For travelers who prefer to explore the forests and trails on horseback, a few stables offer guided rides.
On the west side of the South Shore, find the Camp Richardson Corral (Emerald Bay Rd. and Fallen Leaf Rd., 530/541-3113, $32–65). Choose between a one- or two-hour trail ride to explore the meadows and the forest, or a ride with a meal included. Camp Richardson offers an early morning ride that culminates in a hearty hot “cowboy-style” breakfast and an evening barbecued steak dinner ride. Riders must be at least six years old and weigh 225 pounds or less. Camp Richardson also offers horse boarding by the day, week, and month.
Over on the Nevada side, sign up for a ride with the Zephyr Cove Resort Stables (on Hwy. 50, 775/588-5664, http://zephyrcovestables.com, summer daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., spring and fall daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m., $35/hour). Enjoy your lovely scenic trail rides, complete with panoramic views of the lake through the pine trees. Zephyr Cove also has “food rides” at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime each day. Bring your appetite for these one-hour rides. (You’ll need to make advanced arrangements if you’re a vegetarian or have dietary restrictions.) As at most stables, restrictions include a 225-pound weight limit and a minimum rider age of seven.
Want to get out and see the Sierra Foothills and mountains from the back of a horse? Summertime at Kirkwood (1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr. off Hwy. 88, Kirkwood, 209/258-4600, www.kirkwood.com, mid-June–Labor Day, $46) has what you need. Take a gorgeous guided trail ride out into the Mokelumne Wilderness. Pick a 1.5-hour or 2.5-hour ride, depending on your skill level and rear-end stamina.
For kids who want to get more serious about their riding while on vacation, check out the children’s Wrangler for a Day program. Kids spend most of the day caring for the horses with the experienced wranglers, plus they take a 90-minute ride through the forest.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition