Hiking San Luis Obispo and More
Stellar San Luis Obispo Outdoor Activities
Warm, sunny days, cool nights, mountains and beaches, and friendly people are good enough reasons to visit San Luis Obispo County. But you may want to venture into the great outdoors. For many people, a relaxing walk on the beach, a trip to see the famous elephant seal rookery, or a short walk at the Elfin Forest are enough. But if you have come seeking adventure, you will find more than enough to keep you entertained in the Morro Bay area.
San Luis Obispo County boasts some of the best views from hiking trails of any in the country! There are many well-maintained trails with a variety of difficulties, microclimates, and scenery. A few of the most popular and convenient hikes are listed briefly below. For more complete information, click here.
Montana de Oro State Park
A local favorite among outdoor activities in San Luis Obispo, with great ocean views and a variety of easy and moderate hikes.
Montana de Oro State Park is probably your best bet for close hiking and nature walks close by, with nine major trails of varying difficulty, terrain and views. This state park is miraculously free of charge. There are many places to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of waves crashing against beaches and cliffs. The Coon Creek trail (click here for directions) is an excellent choice for a hot day. This trail follows a lush creek bed up from the coast for several miles with very little uphill. Shade from the native trees and cool water flowing next to the trail keep you cool. You can also choose to hike on a trail that follows the coast the entire way from the campgrounds to the end of the park. Finally, for the adventurous, try climbing the Ridge Trail, closer to park entrance. It will take you up several hundred feet for a panoramic view of Morro Rock, the entire park, and the bay.
Morro Bay State Park
An easy hike on the edge of town with great views.
In Morro Bay, the hike up Black Hill offers spectacular views as well as a modest cardio workout. This trail can be accessed from the Morro Bay State Park campground parking lot (click here for directions), which is five minutes on foot from the resort. The total hike is only about three miles roundtrip and should take less than an hour and a half at a relaxed pace.
Bishop Peak Open Space
Fun hikes, great views, large open spaces.
The trail up Bishop Peak (1200 foot elevation gain, 4.4 miles round trip) traverses several microclimates to arrive at panoramic views of the city. This trail is a local favorite for those who would really like to get some cardio exercise while taking in the best view in the county. The 360 degree view includes Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, the city of San Luis Obispo, and the vineyards of the Edna and San Luis valleys. For a more relaxed hiking experience, try the Felsman Loop, well marked with signs). This hike is easy to moderate with few uphill sections. It winds through oak woodland, chaparral, and expansive grassland areas. Red-tailed hawks and other birds sail overhead, hitching a ride on the breeze that comes up from the ocean.
Los Padres National Forest
Wide range of hiking options for every type of outdoor enthusiast.
Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly two million acres in the rugged coastal mountains of central California. The forest stretches across almost 220 miles from the Big Sur Coast in Monterey County to the western edge of Los Angeles County. Here you can find a Trail Guide that maps out 24 adventurous trails in this vast forest. The Cerro Alto trailhead (directions) offers hikes just about a half hour's drive from the resort. The trailhead is nestled in a lush riparian valley's running creek makes this area dense with trees, green plants, and bird life year round. Starting at over 1000 ft (about 300m) in elevation, these hikes offer glimpses of some of the life in the higher elevations of San Luis Obispo County. You can hike to the top of Cerro Alto Peak, which at 2600ft (~800m) is one of the highest peaks in the western part of the county.
Harmony Headlands State Park
Harmony Headlands State Park is a 784 acre coastal park located approximately five minutes north of the coastal community of Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County on Highway One. A one and a half mile trail from the parking lot extends west to coastal marine terrace grassland with steep hills and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. As part of your day trip to Harmony Headlands, be sure to check out the tiny hamlet of Harmony (Population 18). Once the site of an old creamery, today the historic structures have been artfully re-purposed to house a glassblowing studio, blacksmith's gallery, garden shop, pottery store, music studio and a cafe. Harmony Glassworks offers one-on-one classes on glass blowing that are truly spectacular and we highly recommend taking part in one during your visit.
San Luis Obispo County offers world class mountain biking and excellent road bike opportunities. Mountain trails are easily accessed from downtown San Luis Obispo, Highway 101, and Montana de Oro State Park. Several road ride loops offer an alternative to off-road riding, taking you through quaint beach towns and villages of the Central Coast with relatively few hills. The Bob Jones Bikeway, accessed from Highway 101 near Avila Hot Springs, is a local favorite, offering several miles of peaceful riding along San Luis Obispo creek away from motor vehicles. This path ends in the charming little beach town of Avila, an excellent place for a lunch stop or even some wine tasting. For more information on mountain trails and road rides, contact the SloPokes or SLOBC, two local biking clubs.
The waves in Morro Bay are great for beginning and intermediate surfers If you have a board and wetsuit, bring it along, or you can rent one at several surf shops in town, and arrange for a lesson too. In the bay proper waves tend to be smaller and are excellent for learning, while the big waves lie to the north and south (click here for map of surfing locations in the area). For a great day of waves and soft sand, head out to the sand spit at Montana de Oro State Park. Be sure to grab the latest surf report!
Fishing and Sailing
Long before Morro Bay established itself as a resort town, it was renowned for its excellent fishing. The ocean here offers a wide variety of fish depending on season and water temperature. Charter a boat for a day on the water at Virg's Fishing, 1215 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442, 805-772-1222 or through Bob's Sportfishing. Sailing the Central Coast is a great way to see areas that aren't reachable by car or foot. The Morro Bay Yacht Club, located at 541 Embarcadero in Morro Bay, (805-772-3981) is a great place to get in touch with boat enthusiasts who always need crew. If you are experienced, you may want to join in a race. The yacht club also offers sailing classes for those who already have the desire but haven't got the skills.
Learning to kayak in an area with fairly calm waters such as the estuary or Morro Bay can be fun family experience. Kayaking the Morro Bay Estuary is perhaps the best way to see this serene nature preserve. The labyrinthine channels through the low tide of the estuary make for hours of casual fun as you paddle past birds, fish, and invertebrates that most people never get to see. Kayaks can be rented from Kayak Horizons in Morro Bay on an hourly or daily basis. Or, you can organize a guided trip through Central Coast Outdoors or Sea for Yourself Adventures just up the road in Cambria. These organizations can get you outfitted and guide you to some of the more interesting places for kayaking.
If you are away for the weekend and looking for some good rock, San Luis Obispo County will be happy to accommodate. Several climbing areas are within less than a half-hour's drive from the resort and offer wonderful single pitch sport leads or top roping. Cabrillo Peaks (on the way to Montana de Oro from the resort) offers single pitch climbs from 5.4 to 5.11 which can be top roped. Great open views make this a local favorite on a sunny day. For more information on climbing areas and finding local partners, go to www.climbingslo.org which has routes listed as well as some great photos.