Outdoors

Here's all you need to know about the best hikes in SLO County

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

The "Architecture Graveyard" on the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo offers an easy hike to explore the design projects of former architecture and engineering students.

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.

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The trail: Sycamore Crest Trail

The Sycamore Crest Trail off Avila Beach Drive in Avila Beach is an out-and-back hike that winds up the northern slope of Ontario Hill. Most of the hike cuts through beautiful oak groves and lush vegetation.

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.

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The trail: Hang Glider Hill

SLO County Hike of the Week: Hang Glider Hill in Cayucos. This easy-to-access hike offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean from Cayucos to Morro Bay.

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.

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The trail: Black Hill

Black Hill, one of the "Nine Sisters," offers views of Morro Bay National Estuary, Morro Rock, Irish Hills and Cerro Cabrillo in San Luis Obispo County.

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.

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The trail: Boucher Trail

Get away from the crowds and check out the elephant seals on this easy hike along the Piedras Blancas cliffs.

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.

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The trail: Rocky Canyon

Highlights from the Rocky Canyon Trail just outside of Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County.

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.

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The trail: Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area

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Distance: Approximately 6 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: East to start; difficult for the final mile to the top (loose rocks, rough terrain, steep inclines).

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The trail: Cerro Alto Trail

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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.

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The trail: Johnson Ranch Open Space

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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.

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The trail: Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro State Park

Follow along as we trek to the top of Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro

Distance: 3.7 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate, with steep ascents and loose rock adding some increased difficulty as the hike progresses.

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The trail: Salinas River Walk in Paso Robles

A hike along the Salinas River in Paso Robles has plenty of sights and sounds to stimulate the senses.

Distance: 2 miles from Lawrence Moore Park to the Charolais Road.

Difficulty: Easy

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The trail: Bishop Peak

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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.

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The trail: Hazard Peak

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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.

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The trail: Reservoir Canyon Trail

The Reservoir Canyon Trail is a 5.35-mile hike from the base of the Cuesta Grade to the top of a ridge overlooking San Luis Obispo.

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.

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The trail: Harmony Headlands

Follow the trail from Highway 1 to the Pacific Ocean at Harmony Headlands State Park.

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.

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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.

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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.

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The trail: Estero Bluffs State Park

Estero Bluffs, which joined the California State Parks system in 2002, is accessible to almost anyone. The area features flat, open trails with expansive views of Morro Bay and Morro Rock in the distance.

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.

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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.

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The trail: Irish Hills Natural Reserve

King Trail in the Irish Hills is located about 3 miles from downtown San Luis Obispo. The Irish Hills Natural Preserve is a gold mine for local hikers, offering outstanding views of the city and diverse landscapes. Here's a look at the trail, whic

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The trail: Stadium Park

Distance: Approximately 2-mile loop, depending on the route.

Difficulty: Easy.

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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.

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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.

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The trail: Cerro San Luis

Here's a look at some of the sights and sounds while hiking Cerro San Luis in San Luis Obispo, California.

Distance: 4 miles roundtrip.

Difficulty: Hard, with a good amount of climbing in full sunlight.

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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.

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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.

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The trail: South Hills Open Space

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The South Hills Open Space in San Luis Obispo is an easy hike that offers fantastic views of the city. Scott Middlecamp smiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

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.

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The trail: Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve

A variety of terrain and beautiful views of Morro Bay awaits hikers on this Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve trail in Los Osos.

Distance: Approximately a 2 1/2 -mile loop.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

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The trail: Cambria Bluff Trail

The Bluff Trail in Cambria offers views of the ocean, sea otters and seals — and wildflowers in the spring. Take a look at this out-and-back trail that's well maintained and relatively flat.

Distance: 1.9 miles.

Difficulty: Easy. The out-and-back trail is well maintained and relatively flat.

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The trail: East Cuesta Ridge and Mount Lowe trail

The East Cuesta Ridge/Mount Lowe trail follows Mount Lowe Road east of Highway 101 and offers expansive views of San Luis Obispo County and a challenging hike to the summit.

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.

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The trail: Eagle Rock Nature Trail

The Eagle Rock Nature Trail at El Chorro Regional Park off of Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo offers a moderate hike with two ways explore the 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.

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