Panoramic views, family-friendly trails & more – here are some great ideas for hiking around San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is rich with hiking trails that allow the public to experience the fresh air, wildlife, native vegetation and panoramic views of the coastline, valleys and mountains. The city has preserved thousands of acres of open spaces located at various locations in the city limits for the enjoyment of the public and to preserve the natural resources and beauty of those areas.
Trail maps are available from the San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department (805) 781-7300, or online at slocity.org. Information about additional open spaces and hiking trails is available from the Parks and Recreation Department.
Here are some hiking and cycling trails that are easily accessed from San Luis Obispo. Most are dog-friendly providing the dog is on a leash, but some of the trails can be challenging to a dog, or a human hiker, not in good physical shape.
Bishop Peak Natural Reserve
Bishop Peak is the highest in the string of Nine Sisters volcanic peaks that span 12 miles between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. The reserve provides two interconnecting trails that total close to 8 miles with varying degrees of difficulty. The Summit Trail climbs 1180 feet and is a 3.8-mile round trip. The Felsman Loop Trail climbs 580 feet and is a 3.5-mile round trip hike. Both trails can be accessed from the Patricia Street or Highland Drive trailheads but hikers will first find themselves on the Summit Trail from Highland Drive. There are a number of connectors between the Summit and Felsman Loop trails from Highland Drive. Both trails merge for a short distance from the Patricia Street trailhead then branch off in separate directions.
Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve
Cerro San Luis is a 1292-feet peak in the Nine Sisters volcanic chain. It has two trails, the Lemon Grove Loop and the “M” Trail. Cycling and hikers are allowed on the 2.1-mile Lemon Grove Loop. Hiking only is recommended for the “M” Trail, a 2.6-mile loop and a 640-foot climb. The trails merge for about a half-mile at one point. The primary trailhead is from Carriage Road.
Irish Hills Natural Reserve
Irish Hills was given the name by Irish Immigrants. The old schoolhouse that was once the center of the Irish Hills School District still stands near the trailhead. The Irish Hills reserve is full of interconnecting trails for both hiking and cycling with the highest climb being 960 feet. Levels of difficulty range from easy to advanced. Trail names like Bog Thistle, Mariposa and Poppy promise a variety of views and adventures. Access to the reserve is on Isabella Way.
Islay Hill Open Space
Islay Hill is a smaller peak in the Seven Sisters formation. There are three different access points linking to the Islay Hill Trail, ending at 776 feet providing a panoramic view of Edna Valley and the Santa Lucia Mountains. There are three access locations to trailheads the most common starts at the top of Sweet Bay Lane. The other two are from Spanish Oaks Drive of Huckleberry Lane.
Johnson Ranch Open Space
The Johnson Ranch Loop is a two-segment trail. The 2.6-mile segment is recommended for cycling and the 2.3-mile segment for hiking. There is also the Filipponi Connector that hikers can take to trails in the Irish Hills Nature Reserve. Originally a 242 acre working ranch, the land has been preserved by the City of San Luis Obispo. The landscape is rolling grassy hills accented by serpentine rocks. The trailhead is just off of Highway 101 between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.
Laguna Lake Natural Reserve
Four intersecting trails bring hikers and cyclists to the edge of Laguna Lake. Two trails, the Allen K. Settle trail and the Lakeside Trail are ranked as “easy.” Laguna Lake Upper Loop Trail is ranked as an intermediate trail. Laguna Lake Ridge Trail is ranked as “expert only.” The entrance is located at 504 Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo.
Bob Jones Trail
This is a 5-mile round trip paved trail that takes you from San Luis Obispo to the pristine coastal town of Avila Beach. Park your car in the lot on Ontario Road and walk or bike over a path that takes you along the San Luis Obispo Creek and through the Avila Golf Course; sprawling oaks provide enough shade for hot days. You’ll see jogging strollers; bikes and walkers making their way to the coast and back on this family-friendly trail.
Hike – Length – Elevation – Gain
Bishops Peak – 3.5 miles – 950 feet
Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve – 2.1-2.6 miles – 640 feet
Irish Hills – 3 miles – 500 feet
Islay Peak – 1.8-mile – 550 feet
Johnson Ranch – 3.7-mile – 200 feet
Bob Jones Trail – 5 miles – next to none (from Ontario road)