Horseback Riding Vacation in Southern California's Coachella Valley

Horseback Riding Vacation in Southern California’s Coachella Valley

Smoke Tree Stables

The Coachella Valley in Southern California’s Sonoran desert offers some of the most spectacular desert floor and canyon for a horseback riding vacation. If it weren’t for agua caliente (hot springs) discovered here by the Cahuilla Indians in the area’s many palm oases, the entire valley and surrounding canyons would be unfit for prolonged and wide scale human habitation. But as Palm Springs and the surrounding desert community illustrates, this area is far from restrained when it comes to residential development. Thankfully, two factors have eased development pressures preserving the area’s natural beauty along with many wagon trails and foot paths quickly ascending from the desert into high desert and alpine terrain. One is the economy squelching speculative development and the other is active preservation efforts from groups ranging from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Bureau of Land Management, to the Friends of Palm Springs Mountains. Smoke Tree Stables is a direct beneficiary of this stewardship bordering Indian Canyons right on the edge of downtown Palm Springs.

Wranglers Match Horse to Rider on a Horseback Riding Vacation at Smoke Tree Stables

Wranglers Match Horse to Rider on a Horseback Riding Vacation at Smoke Tree Stables

Palm Springs Horseback Riding Vacation

Smoke Tree Stables is by no means the only game in town for horseback riding, but it is the most responsive and convenient facility right where residential Palm Springs backs up against lunaresque mountains and craggy canyons. These stables have been family owned and operated for over 60 years and it shows in their professionalism. It only takes a few minutes passing the lush back nine of adjacent Canyon Country Club to fully experience the rugged outback. In fact, during our trail ride, my horse Dutch trampled over several golf balls. Not to worry though, horseback riding trail sections that are within reach of of these telltale white spheres don’t last long and you’ll shortly have expansive views and desert tranquility for the remainder of your horseback ride. You can choose to go horseback riding for as little as an hour, all the way up to an all-day private horseback riding vacation, covering over 150 miles of equestrian trails.

Stay in a Smoke Tree Ranch Cottage for your Horseback Riding Vacation

Stay in a Smoke Tree Ranch Cottage for your Horseback Riding Vacation

One Hour Horseback Rides to Guest Ranch Overnight Stay

My wife and I chose the one hour horseback ride since we were limited by time, even on vacation, go figure. Our equitrekking route was a mix of gentle canyon beds, punctuated by steep climbs and occasional precarious cliff side jaunts. We saw a couple of coyotes, jack rabbits, and a lone hawk riding the solar vectors high above our horses. Our horseback riding  guide, Miguel, explained that coyotes, like the ones we saw frequently, venture into nearby residential developments searching for an easy meal in the form of errant cats, chihuahuas, and scraps out of unsecured garbage cans. During your horseback ride, be on the look out for lavender growing alongside the trail. Even if you visually miss it, it’s sweet aroma is sure to clue you in.

Well Maintained Property at Smoke Tree Ranch

Back at the ranch, the corrals are well maintained. Riding helmets are available, but not mandatory.  Our guide let us use a saddlebag for our camera and water bottles…very important any time of year while on a horseback riding vacation in the desert sun. One much appreciated perk at Smoke Tree Stables is that they have nice bathrooms not at all reminiscent of the wild west and imperative after jouncing around on horseback for at least an hour.

  • One Hour Trail Ride $50 pp – Leaves every hour (8:00am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm) – Takes you along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains
  • Two Hour Trail Ride $90 pp – The two hour horseback rides leave at (8:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm)- This is the more scenic horseback riding vacation, taking you through the Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation, passing through native palm canyons and crossing year-round streams.
Ride by natural streams on your horseback riding vacation at Smoke Tree Stables in Palm Springs

Ride by natural streams on your horseback riding vacation at Smoke Tree Stables in Palm Springs, California

Private Guided Horseback Riding Vacations at Smoke Tree Ranch

Smoke Tree offers custom-designed group packages which include picnic lunches or western cookout and entertainment. For a one-on-one horseback riding experience, or equestrians who don’t want to ride with a group, take advantage of a private guided trail ride. Stables are open 8 a.m-4 pm. Reservations are not required, but be sure to arrive at the stables 15 minutes prior to your scheduled horseback ride.

Take a Horseback Riding Vacation in Southern California's Coachella Valley in the Sonoran desert

Take a Horseback Riding Vacation in Southern California’s Coachella Valley in the Sonoran desert

Smoke Tree Ranch All Inclusive Horseback Riding Vacations

Smoke Tree Stables is located on the southwest corner of Smoke Tree Ranch.  While the author has not stayed overnight at Smoke Tree Ranch, the 400 acre ranch offers clean, comfortable cottages for overnight guests wishing to experience a horseback riding vacation surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains.

If You Go:

Smoke Tree Ranch (800) 787-3922

1850 Smoke Tree Lane, Palm Springs, CA 92264-1602

This was a guest post written by Steve Mirsky of Gastro Traveling.  Desert photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Horseback riding photo and Smoke Tree Ranch cottage photo courtesy of Smoke Tree Ranch website.