Horse Camping at Joseph D. Grant County Park

We have some upcoming horse camping plans and I figured a one nighter at a local park would be a good chance to see how Eugene would deal with camping before setting out on more epic camping adventures. Although the campground is great, I was a little concerned about taking Eugene on the trails at Grant Ranch. This park allows dogs and bikes, which Eugene, as a Mustang, hasn’t seen much of yet.

While camping is a great way of relaxing, the prep work can be killer. Since we haven’t camped since October, we had to pull all the sheets and blankets and wash them and then clean out the truck, which was a mess. We also had to go through all of our camping supplies to make sure we had everything.  Subsequent trips shouldn’t be quite so much work.

We also had to buy groceries and do food prep. I’ve mentioned before, but the food is one of the best things about camping:

Since we weren’t trying to do a long ride, we even got to sleep in a bit on Saturday. Then it was off to the store to get some things we forgot and onwards to the barn to pack up the ponies. The ponies loaded okay. We had some issues with Eugene not wanting to load, but once I took his fly mask off, he hopped on. Nilla got on all right and arrived at the park without any injuries despite it being a very difficult, windy, slow and annoying drive. Every trip makes me hopeful that we’ve solved – or at least reached a compromise on – Nilla’s trailering issues.

We let the ponies chill out a bit while having our own late lunch and then we tacked up to hit the trails. Our first ride was almost the same as the last ride we did there last year. It’s an easy loop up onto a ridge and then down through the valley. The ridge trail is great; there are clear views down and across Silicon Valley:

All of the trails are nice, wide ranch roads with few rocks. The width was great for Eugene as he likes to fly sideways when presented with people. I think we ended up seeing one couple hiking the entire time so it wasn’t even necessary. The hills are nice and rolling and there’s some opportunities for shade. I really like trail riding here and wish the drive was easier so that we could do more day rides here.

We did run into one potential scare factor: cows. Last year, Shasta basically went unhinged at this park from cow terror. Eugene and Nilla were both a bit concerned about the first set of cows that were literally standing on the path and only moved when we yelled at them. We dismounted to go by and I then had to spend 15 minutes walking along looking for a spot to remount. I am working on a new saddle solution, but right now the treeless just slides sideways if I have to mount from the ground.


Te next set of cows was not nearly so concerning and we were able to ride on by.

While Nilla likes to drive me absolutely crazy by not drinking on rides, Eugene is turning into a really excellent endurance horse. He practically throws his head into every water we come across. Even scummy, gross water.

The whole park was like a postcard picture with the rolling green hills and sparkling blue skies with fluffy white clouds. From the ridges, you have views down into the valley and when you’re in the valley you can look up to the hills and mountains. You can even see Mt Hamilton Observatory. 
In addition to the scenic vistas, we saw lots of wildflowers including these pretty purple ones growing in the shade. 
Let’s pause here to talk about how stylish my helmet is. If you’ve been thinking to yourself “how can I best make myself look like an illustration from a vintage Children’s Garden of Verses?” Then DaBrim is the answer to all your problems. 
I actually bought this brim for my helmet about a year ago and then never used it. Mostly because it’s so unattractive. But I’m very inclined to sunburn even with copious applications of sunscreen and I lost my sunglass clip ons so I wanted to try it out. It works great. I’m not sure how much I’d recommend it due to just how terrible looking it is, but it works great. 
We finished our ride and then had the opportunity to spray down the horses with the campground water. We’re not allowed to wash at home so this was a rare opportunity. We though Eugene might freak out about the hose, being a wild Mustang and all, but no:
One of the really nice things about this campground is that they have a fenced pasture for the horses to enjoy. I walked the fence first to make sure it was all up with no opportunities for escape. Then I had my husband walk Eugene around the fence line so he knew where it was (we’ve never turned him out in wire fencing before and I had visions of our Mustang returning himself to the wild at a county park and having to explain that to the rangers). Then we turned them out. And they loved it. They rolled a bunch and then just went around stuffing grass in their faces. 
We did some face stuffing ourselves with chips and dip and then salmon and corn on the cob for dinner. After eating we hiked over to the bat boxes to watch the bats comes out at sunset.
Finally, we returned to the campsite for all important s’mores making and then settled in to relax and read before bed. As this post is already a bit long I’ll cover Sunday’s ride in my next post. Here’s the track for Saturday’s ride:
You can see that we missed turning on the gps for the first 1/3ish of a mile. We’re not making endurance time on trails, but that’s actually on purpose. While Eugene is very eager to go, he doesn’t have boots yet and he’s doesn’t really have the muscles to handle a hard ride. We walked most of this trail. He can actually walk almost 5mph so I think he could do an LD without Nilla as Nilla is slowing him down. This was my view for the majority of the ride: Eugene in the distance turning to watch Nilla slowly approach.
Joseph D Grant is one of my favorite places to trail ride and I also highly recommend the equestrian campground. If you trail ride, what’s your favorite place to go?

6 thoughts on “Horse Camping at Joseph D. Grant County Park

  1. Megan

    This is my dream, I'm trying to get my family to want to go horse camping this summer with me (my mom says "I go on vacation to escape the horses, not to bring them with me" lol, maybe my siblings will go with me).

    In this area I tend to default to Harvey Bear to trail ride, just because it's close by the barns and hauling in is super easy. I also like Calero and Santa Teresa, and that new place with just the one loop in northern Morgan Hill. I did Mt Madonna on TC last year but it's going to be way too steep for him, hopefully Calero will end up being a good place to go with him, and his first off property trail ride will be at Bear since they have that flat loop at the bottom of the hills near that one parking lot.

    I grew up in the trails behind Garrods though, so nothing really can beat those trails in my nostalgia-riddled mind! I need to steal my client's horse this summer and go out on the loop I used to do as a kid.

  2. Olivia

    You know that's where I board right? Like a 15 minute ride to Garrods. You could just come ride with us some time.

    I actually think Joseph D Grant and Harvey Bear are very similar: wide trails with rolling hills and cows. We're actually planning to go there this weekend.

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