lake then provides stunning vista views of Lopez Lake and to the ocean beyond. The staging area for this ride is further down Lopez Drive, closer to Black Bear Equestrian horse camp, at the Camp French parking area.
Catching the Oak Tree Shade and the Breeze off the Lake
The beginning of Cougar Trail is on the east side of Lopez Drive. The trail head is located past Mustang Water Slides and Vista Largo Adventure Park area. Park your rig in the parking space across from the Arboleda and Escondito group camping sites on the west side of Lopez Drive. Cougar trail starts out heading south parallel to the road.
Continue riding in a southern direction along Cougar Trail skirting the campground and going past Vista Largo Adventure Park and Mustang Waterpark. The trail winds up and down, through and alongside Lopez Lake campsites mostly in the shade of oak trees taking you out towards the main gate.
Cougar trail ends near the main entrance where you will catch Marina trail on the west side of Lopez Drive. One of the first spots you’ll ride to is where the old stable was for the trail ride outfit, which many years ago, offered guided trail rides through this area.
Marina trail continues up and takes you to a sweet view of the lake and over to the Marina. At the end of the trail you will ride along Grizzly road and across a parking lot to another cool view of the Lake.
From here you’ll depart from Grizzly road and ride along the edge of the Lake. The day we rode there were two windsurfers tacking and coming about in the bay where we were skirting along the water’s edge. The horses weren’t quite sure what to make of these ever-shifting sails . . . fortunately the horses looked but didn’t leap.
Back to the Staging Area
Once past the lake we made our way back to the staging area riding along on unmarked trails on the west side of Lopez Drive. You’ll ride past Vista Largo Adventure Park and alongside Lopez Drive. The whole ride takes about and hour and half going mostly at the walk.
Lopez Lake Recreational Area
Lopez Lake Recreational Area is for hikers, bikers, riders and campers plus has an Equestrian camp for 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.
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. All of this wildlife makes for adventurous horse trail rides at Lopez Lake.
Notes for a Perfect Day
- Yes, you might encounter a bear out here. Check out our story on what to do if you do encounter a bear on the trail.
- Plan your ride in the off season to avoid the densely populated campground activity.
- You will be going around and through the Lopez Lake campground with tents up and towels hanging out to dry.
- Windsurfers with their kites skimming the water, may be encountered. Your horse may not know what to think of these flapping, flying things.
- The Day Use entrance fee for horse trailers into Lopez Lake campgrounds is: $10.00/ Vehicle + $3.50/animal. Annual passes for both vehicles and animals are available if you plan to frequent the trails all year.
- Call Lopez Lake Office 805.788.2381 to reserve the Black Bear Equestrian Camp for a group staying a weekend or more.
- The Cougar Trail to Marina Trail ride takes about and hour and a half traveling mostly at the walk with up and down short hills. The ride is about 3 miles long.
- There are no facilities at the staging area or on the trail.
- Pack in water and food and pack out your trash.
- Summer conditions can be hot so bring water. The trails are mostly clay dirt so a few days are needed after rain for the trails to dry out a bit. Dress in layers during winter months.
Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen Photos
Get Going! Explore the wonder and beauty of the SLO County trails from the best place on earth, the back of a horse. To keep this info at your fingertips we have developed a FREE Hot Sheet that will direct you to a few trail ride stories. We’ll continue to add trail ride stories to our website. You can stay up-to-date by becoming a SLO Horse News herd member. Get your Riding the SLO County Trails Hot Sheet here >.