Special thanks to Travel Paso, Outback Trail Rides and Margarita Adventures for hosting our experiences in Paso Robles. The opinions I’m sharing reflect my genuine experience.
When I travel with my family, I set out to do two things:
- Have fun.
- Make memories.
Pretty simple, right? In most cases, yes. I will say, however, that it took us a few tries before we learned the key to having fun and making memories no matter where we go. There was this one time when–during a Caribbean cruise–our ship came to port in Barbados on a windy day. The seas were choppy and rough and our anticipated swimming with the turtles activity had to be cancelled. The tour operator offered us a land-based tour instead and–having no alternate plans–we went along. It was a big mistake. We were bored out of our minds riding around in the back of a tour van, listening and looking as the driver pointed out churches and historic buildings on the island. It was then and there that I realized that our family is not content watching the world go by out the window. We’d much rather go and do than sit and watch.
Our most recent travels took us to Paso Robles, a quaint wine country town on California’s central coast. It being a wine enthusiast’s dream destination, we made sure to stop in at plenty of tasting rooms to sip the bold flavors of Paso’s award-winning wines. And while we enjoyed chatting with tasting room attendants and fellow travelers at several wineries, we wanted to experience wine country from as many different perspectives as we could–not just from the tasting room counter. To that end, we set out to get a closer look at the gorgeous vineyard-covered hillsides in and around Paso (as the locals call it). We discovered two unique ways to do just that.
Vineyard Tour with Outback Trail Rides
For our first excursion, we met up with a real Australian cowboy by the name of Mick. Mick is the owner and operator of Outback Trail Rides. We met him one crisp morning at Calcareous Vineyard–a winery set high atop a hill with a view you wouldn’t believe. Mick wasted no time in saddling up his team of horses for our morning trail ride.
There were five of us in the group, including my eight-year-old son, Jayce. One of the nicest things about this particular tour company is that children as young as six are permitted to ride his or her own horse. In our case, Jayce rode “Bear.” Mick led the horse, but involved Jayce by letting him guide the reins every so often. It being Jayce’s first time riding horseback, he was beyond excited and hardly stopped talking the entire time. I wish I could say that I’m exaggerating but I’m certain Mick–who was definitely the quiet cowboy type–would back me up on that.
Jeff was assigned to “Montana,” because, of course, all knights in shining armor ride up on white horses.
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll notice the spurs on Mick’s boots. These were a point of fascination for Jayce. You’d think that having been born and raised in Tucson, the kid would have seen a real cowboy before. Not so much, apparently.
Our trail ride through the vineyards included brief stops for pictures in some of the most gorgeous spots on the property.
Mick graciously offered to take group shots for us.
From start to finish, the event lasted about two hours, with an hour-and-a-half of that being on the back of a horse. We went both up and down hilly terrain and were given full charge of our horses the whole time. Some of the horses (ahem, mine) were kind of pokey. Mick encouraged me to give him a nudge in the side to keep him going and I did, which led to several brief periods of trotting. That was fun, if not a bit bouncy.
At the close of his tours, Mick offers guests (ages 21+) complimentary tickets for a tasting at the Calcareous Vineyard. In a tour that will be announced soon, Mick will be leading a trail ride that will take guests to three wineries with stops for tastings at each along the way. You can bet that I have every intention of signing up for that one next time I’m in town!
Zipline experience with Margarita Adventures
For our second excursion, we went from riding through the vineyards to soaring above them. Yep, you guessed it: a zipline tour!
About twenty minutes south of Paso on the 101 lies the sprawling Santa Margarita Ranch. That, my friends, is where our adventure took place. We met in the town of Santa Margarita, at the Margarita Adventures headquarters. After quickly filling out some release forms, we boarded a bus and were on our way. The short trip included an informative narrated history of the town and the ranch itself. What I perhaps found most interesting was hearing about how Robert Mondavi fell in love with the ranch and planted 900 acres of grapes which, today, are used by the Ancient Peaks winery.
Once the bus dropped us at the first platform, guests were harnessed up and fitted with helmets. And then we were off on line number one!
The tour included eight lines, the final of which leaves guests dangling 125 feet above ground as they zip over a Pinot Noir vineyard on an 1800 foot line. In the middle of the tour there’s also one line where guests can attempt to drop a beanbag into a bucket on the ground. In spite of my rocket scientist husband’s projectile-related tips, I missed by a mile, but it was indeed a fun twist on a zipline tour. My favorite part about this adventure, though, was definitely the view. Just look at these rolling emerald hills.
And the majestic, sprawling oaks.
From start to finish, the tour was a feast for these desert-dwelling eyes of mine. At the end of the tour, we boarded the bus again for the return trip to the town of Santa Margarita. Along the way, our driver told us the true story of ghostly occurrences that have taken place at the ranch. I won’t spoil the story for you, but believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to be left wandering the property alone after dark.
After the tour, guests can head across the street to Ancient Peaks winery to taste wines made from the grapes of vineyards they just zipped over.
Such fun and unique ways to experience Paso’s vineyards from a different perspective, don’t you think? We had an awesome time! I’ll be sharing more about our trip to Paso in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, check out the Travel Paso fan page on Facebook for more information about Paso Robles tourism.
Where is the most unique place you’ve ever done a trail ride? Have you ever done a zipline tour?