HIKING TRAILS

What are the best hiking trails in San Luis Obispo County?

San Luis Obispo has been known as one of the happiest places in America for decades. The beautiful beaches, bustling downtown, and bountiful wineries are often credited with inspiring such lofty language, but the great hiking trails near San Luis Obispo must have something to do with it too. Some of the best coastal hiking trails in California are in SLO County, many with panoramic views of the ocean and the volcanic morros in the area.

Hiking San Luis Obispo offers a variety of scenery and challenge options, so “where to go” often depends on the hiker’s priorities and fitness level. For now, let’s stick with which trails in the area deliver the best views and/or nature experience. Here is a breakdown of 5 of the very best that SLO County has to offer:

MORRO STRAND TRAIL TO MORRO ROCK​

Morro Rock is an iconic monolith located north of SLO on California’s central coast. This 578-foot tall outcropping of volcanic rock rises above the Pacific Ocean and separates the sands of Morro Bay State Beach with the Morro Bay Harbor. This suggested hike route starts from a coastal wetland called Cloisters Park and crosses over sand dunes as it heads towards Morro Rock. The total route if completed around Morro Rock is 3.5 miles round trip.

  • No dogs
  • Kid-friendly
  • More info and directions HERE

BLACK HILL IN MORRO BAY STATE PARK

Of all the morros in San Luis Obispo County, Black Hill is the easiest to summit. This 661-foot volcanic peak in Morro Bay State Park can be reached by hiking up a dirt single track with 190 feet of elevation gain and views over the city of Morro Bay. The total mileage roundtrip is around .6, so this is a great hike to bring the kids along. Anyone looking for more mileage can find it by starting farther down Black Hill.

  • Dogs ok on leash
  • Kid-friendly
  • More info and directions HERE

PIEDRAS BLANCAS ELEPHANT SEAL ROOKERY

This easy-breezy hike along the coast is probably the only wild habitat in the country where humans can view these boisterous creatures up close and personal. Located just off Highway One north of San Simeon, the trail skirts a bluff along the Pacific coast and features a couple of boardwalks of open space for observing these large mammals as they lay around in the sand. This hike is not just kid-friendly, we will happily give this one a designation of kid-favorite!

  • No dogs
  • Kid-friendly
  • More info and directions HERE

CERRO ALTO

As one of the tallest peaks in the volcanic plug system in SLO County, Cerro Alto provides some of the best views in the area, but not without some effort to reach the peak. This peak in the ‘nine sisters’ chain of morros tops out at 2,624 feet, and there are a couple of different routes to the top ranging from moderate to strenuous. The shortest (and steepest) route is a quick 1.95 miles, and the more moderate route measures 2.75 miles. You can combine these with a spur trail to a southern ridge for a total climbing effort of close to 2,000 feet.

  • Dogs OK on leash
  • More info and directions HERE

CERRO SAN LUIS OBISPO

The aptly name Cerro (aka “hill”) is part of the ‘nine sisters’ which are ancient volcanic morros native to the SLO County area. This particular hill is located closest to downtown SLO and sees a lot of users hiking and biking the trail around the peak. In springtime, the trail is flooded with beautiful wildflowers and there are several options to vary mileage and difficulty depending on your mood and ability.

  • Dogs OK on leash
  • More info and directions HERE   

RESEVIOR CANYAN TRAIL

This hike has a little bit of everything – passage through oak tunnels, unexplained metal sculptures, a waterfall, and a steep assault to the summit of an unnamed peak! The Reservoir Canyon natural reserve area utilizes a few trails to close the loop on a great day and packs a punch with 1,350 feet of climbing in just a couple of miles. The hike is on an offshoot trail at the base of the climb and should not be missed. After viewing the waterfall (or taking a dip), you can begin your quest for the peak, which is not for the meek heart. The final mile of the trail ascends 800 feet in less than a mile!

  • Dogs OK on leash
  • More info and directions HERE

FAQ

Not only is SLO County labeled as one of the happiest places on earth, it is also an outdoor recreation hotbed that attracts many like-minded nature lovers to visit and call home. So, there is no shortage of happy SLOcals to meet for a hike near town along any of San Luis Obispo’s hiking trails.

Meetup is a great resource for connecting with people or groups that share your hobby of hiking. More info and directions HERE