Willamette Coast Ride in Oregon
Learn about a multi-day horseback riding trek along Oregon’s Pacific Coast.
by Lindley Leahy
My father-in-law, legendary Irish horseman Willie Leahy helped to kick off our first season this spring for the Willamette Coast Ride. The ride is a six day, six night inclusive riding vacation. Our idea was to ride from the Foothills of the Coast Range, follow old forest roads, the Nestucca and Little Nestucca Rivers southwest, summit several mountains, and reward ourselves with a ride on the pristine Oregon coast. Our return back to the valley finalized with a relaxing ride in the beautiful rolling vineyard land. It is a wonderful adventure!
For one not familiar with coastal rain forests, this is an experience not to be missed. This ride follows the Nestucca River from the Willamette Valley to the Pacific Coast. To this day, this part of the Oregon Coast has remained preserved and under-populated lending it well to experience on horseback.
One of the things I appreciate on this ride is the quiet. Often, it is only the sounds of your horse you hear, giving you time to take a step back from technology. Horses are such amenable creatures, taking us places that most of us would find too tedious to walk and allowing us to enjoy the view along the way.
The Coast Range runs North-South and is between the Willamette Valley and the Pacific. With very temperate winters, this rainforest is what many picture as an enchanted forest, and it is largely preserved and quiet–– the perfect place to unplug from technology and feel immersed in nature.
The forest portions of the ride include streams, mountain terrain, and trotting and cantering old logging roads as appropriate. We have nice lunches that are brought out to us on the trail in quiet spots along the way. The photo opportunities are everything from giant “grandfather” pines, tiny forest flowers, sword ferns and lichen with views from the tops of mountains, some with the Pacific as the backdrop.
After three days traversing the coast range and riding approximately 30 miles, riders spend a day horseback riding on the beach, and it is spectacular. There is something wild about the Pacific on the Oregon coast; it feels untamed and free with an immense beach. The weather is often very different in each beach town and can be foggy and misty or clear and sunny. Proposal rock and proposition rock are both interesting to see from a horse. We ride to the end of the Little Nestucca River where it empties into the Pacific, so we feel we have heard a story that the river has told us. There are some gorgeous ocean sunsets to enjoy from your beachfront condo.
On return to the Willamette Valley, we ride on historic Foothills Farm. The farm itself once was a very large dairy and sheep farm that has been divided up over the years. Our farmland is comprised mainly of the productive, fertile flat land, which is excellent grazing and is bordered by vineyards all around. Gran Moraine Vineyard, which is to our South, is owned by Kendall Jackson, and Resonance Vineyard is to our west. It is owned by Loius Jadot. We ride throughout our farm and several neighbors’ and enjoy incredible views of the rolling vineyards with the Coast Range as the perimeter. We have lunch in the red bunkhouse at our farm. This is where the cowboys that worked on the dairy once lived.
Our final day’s riding is at Willakenzie Estate, yet another gorgeous example of Oregon wine country. The vineyard is quite steep with enormous views of the area but also has peaceful oak savanna land, longhorn cattle and a large pond to ride through. We have a catered lunch brought in from the delicious chefs at the Horse Radish Café in Carlton and wine taste at the estate tasting room following our ride.
It is always difficult to end the journey and return back to our normal, often rushed lives, but I feel more enriched having met and gotten to know unique and fun people and shared this beautiful place with them by horseback.
How you can go: Learn about these Equestrian Holidays in the Pacific Northwest by visiting the Willamette Coast Ride website.