Visit the Morgan Horses at Point Reyes

April 4, 2010

Morgan horseOne of our favorite places to go out in Point Reyes is the Bear Valley Visitor Center near Olema. It's a justifiably popular family destination for a number of reasons: the visitor center with its dioramas and nature exhibits, short trails perfect for a hike with small children, an expansive picnic area with tables and barbecue grills, and a working Morgan horse ranch.

We always make a point of visiting the Point Reyes Morgan Horse Ranch on our outings to the area. Combined with another short trail like the Earthquake Trail or the one to the Kule Loklo Miwok village, it makes for a managable hike with little kids. Of course there's something to do and see at the end of the trail, too, which is a plus.

The Morgan Horse Ranch is run by the National Park Service, and rangers use the horses at parks all of the country to patrol the back country and wilderness areas. Morgan horses are considered the first American breed of horse, and are prized for their sturdy nature and calm temperament. Famous Morgan horses in American history include Confederate general Stonewall Jackson's Little Sorrel, Union cavalry commander Philip Sheridan's Rienzi, and Comanche, the sole survivor of George Armstrong Custer's command at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Morgan horseTo get there, head west from the visitor center out past the parking lot. The aptly named Morgan Trail leads up a small hill to the ranch. At half a mile, it's a managable walk for almost anyone, and there are accessible handicapped parking spaces up near the ranch if needed. At the ranch, there are exhibits of old farm equipment, the history of Morgan horses, and of equestrian equipment. Several of the buildings are open to the public, and of course you can visit the horses, who live in paddock just past the barn.

There are always several horses hanging around. They're friendly and will usually come over to say hello, but make sure you mind the signs that say "Do not feed—horses may bite." if you're lucky, you'll run into a park volunteer who'll let you meet her horse and pet it, which is always exciting for the kids.

After you're finished at the horse ranch you can continue on the short Woodpecker Trail (a mile or so round-trip) to see some nature or head back down the hill to the parking lot. Restroom facilities and drinking water are located down the hill, too. It's definitely worth the trip—and even repeat visits, so make sure to check it out when you're in the area.