Hiking Three Bridges Oak Preserve in Atascadero
The trail: Three Bridges Oak Preserve. From San Luis Obispo, travel approximately 18 miles north on Highway 101. Take exit 218B and turn left onto Curbaril Ave. Turn left on Morro Rd., right onto San Gabriel Rd., left on Monita Rd., and right onto Sierra Vista Rd. In 500 feet, turn left onto Andrita Rd. and continue onto Casanova Rd. When you turn right onto Carmelita Ave., access to the trailhead will be ahead on the left, with a designated area for parking that’s easy to find. I never lost cell service and would recommend using GPS or a navigation system.
Distance: From the trailhead to the summit is approximately 3.8 miles out and back, with about 700 feet of elevation gain. There also are four shorter trails to pick from varying in length.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. There’s a somewhat challenging series of switchbacks during the first half of the hike, and a good portion of the second half is in direct sunlight.
Tips: It will take about an hour to reach the summit, so a water bottle, sunscreen and perhaps a snack for the top are all recommended.
Dogs: Allowed as long as the are kept on a leash.
Parking: The trailhead provides eight designated parking spots for vehicles as well as parking for equestrian trailers.
Facilities: There’s an information kiosk at the trailhead, but no public restrooms and no RV parking or tent camping allowed.
Description: Located approximately 2 miles west of Atascadero along Highway 41, the recently-opened Three Bridges Oak Preserve has something for everyone. Each of the five trails are exceptionally well maintained, and there’s a surprising amount of tree cover all the way to the summit. After crossing under Highway 41, a short path will take you over Atascadero Creek and to the beginning of the 3-mile trail system, which is available for hikers, equestrians and bicyclists all to use. One of the more interesting things about the trail system is that users will pass through four habitat zones inside the 103-acre preserve: Riparian Woodland, Blue Oak Woodland, Mixed Chaparral and Coast Live Oak Woodland. The sweeping views of Northern San Luis Obispo County makes the final push the top worth your while.