By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Kids,” he laughs, “tend to be a little more fearless.”
The trail shadows a road most of the time so a rescue can be easily facilitated. If you’ve never been on a horse, this is the perfect place to try it out or just see Griffith Park from another vantage. And if you are experienced, isn’t it time you got back in the saddle again?
Griffith Park Horse Rental, Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Dr., Burbank, (818) 840-8401 or www.griffithparkhorserental.com. Open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Trail ride, $25 per hour (persons over 220 pounds, $45 per hour). Tips not included. Sunset dinner ride, $65 per person, three hours, includes guide gratuity; does not include dinner and drinks at restaurant. Twenty-minute hand-led kiddie rides for 1- to 5-year-olds, $25. Facilities available for carry-in picnics, birthday parties and other events.
The trails of Topanga Canyon have been featured in National Geographic, and if that doesn’t win you over, they’ve also been on the idiot fest Blind Date. The pathways are a part of the Santa Monica Mountain Backbone Trail, once an old Pony Express route. On a clear day you can see the ocean and distant mountains from your saddle. To gain access to the trails, reserve a spot on one of the regular rides out of the Los Angeles Horseback Riding Ranch. People take riding seriously at the ranch, so don’t show up in flip-flops or hot pants — you’re required to wear boots or tennis shoes and long pants. No cameras are allowed on the trail — no cell phones either — but you can buy a photo for 5 bucks. And they usually can’t accommodate groups with more than six people — at least you won’t be stuck in an anonymous mob. Most important, you have to show up. There is a zero-tolerance cancellation policy. The horses are exercised according to the number of rides that are scheduled, so if you don’t show, expect your card to be charged for the full amount plus gratuity. But then again, why wouldn’t you show up? There are day rides and breathtaking sunset trips during which you might see a bobcat, a rattlesnake, hawks or deer. You can ride every day except Tuesday (when the horses rest) from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And every month, you can join a full-moon ride — 90 minutes of meandering trails, moonshine and bliss. This month, you can catch the end of the full moon on the 27th and 28th. Los Angeles Horseback Riding, 2661 Old Topanga Canyon Rd., Topanga, (818) 591-2032 or www.losangeleshorsebackriding.com. Call for prices.
Malibu Riders, in addition to riding lessons and summer camp, offers three different trail rides. The Zuma Canyon National Parktour is a 3-mile loop into the Santa Monica Mountains with views of Catalina. On the Medicine Woman Trail, you ride around the ranch once owned by Paramount Studios, where countless Westerns were filmed, and through a movie set of an old frontier. You can also tour parts of Malibu Creek State Park, just beyond Paramount Ranch, that are accessible only on the two- and three-hour trail rides. Malibu Creek State Park was once owned by 20th Century Fox, and is where M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes were filmed. Malibu Riders, trailhead locations vary according to ride reserved, (818) 510-2245 or www.maliburiders.com. Paramount Ranch tour and Malibu Creek State Park rides available weekdays only; Zuma Canyon tour seven days. All rides, $50 per person/hour. Riding lessons, $45 per hour.
Sunset Ranch, nestled at the top of Beachwood Canyon and close to the Hollywood sign, has been a family-owned business since the 1930s. In the ’50s, the ranch was kicked out of its original spot in Culver City for development, and owner Jute Smith moved her horses to the current location. For years, the ranch has taught horseback riding to actors and actresses for movie and TV roles, as well as the general public. You can enjoy a one- to two-hour trail ride that includes a photo op of the Hollywood sign and a sweeping vista of the sprawling city itself. The Sunset Ranch is famous for its two-hour sunset rides and four-hour lunch and dinner rides through Griffith Park to Burbank's Viva Fresh Mexican Restaurant, where the horses get tied up outside and riders head inside for a hearty meal. After dinner, it’s back on the horse and through the park under the stars. Sunset Ranch also hosts a hugely popular Taco Night on the second Friday of each month; after a ride through Griffith Park, the group meets back at the ranch for tacos and music.
Sunset Ranch, 3400 N. Beachwood Dr., Hlywd., (323) 469-5450 or www.sunsetranchhollywood.com. One- and two-hour rides daily, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m without reservations, $25 and $40 per person. Private and large-group rides, lessons and kids birthday parties available with reservations. Minimum riding age 7 years old; 16 years old for meal rides. Lunch and dinner rides seven days, $75 per person (dinner price not included) with reservations. Friday-night dinner rides, $60, first-come-first-served; sign-ups begin 4:30 p.m. Sunset rides nightly, $75. Monthly taco nights, $85 per person, includes food. Tips not included in prices.