Sonoma Horseback Riding: Wine Country Trail Rides

Cowgirl Chriss Fife horseback riding in Alta Vista Vineyards in Sonoma, California with blue sky above.


“In riding a horse we borrow freedom,” that quote from Helen Thompson are words that I live by. In my Northern California city, I’m fortunate to live near wine country. Lucky for me, and you, I’ve discovered trail rides in Sonoma and Napa wine country with Sonoma Valley Trail Rides. There’s nothing better than horseback riding in California’s rolling hills with vineyards as your backdrop. In riding a horse, you might see wild turkeys, wild flowers or wildly large art sculptures. One thing that I guarantee you will see on your Sonoma wine country trail rides is happy, well cared for horses. It doesn’t get better than this.


 Sonoma Horseback Riding

Owner Michelle Rogers launched Sonoma Valley Trail Rides (SVTR) in her home town of Sonoma. Having grown up surrounded by Sonoma wine country and horses, it seemed a natural fit. The California cowgirl round up some of her favorite Quarter horses to show visitors Northern California wine country on horseback. As Sonoma wine blends with art, why not add horses into the mix?

Looking out to Alta Visa Vineyards in Sonoma, California from the back of a Quarter Horse. Enjoying trail rides in Sonoma Wine Country.
Alta Vista Vineyard views with Sonoma Valley Trail Rides. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

“This was a wonderful, relaxed adventure,” said Marcy Shoemaker of Detroit, Michigan. “The views from the tops of the hills were magnificent; well worth the trip! Our guides were very knowledgeable about the local winery.”


Michelle has put together a small herd of gentle horses that will take riders on wine country trail rides in both Sonoma and Napa Valley. My first horseback ride was at Alta Vista Vineyards in Sonoma County. Michelle trailers her well-mannered horses to the vineyard where riders meet their horse and try on cowboy boots, if needed. Rider are accompanied with experienced wranglers who know the history of the vineyards and the large pieces of art that may be spotted on your ride.

Kim Fields, Marcy Shoemaker, Jill Valavanis, Chriss Fife and Nancy D. Brown riding horseback at Alta Vista Vineyards in Sonoma wine country.
L to R: Kim Fields, Marcy Shoemaker, Wrangler Jill Valavanis, Wrangler Chriss Fife and Author Nancy D. Brown enjoying Sonoma wine country trail rides.

“I enjoyed the wonderful weather and beautiful views of the vineyard,” said Kim Fields of Monroe, Wisconsin. “I did not start horseback riding until I was 50,” noted Kim. Now at age 67 I am still enjoying horseback riding. You are never too old to enjoy the ride!”

Napa Vineyard Horseback Riding

My second time horseback riding with Sonoma Valley Trail Rides was just as rewarding as my first experience. This time I met Michelle and her wranglers at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa for The Art and Vineyard Experience. di Rosa Center is composed of both indoor and outdoor gallery spaces on 200 acres, featuring contemporary art from Northern California artists.


Artist Isabelle Truchon takes in Gordon Huether's Cactus Garden on display in the Sculpture Meadow at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in the Carneros district of Napa.
Equestrians enjoy The Art and Vineyard Experience on horseback at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa. Gordon Huether sculpture. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Napa Trail Rides

Our one hour trail ride was a walking horseback ride as the terrain is hilly and not meant for trotting. We rode by large scale artwork on display in the Sculpture Meadow at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. This was my second time to enjoy larger-than-life pieces of art from the back of a horse. It didn’t hurt that one of our trail guides is an artist herself and has a deep appreciation for many of these Northern California artists.


Equestrians Travis Laugeson and Isabelle Truchon approach artist Penny Michel's Wand sculpture that looks like an over-sized beaded bracelet, on the right-hand side of the trail.
Riders pass by artist Penny Michel”s ” Wand” on display in front of a huge heritage oak tree. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

“The views of the Napa Valley and vineyards were just amazing,” said Sonoma artist Isabelle Truchon. “My mount, Jack, was the perfect gentleman as we strolled along the hilly terrain admiring the art-all of it inspiring against the blue, green, and gold colors of the landscape I was in.”

I’ve ridden on California’s Central Coast trails and gone horseback riding through the vineyards near Portland, Oregon, but nothing beats this ride when it comes to art and California wine country.

Insider Tips:

Sonoma Valley Trail Rides offers multiple horseback riding venues. Pre-order a picnic lunch to accompany your horseback ride; eat at the picnic tables at di Rosa Center or the winery locations. Wine tasting is offered after your horseback ride at several Sonoma County locations.

Are you a movie buff? Look closely when you cruise down the gravel road to Alta Vista Vineyards. See if you can recognize one of the houses used in the movie Bottle Shock. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown and Sonoma Valley Trail Rides on Instagram.

Equestrian travel expert Nancy D. Brown riding Sammy the Paint horse with artist Mark di Suvero's large, red sculpture "For Veronica" at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art with Napa vineyards behind her.
Equine travel writer Nancy D. Brown in front of “For Veronica” artwork by Mark di Suvero on display in the Sculpture Meadow.

Need to know:

Sonoma Valley Trail Rides offers horseback rides in both Sonoma and Napa, California. There is a shorter ride available at Bartholomew Estate Winery in Sonoma.

Children must be 12 years and older to join Napa and Sonoma wine country trail rides. A small saddle bag is provided to carry your cell phone or water bottle. Leave purses and backpacks behind to enjoy your ride.

Prices vary depending on the location of the horseback ride. Admission is included to di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art with the cost of Napa trail rides.

All equestrians under 18 years of age are required to wear a horseback riding helmet which are provided free of charge. Close-toed shoes are recommended for horseback riding. Cowboy boots are available to use for a nominal fee.

Horseback riders Jill Valavanis, Michelle Rogers, Isabelle Truchon and Travis Laugeson on horseback above Artesa Vineyards and Winery in Napa, California.
Enjoying wine country trail rides with Napa vineyard views on horseback. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

SPECIAL OFFER: Mention WRITINGHORSEBACK when making your reservation with Sonoma Valley Trail Rides! (707) 343-5511


Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sonoma Valley Trail Rides and di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. Don’t forget to mention Writing Horseback when you book your Sonoma wine country trail rides.