What Do You Need?
Our tour is easy and comfortable, but you should still be prepared for the experience by bringing along a few of your own things.
- Please wear comfortable attire and closed-toed walking shoes
- Bring a hat and sunscreen to stay safe from harmful UV sun rays. For optimal sun protection, wear clothes that are light but cover your body.
- Stay hydrated by packing a water bottle. If you drink all of your water, don’t worry! We provide refills.
- Don’t forget to bring a camera and binoculars to enhance your experience and viewing pleasure. If you forget, we will also have binoculars to share.
We want all of our patrons to enjoy their time as much as possible. To ensure your comfort and relaxation, we have a couple of things that may or may not apply to you: First, all participants should be in good physical condition and able to participate in moderate short-duration hikes. Second, if you have health concerns or conditions that will affect your heart or legs, please consult a physician prior to joining the tour.
What you Can Expect On Our Guided Nature Tour
When you join us for our wildlife tours, be prepared for the experience of exploration without ever leaving Santa Margarita Ranch! We want to offer complete transparency, so we have outlined three of our key points for this nature walk. You can expect:
- A three-hour guided nature tour – this tour is led by staff naturalists, and the tour itself illuminates the diverse wildlife, native plants, and rugged beauty of the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.
- A Humvee ride and light hiking – Our nature and wildlife tour includes an adventurous ride on our vintage Humvee as well as easy-paced hike. Not all hiking has to be a challenge, so enjoy this laid-back exploration of nature. This hike is ideal for those who want to experience nature without being uncomfortable.
- Amazing sights and insights – The tour observes a bald eagle’s nest site and native California’s birds of prey, as well as a walk through a riparian habitat to our education site. Here, you will learn about how natural systems and life cycles connect us all.
Take a Walk With The Wild
What Nature Does For You
It’s no secret that nature is good for our health and happiness, positively impacting our physical and mental health. There are a growing number of studies that put forward evidence that connecting with nature simply makes us happier people — and this is something that nature enthusiasts can all agree on. This doesn’t mean that you have to go on grueling hikes twice a week to appreciate nature, or leave society for two weeks and live as a mountain man. All you have to do is get out and go for a walk, making our Nature and Wildlife Tour perfect for anyone who wants to do just that!
SOME UNEXPECTED WAYS YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM NATURE INCLUDE:
NATURE LIMITS YOUR STRESS
Nature limits your stress – Even just viewing nature can reduce fear, anger, stress, and increase pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature makes us feel better emotionally and contribute to our physical sense of wellbeing. Research done in hospitals, schools, and offices, has found that even a simple plant in a room can significantly impact stress and anxiety. Plus, even smelling natural scents like freshly cut grass, flowers, or pine trees is free aromatherapy that helps us feel calmer and more relaxed.
IT STRENGTHENS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Breathing in phytoncides, the airborne chemicals produced by plants, can increase our levels of white blood cells, which help us fight off infections and diseases. Being outdoors also contributes to our daily dose of vitamin D, which is essential for a well-functioning body. It prevents osteoporosis, reduces inflammation, absorbs calcium, and more. While vitamin D can be found in some foods, we get 90 percent of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
YOU FEEL HAPPIER
Being exposed to nature can improve attention capacity, mood, memory, vitality, and reduce mental fatigue. Even more compelling is the fact that connecting with nature has been shown to correlate with a greater sense of life satisfaction, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and a lower level of anxiety. According to psychologists, exposure to nature can help us minimize the effects of societal pressures and helps us remember the important things like relationships, sharing, and community.
Nature helps people control their symptoms of physical illnesses and mental health disorders – Nature isn’t a cure for diseases, but for those who interact with nature, spend time in it, experience it, and appreciate it are able to reap the benefits of feeling happier and healthier. For people suffering from physical illnesses or mental health disorders, interacting with nature can help people control their symptoms or even recover alongside other forms of medication.
A greater appreciation for nature – Being in nature and participating in knowledge-based activities can lead to a greater sense of connection with nature. The more people that care for the environment and value the positive impact it has on their lives, the more they will want to protect their local environment from ecological destruction.
Santa Margarita Ranch
As a part of the wildlife tour, we will be exploring the wilderness and history of Santa Margarita Ranch. It is one of the oldest and continuously operated cattle ranches in California. It is deeply rooted in the traditions of early California rancho hospitality and continues to host a wide range of events, like weddings, festivals, and fundraisers. The ranch works to practice sustainable practices in producing natural beef and award-winning wines. Before it became the ranch we know today, however, it was home to Native Americans for thousands of years. The fertile valley soils, mountain forests, abundant wildlife, and plentiful water brought tribes like the Salinan and Chumash to the ranch before Franciscan missionaries settled there.
Once there, the friars established Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia as an “assistance mission” between the Mission San Luis Obispo to the south and Mission San Miguel to the north. The Asistencia building, which served as a farmhouse, chapel, lodging accommodation, and granary during the Mission period, is regarded as the first brick-and-mortar structure in California and is also registered as a California Historical Landmark. The original building is still standing, although it is covered by a protective barn to maintain its remaining structural integrity. The ranch house, which served as a hub for festivity and hospitality on Santa Margarita Ranch, also still stands today.
The history of the ranch can be divided into three periods, each distinct in their own way for how they progressed the use of the ranch. The first is the Mission Period, which started with the establishment of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. The period marked a monumental shift in the local landscape and human-nature dynamic as the peoples’ lifestyle changed from hunting and gathering to farming and animal husbandry. This culture change impacted the Native Americans in immediate, and at times, cruel ways. The Rancho Period began when Mexico secured its independence from Spain in 1822. The ranch became a place for General Jose Castro and Pio Pico, the Mexican Governor of California, to meet and strategize at a time of hostility between the Mexican and American governments. The Mission properties were privatized and more than 17,000 acres, including what is now known as Santa Margarita Ranch, was granted to Joaquin Estrada. Estrada would host legendary fiestas and rodeos on the ranch, but after 11 years, he had to sell the ranch to the Murphy family due to drought and debt.
This brings us to the third period of the ranch, the United States Period. During this time, the ranch prospered in the hands of Patrick Murphy, who was instrumental in bringing the Southern Pacific Railroad to the area, which led to the birth of the town of Santa Margarita. Just like Estrada, Murphy hosted large rodeos and fiestas, maintaining the hospitable reputation of the ranch. Since Murphy, it had passed through several ownerships before landing in the hands of the three longtime local families who care for the land today. They are dedicated to advancing the heritage of the land as a ranch and a vineyard.
Immerse Yourself in the Rich History and Stunning Landscape
Santa Margarita Ranch has a rich and deep history, with roots going back for decades. Not only does our Nature and Wildlife Tour give you the opportunity to learn more about the ranch, but it gives you the opportunity to unplug from the stress of everyday life and enjoy the beauty of the environment. Contact us today to book a tour, and if you’re looking for something for more of a thrill, then check out our kayak and zipline tours.
Wildlife Hummer Tour and Educational Trail Walk
Take a break from the stress of work or school and learn something about the animals of Santa Margarita. Our nature walks and tours give you the chance to escape reality and explore the natural world around you! With this wildlife tour, you will be escorted to unique habitats before taking a walk with the wild to explore nature on foot!
Get in Touch with Nature