Hiking is a huge part of life in San Luis Obispo County, but getting information about those hikes isn’t always easy. Can I bring my dog? How long is it? Will my child be able to keep up? To help you out, we’ve sent Tribune staffers out to scout various hikes around the area and listed them here. This list will be updated as we continue explore new trails.
Click the links to find directions to each hike, as well as parking information, dog-friendliness, facilities, tips and more detailed descriptions.
The trail: Cal Poly Architecture Graveyard
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Distance: About 3 miles round trip; about a two- to three-hour hike total.
Difficulty: Easy. The walk out is flat and covers about 300 feet of elevation gain — mostly at the end. The walk back is a slightly uphill.
The trail: Sycamore Crest Trail
Distance: Approximately 1 1/2 miles out and back.
Difficulty: Easy. Wide trail with mostly even terrain. The only challenge is the incline on the way up.
The trail: Hang Glider Hill
Distance: 1 mile out and back with 359 feet of elevation gain.
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is well-maintained, with some standing water following heavy rain. The trail was muddy in certain areas, but there were several options for alternative routes.
The trail: Black Hill
Distance: 0.6 miles roundtrip.
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is well maintained and clearly marked. After rain, the trail can get muddy, and water will continue to trickle down the trail several days after.
The trail: Boucher Trail
Distance: 3.8 miles out and back
Difficulty: Easy. As far as hikes go, this is as easy as it gets. This hike provides grassy, wide, well-marked and well-maintained trails. It’s more about the views and wildlife than the workout.
The trail: Rocky Canyon
Distance: Approximately 4 miles, nearly 6 if you count the walk along Rocky Canyon Road to reach the trail.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There are some steep inclines and rocky, uneven terrain.
The trail: Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area
Distance: Approximately 6 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: East to start; difficult for the final mile to the top (loose rocks, rough terrain, steep inclines).
The trail: Cerro Alto Trail
Distance: About 5 miles round-trip with a couple variations
Difficulty: 6.5, with the most difficult part of the hike coming in the last mile and a half to the top.
The trail: Johnson Ranch Open Space
Distance: 3.7-mile loop
Difficulty (1-10): 1. With only about 200 feet of elevation gain, this short hike rates as one of the easier treks in San Luis Obispo County.
The trail: Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro State Park
Distance: 3.7 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate, with steep ascents and loose rock adding some increased difficulty as the hike progresses.
The trail: Salinas River Walk in Paso Robles
Distance: 2 miles from Lawrence Moore Park to the Charolais Road.
The trail: Bishop Peak
Distance: Depending on where you start, 2.7 or 3.5 miles.
Difficulty: Aside from the Foothill Boulevard entrance, which is an 8 on a difficulty scale of 1-10, most routes aren’t bad. I’d give it a 5 overall, which is part of the reason why this trail is so popular.
The trail: Hazard Peak
Distance: 6 miles round trip.
Difficulty: Moderate. While a bit lengthy, the trail is stable and inclines are gradual. For the more aerobically inclined, this hike makes a safe and steady running trail.
The trail: Reservoir Canyon Trail
Distance: 5.35 miles roundtrip, rising 1,325 feet from the canyon floor to a ridgeline in the Santa Lucia foothills.
Difficulty: The first half of the hike is level and easy. The second half varies between moderate and difficult as you head up the back of the hill into a series of switchbacks and false summits.
The trail: Harmony Headlands
Distance: 4.5-mile lollipop loop; it’s about 1.5 to 2 miles from parking lot to Pacific Ocean view.
Difficulty: Easy and fairly flat. You’ll see 7-year-olds, 70-year-olds and moms with BOB strollers.
The trail: Rinconada
Distance: About 4 miles roundtrip.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. The trail starts with dramatic inclines and rocky trails but gradually tapers in the second mile and turns into meandering dirt pathways and gravel roads.
The hike: San Simeon Point
Distance: Round trip 2.5 miles, but there are a number of alternative routes.
Difficulty: Easy, but alternate routes can take you on some cliffside trails.
The trail: Estero Bluffs State Park
Distance: 2 to 3 miles, or less depending on how far you walk along the bluffs.
Difficulty: Easy. The ocean at Estero Bluffs are no more than 300 yards away at any point. Take the trail down to the bluffs and turn left or right to follow them along the ocean.
The trail: Cerro Cabrillo at Morro Bay State Park
Distance: 2 to 4 miles, depending on which trails you take to the Cerro Cabrillo summit. Taking the Quarry Trail directly to Cerro Cabrillo is about 2.5 miles round trip.
Difficulty: Moderate to extreme. The trails surrounding Cerro Cabrillo are normal dirt pathways that traverse the rolling hills surrounding the peak. The trail to the summit starts off steep and progresses into light rock climbing to reach the top.
The trail: Irish Hills Natural Reserve
Distance: This area covers 720 acres and contains more than eight miles of trails, which are friendly to hikers and mountain bikers.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. King Trail was designed by mountain bikers, so the lower portion of the loop is smooth with switchbacks and a few sections of exposure.
The hike: Islay Hill Open Space
Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: If you take the Sweet Bay Lane trail, it’s easy to moderate. The first 80 percent of the hike is hardly taxing at all, and there’s next to no elevation gain aside from a quick back-and-forth incline about three minutes into the hike. The last stretch of the trail, however, has four or five switchbacks that rise quickly and are much steeper until you reach the peak.
The hike: Hi Mountain Trail
Distance: About 3 miles.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. It starts off on a gradual incline, but there are steep sections with areas of the trail marked by loose dirt and rocks.
The trail: Lemon Grove Loop
Distance: 2.2-mile loop.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. After a surprisingly steep incline over the first half-mile, the trail levels out for the next mile and makes for an easy trek.
The trail: Stadium Park
Distance: Approximately 2-mile loop, depending on the route.
The trail: The Eucs trail in Stenner Creek
Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. There’s a bit of an uphill, and it gets steep in short bursts toward the top, but half the trail is largely flat with only minor inclines.
The trail: The Bluff Trail, Montaña de Oro State Park
Distance: 2.1 miles one way (4.2 miles round trip)
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is basically flat. Even if you hike to the very end of the Bluff Trail, there is only 140 feet of elevation change, making the trail suitable for hikers of all abilities.
The trail: Cerro San Luis
Distance: 4 miles roundtrip.
Difficulty: Hard, with a good amount of climbing in full sunlight.
The trail: Serenity Swing in Poly Canyon
Distance: About 4 miles round-trip, depending on parking; about 2 hours total.
Difficulty: The first half is easy and mostly flat, while the latter half is moderate to strenuous.
The trail: Avila Ridge Trail
Distance: The main trail is a 3-mile loop with mostly loose gravel, but there are many different routes.
Difficulty: Moderately difficult with very steep sections followed by flat sections.
The trail: South Hills Open Space
Distance: 2.2 miles.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There are plenty of rocks that dot the hillside. Be sure they are stable before stepping on them. The trail can get muddy after rain, which can make traction difficult.
The trail: Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve
Distance: Approximately a 2 1/2 -mile loop.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
The trail: Cambria Bluff Trail
Distance: 1.9 miles.
Difficulty: Easy. The out-and-back trail is well maintained and relatively flat.
The trail: East Cuesta Ridge and Mount Lowe trail
Distance: Approximately 6 miles out and back to the summit of Mount Lowe.
Difficulty: Easy to hard. The separate trail up the last section of Mount Lowe is a steep, single-track switchback with plenty of downed logs and loose gravel to navigate. The bulk of the trail is on Mount Lowe Road.
The trail: Eagle Rock Nature Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles.
Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is uphill with little relief until the top, where there is a bench and an overlook.