Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’

California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day! Borrowing the line from the song, “California Dreamin’”, by the Mamas and the Papas we enjoyed a California Dreamin’ winter’s day riding our horses on Pismo Beach. Our ride included riding through the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve. Riding a horse on the beach is the dream of many horse owners and horse lovers alike.


Come ride along with me! Get your FREE Riding the SLO County Trails Hotsheet with links to some of the best places to ride in SLO County.



Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: A Great Recipe for A California Winter’s Day

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News

Blue skies with white clouds, echoed by blue water and white waves naturally sets off the beautiful, wet, smooth, mirror-making sand. Add an open stretch of beach, sunshine, your horse, and a couple of riding buddies and you’ll have one of the best recipes for a great day on the Central Coast.

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach is an Available Option when Trails are Wet

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News

A beach ride is quite popular on a winter’s day when other local horse trails are too muddy to cross. Low tide is the best time to go, especially in winter when a high tide can actually make the beach inaccessible. We timed the tides just right. As we headed out towards Pismo Beach’s mile marker 5, we no longer had vehicle traffic and pedestrian presence was also gone. The sand was swept clean of other marks and our horses hooves pressed their own marks into the unmarked wet sand.

Sands Shift with Wind and Tides Changing the Entrance to Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News
2021 Opening to the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve

Over time the dune sands shift with the constant on-shore winds and tides. Such is the case for the entrance to the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve area. Today, marching up high dunes leads to the trail which starts around the perimeter of the dune grass and then heads through it. The single-file trail is still well-used and will take riders to the forest area then out on the access road.

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News
2014 Entrance to the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve

Not So Pretty in Paradise

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News

Unfortunately, the rise in California’s homeless population has resulted in homeless setting up camps in the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve. Debris mars the landscape, especially in the foliage area, yet beauty can still be appreciated through the dunes trail. We marveled at a lone Calla Lilly heralding its beauty in the quiet green foliage forest.

A Beach Ride Can Have Its Share of Scares

Choosing to ride a horse on Pismo Beach is such a tremendous blessing we resident Central Coast horse riders have in our backyard. However, a beach ride can have its share of scares. There are a variety of bugaboos, especially here where we share the “road” with cars and trucks. Our day was mostly scare-free, but we did have a little issue with a remote-controlled toy dune buggy. Carrera did not take to the high-pitched hum and the little bug careening over the dunes. We did get the operator to stop the dune buggy so we could quietly pass by.

Make Your Riding a Horse on the Beach Dreams Come True

Go enjoy the dream. Plan to ride your horse on Pismo Beach, but be sure you and your horse are ready. My friend Beverly and I have our own treasured memories of riding a horse on Pismo Beach. I captured the thrill and beauty in film and created a video. Enjoy!

Tips for Creating your own California Dreamin’ Winter’s Day (or Summer’s Day) Outing

Riding a Horse on Pismo Beach: California Dreamin’  | SLO Horse News
  1. Check the Pismo Beach tide chart for low tide. This is especially helpful in winter.
  2. Find directions for getting to Pismo Beach and the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve through this story <.
  3. Horse trailer parking is currently in the dirt overflow parking area. It is shared with all other vehicle parking. This area can fill quickly on a busy weekend or holiday. Be sure you park where you have a way out.
  4. Dress warmly. The wind can be quite cold at the beach, especially in winter.
  5. Dogs are allowed on the beach on leash, but they are not allowed in the dunes.

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 >.

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