May 14, 2013 7:43 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Madonna Inn Trail Rides

You've probably seen it hundreds of times, maybe even thousands, if your commute takes you past the Madonna Inn. We're talking about that big beautiful mountain called Cerro San Luis.

Maybe you've even hiked up the hill to the peak. Well that journey got a bit easier a few months ago. And it offers up a whole new perspective of how there really is No Place Like Home.

It's as iconic of a representation of San Luis Obispo is the Inn that sits below it. There's a reason the image of Cerro San Luis is plastered on most post cards, pamphlets and pictures aimed at luring tourists to SLO-town. It's spectacular, even from the ground.

It's even more so if you hoof it up the hill toward the top, and that is exactly what you can now do seven days a week without much effort.

The Madonna Inn started offering horseback trail rides to guests by special arrangement last summer. This summer it's a full-time operation and you don't have to be a guest to take advantage of the opportunity. "We have about 20 trail horses and we can easily accommodate a group of about 15 riders at a time" says Haddie Stella Tal is head wrangler.

Haddie has led rides all over the country but says there's no doubt there isn't a prettier place to do so than right here. "There's just so much to see. You get the ocean, you have the beautiful Laguna Lake and this mountain to ride on." she says. "It's like horse heaven."

And while you may be familiar with the trails that wind their way up and around the mountain that hikers, cyclists and athletes of all kinds use daily, the route you take up on these journeys doesn't intersect all with those. And the journey happens at a lazy leisurely pace. "We do a two hour ride that actually rides to the very top of the mountain." Haddie says. "Even people who've been here locally who have actually hiked to the top say it's completely different when you're on a horse."

You really do feel like you are out on the range, with wildlife and spectacular vistas that provide the only proof you really are right in your own backyard. "We have a resident family of about 15 deer that kind of meander around and we can ride through them, and lots of roadrunners and some bob cats." says Haddie. "Sometimes we might see a cayote.".

I know what you are thinking. Heading up a mountain on a horse can be a bit intimidating for novices, but Haddie's got you covered even if you've never saddled up before. "It doesn't matter if you've ridden 1000 times or never. We'll get a horse to fit you."

Most people opt for the hour ride, but if you've having fun, and you're feeling a little adventurous, go ahead and book the two-hour. Either way, you'll likely feel mighty grateful by the time you loop down over Lopez lake and head for home. Because there's no place like it, not when you live on the Central Coast.



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