In L.A. – the land of beaches, studios, and fantasy – you can be just about anything you want, including a cowboy or cowgirl (at least for an hour or two). A range of equestrian centers make it easy to learn the ropes and ride like a pro through canyons and forests. Kids can even celebrate their birthdays at some equestrian centers.
Here’s a sampling of kid-friendly stables offering lessons and wrangler-led trail rides through scenic terrain. Be sure to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Call ahead for reservations and show up about 45 minutes prior to riding time. Note that most equestrian centers accept cash or checks only.
Kid-friendly Horseback Riding Trails
Westside Riding School, Pacific Palisades
Guided trail rides meander through Will Rogers State Historic Park. Learn about the early 20th-century cowboy and actor’s life while riding on his beloved trails. The rides start by Bone Canyon in the historic zone, and head up in the mountains to Inspiration Point for views of the park, the Los Angeles basin, the ocean and Catalina Island. Minimum age: 8. Rates: $75 for about 50 minutes. There’s also a $12 parking fee.
Sunset Ranch Hollywood
Saddle up for guided tours through Griffith Park with views of downtown L.A., the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign. Join a one- or two-hour guided tour or opt for rides that include lunch, dinner or BBQ. Minimum age: 8. Rates start at $40/one hour. Children’s parties include a 30-minute group lesson and a one-hour riding tour . $50 per person.
Griffith Park Horse Rentals, at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank
If you don’t mind being part of a large group, these gentle riding tours meander through scenic Griffith Park. There’s also a three-hour Sunset Dinner Ride to a Mexican restaurant. Minimum age: six-years-old and four feet tall. Kids too young or small to meet the requirement can still saddle up on a hand-led ride with a guide. Parents are welcome to walk alongside them. 20 minutes/$25. Regular trail ride rates vary depending on weight but start at $25/hour under 200 pounds. Dinner rates are extra.
Malibu Riders, Agoura Hills
Choose from three guided tours (two offered daily) through the mountains. The one-hour ($50) Malibu Creek State Park trail ride, for ages 8 and older, starts at Paramount Ranch National Park and continues through a majestic forest that opens up to stunning views of Malibu Lake. The two-hour ride ($100) continues deeper into the Santa Monica Mountains. The popular, one-hour Paramount Ranch ride visits a western town used in hundreds of movies and winds through forests with streams and wildlife. Keep your eyes open for deer and coyotes. Minimum age: 6. $50/per person. The Zuma Canyon trail traverses a forest with ocean and island views. Minimum age: 6. Rate: $75.
Wagon Wheel Ranch, Palos Verdes
One and two-hour horseback scenic rides are offered year-round. While taking in ocean and canyon views, keep your eyes open for red-tail hawks, squirrels, blue jays and rabbits. In addition, hoof care and the proper way to bridle and unbridle a horse are demonstrated before and after your trail ride. Rates: From $50/hour. Birthday parties and horse camps are also available.
Situated at the summit of the Santa Monica Mountains bridging Topanga to Malibu, the ranch offers several picturesque guided tours, which include economy, sunset and moonlight rides. The 60-minute economy rides are ideal for first timers and children who prefer easy trails. The two-hour ride includes a gourmet picnic. Birthday parties for ages 6 and older include a guided trail ride and an hour of festivities at the facility. Minimum age for trail riding: 6. Rates vary depending on weight.