The Central Coast is a hiker’s paradise, with thousands upon thousands of acres available for exploration in every corner of the county. From cool, shady oak forests to warm mountaintops to coastal bluff trails, there is always a hike available to suit your mood and fitness level. Below are a few of our favorite hikes around SLO County.
This iconic mountain centerpiece in San Luis Obispo is as popular as it is for a reason. Hike the slightly strenuous 1.75 mile (each way) trail through meadows, oak forest, and rocky chaparral to reach the 1,559ft summit where cool winds blow in from the coast. Panoramas of the the entire city, the Santa Lucia Mountains, and the infamous ridge of dormant volcanoes known as The Seven Sisters await you, with views that extend to the Pacific Ocean.
Steeper and more strenuous than Bishop’s Peak but with extremely rewarding views, Valencia Peak sits 1,347ft above the coastal benchland of Moñtana de Oro State Park. Passing through coastal chaparral, the 4.5 mile round trip trail leads you along rocky ridges covered in California poppies to a summit that offers incredible views over the Estero Bay, extending up the coastline all the way to Big Sur.
Before you head over to Costco to restock on essentials for your home, head over to the trailhead just behind the shopping center to hike the 3 mile Froom Creek Loop of the Irish Hills Natural Reserve. Passing through the shade of oaks and eventually leading up to a trail that takes you to a series of ridges overlooking much of San Luis Obispo, with excellent views of the Seven Sisters and beyond. With 500ft of elevation gain, it’s just enough to get the heart pounding and the blood flowing, but won’t leave you too tired to get your shopping done afterward!
A favorite for those seeking a less strenuous (only 135 feet of elevation gain) but equally beautiful hike, Harmony Headlands just north of Cayucos leads you through mellow hills and a peaceful valley before arriving at the coastal bluffs. Here, you can walk the mostly flat 4.5 mile trail along the bluffs while watching migrating whales and pounding surf.
For those seeking a day trip up the coast, the beautiful drive along Highway 1 into Big Sur allows for a myriad of hiking options within the Los Padres Forest, from short coastal trails to overnight backpacking trips in the Santa Lucia Mountains. The Salmon Creek Trail is a popular destination for those traveling along Highway 1, as it offers a short 0.25 mile hike to observe the magnificent Salmon Creek Falls, or a longer 4-5 mile jaunt up the canyon where you’re rewarded with stunning views of the Big Sur coastline.