Zmudowski State Beach, Monterey County, California
Closest city: Monterey, California.
Travel distance: 25 miles.
Directions: From Monterey, head northwest on Olmsted Rd. Turn left onto Henderson Way. Turn left onto Garden Rd. Take the first right onto California State Route 68 West. Keep right at the fork, and follow signs for California State Route 1 North/Santa Cruz. Merge onto CA-1 North. Turn left onto CA-1/Cabrillo Highway. (You’ll see signs for Watsonville/Santa Cruz.) Turn left onto Struve Rd. Turn left onto Giberson Rd. Giberson Rd. turns right and becomes Zmudowski Beach State Park.
Terrain: The dunes at Zmudowski are mostly free of jagged rocks and ocean debris. The sand slopes gently from the ocean.
History: In 1950, Mary Zmudowski, a local Watsonville schoolteacher, donated the beach to the state of California. Her aim was to share her love of the ocean, fishing, birding, and horseback riding with locals and travelers alike. More recently, a natural preserve was opened to the public at the Pajaro River Estuary. The beach is currently operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Top ride: Look for Moss Landing from CA-1. This long sandy beach provides riders with access to some of the most glorious coastline views in the world. On this six-mile roundtrip ride, you’ll see a variety of wildlife such as seals, sea otters, and wild birds from the water line. You’ll take in the views along the shoreline, traipsing over sand dunes, and exploring hundreds of acres of artichoke fields.
Amenities: If you can’t bring your own horse, you can still ride on Zmudowski State Beach through Seahorse Equestrian Tours (831/763-7945; www.seahorseequestriantours.com).
Contact: California Parks and Recreation, (831) 649-2836, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=572.
Copper Canyon Trail
Closest city: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Travel distance:50 miles.
Directions: From Santa Fe, take U.S. Route 84/U.S. Route 285 north to Espanola. Follow signs to Abiquiu and Chama. When you get to Hernandez, take 84 toward Abiquiu. After you pass through Abiquiu, look for sign for the elementary school, 1.5 miles north of town. Turn onto the elementary school property. Pass the school, and park on the dirt road. The trailhead is just behind the school.
Terrain:Copper Canyon is a 10-mile-deep box canyon with dramatic rock formations. The canyon bottom is a wide arroyo, lined with steep cliffs in a variety of desert colors. Sage and mesquite are plentiful.
History: Copper Canyon is ancient gorge, created at the same time as the Grand Canyon. Rock formations in Copper Canyon range in age from 25 to 60 million years old. A fossil of the largest prehistoric insect on record was discovered here.
The canyon was given its name for the hand-dug copper mines still visible along the trail. The nearby town of Abiquiu was the home of renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe. More recently, Copper Canyon has been a popular spot with Hollywood filmmakers.
Top ride: The Copper Canyon Trail follows an arroyo that cuts through a 25-million-year-old volcanic ash deposit known as the Plaza Blanca formation. As you ride, you’ll see rock formations that are millions of years old. Once you hit the fault line, the scenery changes to huge cliffs made up of tumbled rocks 500 feet thick, deposited here 40 million years ago in a flash flood. You’ll continue through the arroyo to a 60-million-year-old clay formation. Keep your eyes open for petrified wood, along with five hand-dug copper mines. One of the mines, about 90 minutes into the canyon, provides a good, shady spot to tie your horse and enjoy lunch. Keep riding for a couple more hours, and you’ll come to an artesian well.
Map: You can purchase a map at the United States Forest Service Espanola Ranger District (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/santafe/recarea/?recid=75442).
Contact: Debbie Spickerman, president of the Backcountry Horsemen of Santa Fe, (505) 753-3531; www.bchnm-santafe.org.
Lady Hawk Farm
Closest city: Tampa, Florida.
Travel distance: 60 miles.
Directions: From South Tampa, take the Florida State Rd. 589 Toll North/Veterans Expressway ramp to Florida State Rd. 60 West/Clearwater. Keep right at the fork, and continue toward Florida 589 Toll North. Merge onto Florida 589 Toll North. Take the exit toward U.S. Route 98 South/Ponce De Leon Blvd. Merge onto US-98 South/Ponce De Leon Blvd. Turn left onto County Rd. 491/Citrus Way. Turn right onto County Rd. 480/West Stage Coach Trail. Turn left onto South Flutter Terrace, which becomes East Ridge Lane. Turn right onto South Forestline Ave. Lady Hawk Farm is located on the left-hand side.
Terrain: Lady Hawk Farm is directly adjacent to Withlacoochee State Forest, which offers 40,000 acres of sandy, wooded, hilly horse trails. The area is known for its rolling hills within a pristine forest locale. The forest is home to an abundance of wildlife, including turkey, deer, tortoise, and a wide variety of birds.
History: The federal government acquired Withlacoochee State Forest from private landowners between 1936 and 1939. The USFS managed the forest until a lease-purchase agreement in 1958 transferred the property to the state of Florida.
Top ride: Lady Hawk Farm offers the five-hour Tillis Hill guided ride for trail riders on their own horses. The ride culminates with inspiring views of the Withlacoochee Forest from Tillis Hill, the third-highest peak in Florida. Stop for a break at the top of the hill, and enjoy your lunch while viewing a rock mine, water and contoured pines.
Amenities: If you prefer to leave your horse at home, the farm offers well-trained horses that suit riders of all experience levels. Facilities include a ranch-house cabin, playground, swimming pool, spa, and barbecue grills.
Map: None available.
Contact: Lady Hawk Farm, 10542 South Forestline Ave., Inverness, FL 34452; (866) 892-4797; email@example.com; www.ladyhawkfarm.com.