Riding the Trails in SLO County: Santa Margarita Lake Trails

Santa Margarita Lake Horse Trail Ride

A warm day greeted us as my daughter and I readied ourselves to join Victoria of Shangri-La Ranch in Santa Margarita for a morning trail ride. A slight breeze was blowing up from the lake as we found ourselves in the shade of Victoria’s large deck and we looked around. Cats were checking us out, goats were bleating below, horses – that followed us up to the house from their run of the ranch – were re-establishing their pecking order as they ate in the pen and Miss Piggy the very large pig was grunting happiness while bathing in the water tub. Dogs were in hanging out in the much cooler house. We could see the lake from the deck and we knew we were in for a great day.

Santa Margarita Lake Regional Park is a nature lovers retreat.

Where to Ride at Santa Margarita Lake?

Looking at the map of Santa Margarita Lake below, Victoria took us on the west side of the lake starting on Grey Pine Loop, to White Oak Flat, then down along the lake (which was very low) where we used the dirt road and rode over to the main park entrance and past the campground and up Rocky Trail which ends at the Shangri-La Ranch back gate.

The ride took us nearly 3 hrs going at a steady walking pace with the occasional trot to catch up. We clipped through a green meadow, rode in the shade of trees, marveled at rock formations and many wild flowers, looked out over the lake then rode up the hill winding through trees again back to Shangri-La and enjoyed the endless views of oak-studded hills with the lake as the backdrop. We caught glimpses of wild turkeys and saw buzzards overhead circling for their next scavenged meal.

Santa Margarita Lake Trail Map

Chief, an Appaloosa/Draft was my mount for the day and my daughter, Leah was placed on Cheyenne also an Appaloosa. Victoria rode her pretty white gelding. The horses knew their jobs and were very pleasant to ride. We really enjoyed our time out on the trail, visiting with and learning from Victoria, taking in the scenery, and enjoying our steady mounts.

Santa Margarita Lake Horse Trail Ride

Shangri-La Ranch

Shangri-La Ranch is situated right next to the trails that run on the west side (access through the main entrance) of Santa Margarita Lake.

Staging Areas for Trail Access

There are several staging areas for riders who trailer-in to get access to the multiuse trails within the main entrance through the park gates. Simply find the parking areas on the map above.

East and West Side Trails

The trails on the East side of the lake are great for conditioning an endurance horse or for all-day riding in scenic beauty. There are two areas to access the trails, the main entrance (West side) on Lake Road and the River Road entrance (East side) off Pozo Rd. 8 miles southeast of the Lake Road.” As explained on the SLOPOST website.

Day Use Fee

For either side, there is a day use fee of $10.00  to park your trailer for the day. “Santa Margarita Lake Regional Park is a nature lovers retreat. With thousands of acres of unspoiled open space, the park is home to countless species of plants and wildlife making it the perfect location for exploring nature on the vast trail system. All trails are shared use trails and offer some breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains and rock formations.

Victoria is available to show you the trails or to provide horses for you or for riders who don’t have suitable horses to join you on a ride. Just give her a call at 438-3895.

Santa Margarita Lake Horse Trail Ride

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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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