Nature Adventures and Outdoor Activities
Warm, sunny days, cool nights, mountains, beaches and friendly people are good enough reasons to visit the Pismo coast and San Luis Obispo County. But there is so much more. Don’t forget about our abundant flora and fauna, the State Parks, bicycling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, whale watching and countless other outdoor activities and nature adventures. Consult our comprehensive and regularly updated Calendar of Events for other festivals, fairs, and celebrations throughout San Luis Obispo County.
Many well-maintained trails with a variety of difficulties, microclimates, and scenery wait to be explored. A few of the most popular and convenient hikes are listed briefly below. For more complete information, the local chapter of the Sierra Club maintains a comprehensive list (including directions, length, and difficulty) on their website http://santalucia.sierraclub.org/SLOtrail.html
• Mountain Air Sports
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805-543-1676, A San Luis Obispo outdoor store, can supply you with trail books and maps if you would like further directions.
• Montana de Oro State Park
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Local favorite with great ocean views and a variety of easy and moderate hikes Probably your best bet for close hiking and nature walks close by, with nine major trails of varying difficulty, terrain and views. This state park is miraculously free of charge. There are many places to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of waves crashing against beaches and cliffs. The Coon Creek trail (click here for directions). is an excellent choice for a hot day. This trail follows a lush creek bed up from the coast for several miles with very little uphill. Shade from the native trees and cool water flowing next to the trail keep you cool. You can also choose to hike on a trail that follows the coast the entire way from the campgrounds to the end of the park. Finally, for the adventurous, try climbing the Ridge Trail, closer to park entrance. It will take you up several hundred feet for a panoramic view of Morro Rock, the entire park, and the bay.
• Morro Bay State Park
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Easy hike in Morro Bay and great views In Morro Bay, the hike up Black Hill offers spectacular views as well as a light cardio workout. This trail can be accessed from the Morro Bay State Park campground parking lot (click here for directions) a twenty minute drive from the SeaVenture. The total hike is only about three miles roundtrip and should take less than an hour and a half at a relaxed pace.
• Bishop Peak Open Space: Fun hikes, great views, large open spaces
The trail up Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo (1200' elevation gain, 4.4 miles round trip) traverses several microclimates to arrive at panoramic views of the city. The 360º view from this local favorite includes Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, the city of San Luis Obispo, and the vineyards of the Edna and San Luis valleys.
For a more relaxed hiking experience, try the well-marked Felsman Loop, in the Bishop Peak area. This hike is rated easy to moderate, with few uphill sections. It winds through oak woodland, chaparral, and expansive grassland areas. Red-tailed hawks and other birds sail overhead, hitching a ride on the breeze that comes up from the ocean.
• Los Padres National Forest: Wide range of hiking options for every type of outdoor enthusiast
Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly two million acres in the rugged coastal mountains of central California. The forest stretches across almost 220 miles from the Big Sur Coast in Monterey County to the western edge of Los Angeles County. The Sierra Club Trail Guide maps out eleven adventurous trails in this vast wilderness, including three beautiful trails in the nearby Lopez Lake area.
The Cerro Alto trailhead (directions) offers hikes just about a half hour’s drive from the resort. The trailhead is nestled in a lush riparian valley—a running creek makes this area dense with trees, green plants, and bird life year round. Starting at over 1000' (about 300m) in elevation, these hikes offer glimpses of some of the life in the higher elevations of San Luis Obispo County. You can hike to the top of Cerro Alto Peak, which at 2600' (~800m) is one of the highest peaks in the western part of the county.
San Luis Obispo County offers world class mountain biking and excellent road bike opportunities. Mountain trails are easily accessed from downtown San Luis Obispo, Highway 101, and Montaña de Oro State Park. Several road ride loops offer an alternative to off-road riding, taking you through quaint beach towns and villages of the Central Coast with relatively few hills. The Bob Jones Bikeway, accessed from Highway 101 near Avila Hot Springs is a local favorite. It offers several miles of peaceful riding away from motor vehicles along shady San Luis Obispo Creek. This path ends in the little beach town of Avila, an excellent place for a lunch stop or even some wine tasting at Alapay Cellars
For more information on mountain trails and road rides, contact the SLOBC, for a schedule of bicycle trips, or to download a map.
After you have surfed Pismo Beach, give the waves of Morro Bay a try. You can rent a board and wetsuit at several surf shops in town, and arrange for a lesson too. In the bay proper waves tend to be smaller and are excellent for learning, while the big waves lie to the north and south . For a great day of waves and soft sand, head out to the sandspit at Montaña de Oro State Park. Be sure to grab the latest surf report!
Fishing , Sailing and Whale Watching:
SportFishing and Whale Watching take place our of Avila Beach through Patriot’s Sportfishing
The nearby town of Morro Bay is renowned for its excellent fishing. The ocean here offers a wide variety of fish depending on season and water temperature. Charter a boat for a day on the water at Virg’s Fishing , 1215 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442, 805-772-1222 or through Central Coast Sportfishing
Sailing the Central Coast is a great way to see areas that aren’t reachable by car or foot. The Morro Bay Yacht Club located at 541 Embarcadero in Morro Bay, (805-772-3981) is a great place to get in touch with boat enthusiasts who always need crew. If you are experienced, you may want to join in a race. The yacht club also offers sailing classes for those who already have the desire but haven’t got the skills, and of course daily boat charters.
The closest kayaking is through Central Coast Kayaks in Shell Beach, coves and caves and numerous species of marine life are waiting for exploration. Learning to kayak in an area with fairly calm waters such as the estuary or Morro Bay can be fun family experience. Kayaking the Morro Bay Estuary is perhaps the best way to see this serene nature preserve. The labyrinthine channels through the low tide of the estuary make for hours of casual fun as you paddle past birds, fish, and invertebrates that most people never get to see. Kayaks can be rented from Kayak Horizons in Morro Bay on an hourly or daily basis. Or, you can organize a guided trip through Central Coast Outdoors or Sea for Yourself Adventures in Cambria. These organizations can get you outfitted and guide you to some of the more interesting places for kayaking.
Want an even better view? Biplane rides offer you a spectacular perspective on our rugged coast and mountain all from an open cockpit of a WW II Biplane. Visit Banner Airways at Oceano Airport, Call (805) 474-6491.
Hummer and ATV Rentals:
Take Pacific Adventure Tours or Extreme Hummer Adventures.
For a cruise via hummer across the world famous Oceano Dunes. Rides can be wild or at ease, you will feel like you escaped to another world. Filled with miles of rolling hills of sand. ATV Rentals are a more individualized way to explore. BJ’s will help you get equipped with all your needs.
If you are away for the weekend and looking for some good rock, San Luis Obispo County will be happy to accommodate. Several climbing areas are within less than a half-hour’s drive from the resort and offer wonderful single pitch sport leads or top roping. Cabrillo Peaks (on the way to Montaña de Oro State Park) offers single pitch climbs from 5.4 to 5.11 which can be top roped. Great open views make this a local favorite on a sunny day. For more information on climbing areas and finding local partners, go to www.rockclimbing.com which has routes listed as well as some great photos.
The Audubon Society lists San Luis Obispo County as one of its top ten birding sites in the country. Morro Bay Estuary, one of the largest unspoiled coastal marshes in the state, is a major stopping point in bird migration and attracts over 200 species of native and migrating birds—loons, cormorants, herons, pelicans and many more. Impressive Peregrine Falcons, once on the verge of extinction, now nest and hunt from the cliffs of Morro Rock. The neighboring estuary attracts the graceful and elegant snowy egret. Check out the Winter Bird Festival that takes place in Morro Bay each January.
Click here for maps and a great birdfinding guide to San Luis Obispo County.
Other useful birding resources are:
- Morro Coast Audubon Rare Bird Alert, 805-528-7182
- North Cuesta Audubon, 805-528-7182
- US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ventura Field Office, 805-644-1766
- Central Coast Birding Trail
Pismo Beach and the Central Coast play host to millions of migrating Monarch butterflies each winter. Drop by the famous Pismo Monarch Grove to see eucalyptus trees covered with these colorful butterflies.
The grove is located on Highway 1 at the south boundary of the city of Pismo Beach. From the SeaVenture, head south on Hwy 1 for eight-tenths of a mile, past downtown Pismo Beach. The Monarch site will be on your right. Parking is available by meandering through the North Beach campground and following signs, and also past the campground, on either side of Hwy 1 at the main access point to the Monarch site. The beach is only a short walk away.
Elephant seals can be seen birthing, raising pups, and fighting for territory in California’s largest mainland rookery on the northern edge of Morro Bay, a short walk from Highway 1 in San Simeon. These marine mammals are truly massive. They can weigh more than a small car. Threatened California sea otters also make Morro Bay home. Look beyond the breakers and you may spot a sea otter floating in a bed of kelp. The Great Gray Whale makes its passage up and down the coast twice a year. The children will enjoy tidepooling at Hazards Beach in Montaña de Oro State Park.
Morro Bay Natural History Museum offers a wealth of information about natural resources in this area. It is located in Morro Bay State Park, within minutes of the Heron Rookery, Montaña de Oro State Park, the El Moro Elfin Forest and Audubon’s Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. The Museum overlooks Morro Bay which is both a State and National Estuary. Entry fees are $2 for adults and free to children 16 and under. The Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.