Awaken your adventurous spirit with horseback riding, a 4×4 safari ride, kayaking, & more
Driving past the gate of Shangri-La Ranch, it’s obvious this will be no ordinary adventure. John Jardine greets visitors — he’s a burly man with a smile on his face that puts to rest any fears about taking a 4×4 open air safari ride across the hidden back roads and secret hideaways of this sprawling 100-acre ranch.
Jardine loads our gear into his Toyota, a rustic, open-air 4×4 truck he purchased years ago from his uncle, and talks about his love of the land and the love of his life, Victoria McBride.
“My family has lived in this area since 1864,” he says. “When Victoria and I met back in 1999 we were both looking for some property. Little did we know we were looking at the same ranch; she purchased it and now we are stewards of the land at this ranch she named Shangri-La.”
And aptly named it is: McBride says Shangri-La Ranch is “a mythical, magical place where life approaches perfection.” Adds Jardine, “Pack a snack, lace up your boots, and bring a camera — we are just 20 minutes from town, but we are in a whole different world.”
McBride welcomes us with open arms and gives us a brief tour around the main house area. Abundant flora and greenery are revealed, along with stunning views of Santa Margarita Lake just below the property — and we feel an immediate sense of calm and serenity.
As dozens of pigmy goats, chickens and roosters wander nearby, McBride hands us hay to feed the horses, saying, “The horses and goats have free run of Shangri-La.”
A brief orientation includes how to react if we see wildlife on the ranch — deer, bear, cougars, bald eagles and other beautiful birds. Jardine leads us back to the vehicle and takes us on a tour that showcases forestland, green meadows, and ancient rock formations. The 4×4 Safari Adventure, says McBride, is ideal for those whose age or physical limitations may disallow experiencing Shangri-La via horseback.
McBride acquired her love of horses and other animals from her parents while growing up on their ranch in the Bay Area. Her devotion extends to the way she cares for the land and the world around her. She later lived in Santa Cruz, Tahoe, and Oregon where she led trail rides and camping adventures. Her eventual path to Shangri-La Ranch was paved with stints as an artist, grocery store clerk, correctional officer, and trail riding company owner.
Jardine parks, hands us walking sticks and we hike up a hill where we view rock formations and abundant greenery as McBride shares more about the horse-riding aspect of the ranch.
“I do instructional trail riding and I am all about safety. I personally educate each rider before we set out on the trails,” she says. “I talk about riding humanely and allow riders time to bond with their horses. I want my horses to get the treatment they deserve and the riders to have a memorable experience.”
That experience includes discovering McBrides’ favorite hideaways on the ranch and taking in some of the most amazing and expansive views along the Central Coast.
Petting zoo, lake, & fishing
In addition to the 4×4 safari and horseback rides, McBride and Jardine invite families to visit the ranch and enjoy their petting zoo area free of charge.
“If they just want to come out and see the animals, that is wonderful,” McBride says. “It’s a real farm experience out here.”
A few years ago, McBride implemented a riding option that allows parents to rent a horse and lead their child in a smaller environment close to the corrals.
Eager to get out on the water or do some fishing? The couple happily arranges for kayak or pontoon boat rentals down the road at Santa Margarita Lake, a favorite of bass fishing tours. “That’s a testament to how ideal it is for fishing; we have plenty of people who come out to fish on the lake year-round,” McBride says.
Whether it’s horseback riding, a 4×4 safari adventure, an afternoon aboard a kayak or a visit to the petting zoo, a trip here is a must for those visiting the Central Coast — and it’s a favorite of locals as well.
McBride and Jardine are happy to pick up guests at the nearby KOA Campground or other lodging facilities in the area with advance arrangements.
For your next great adventure, give Victoria McBride a call at (805) 438-3895. Check out more photos of Shangri-La Ranch at shangrilaranch.net.
— Meagan Friberg