Even if you don’t like clam chowder, you should still visit Pismo Beach because of its charming atmosphere. There are many trails here that offer stunning views of the ocean and the rolling hills that are so characteristic of California.

Best Hiking Trails In Pismo Beach CA
Best Hiking Trails In Pismo Beach CA

Best Hiking Trails In Pismo Beach CA, you won’t find difficult, strenuous hikes in Pismo Beach, as most of the trails are easy to moderate in difficulty. As a result, novices, families, and casual runners alike can take advantage of the area’s trails without risking injury.

List Of 10 Best Hiking Trails In Pismo Beach CA Today

1. Discovery Trail

Discovery Trail
Discovery Trail

The 5.5-mile loop that makes up Discovery Trail is an excellent introduction to the trails around Pismo Beach. You can go on wonderful hikes and mountain bike rides. 

The trail’s 674-foot elevation gain makes it a moderately challenging hike. The route is more difficult than it appears because of the hills and sun exposure.

There are many photo ops along the trail from Octopus Oak to Lovers Point in the Prismo Preserve, making it a great place to go hiking. The sights of the Pacific Ocean are absolutely breathtaking. 

The singletrack route has been criticized for being too difficult to share with mountain bikers, but as long as everyone stays courteous, there shouldn’t be any problems. In general, it’s a well-maintained hiking spot with easy access to breathtaking ocean vistas.

2. Bob Jones Bike Trail

Bob Jones Bike Trail
Bob Jones Bike Trail

The Bob Jones Bike Trail is a 5.3-mile out-and-back path in the vicinity of Avila Beach that is suitable for road biking, walking, and running. The total elevation gain on this trail is only 121 feet, making it suitable for hikers of varying abilities. It is flat and smooth, perfect for road biking, and has some shady spots.

This hike begins at Avila Beach and travels along San Luis Obispo Creek to its end and back. Better parking is available at the eastern end of the route, so that’s where you should get going.

While some hikers may find the largely flat, tree-lined path to be too easy, families will love this laid-back option. Also, it’s in excellent condition and simple to use, so it’s great for newbies.

3. Sycamore Crest Trail

Sycamore Crest Trail
Sycamore Crest Trail

The 1.5-mile out-and-back Sycamore Crest Trail is a popular spot for hikers, campers, and joggers in the Avila Beach area. The trail’s short length and 500-foot elevation gain give it a moderate difficulty rating. This may not look like much of a challenge, but it actually is a fairly challenging exercise.

Even though it’s not very long, the breathtaking vistas of the North Pacific make it well worth your time. There is never any letup in the incline, but the payoff at the peak is well worth the toil. Parking is the only snag. 

The trailhead is located at Sycamore Mineral Spring Resort, but there is no parking available there. That leaves the aforementioned Bob Jones Trailhead as the only parking option. This adds an extra 1.5 miles to the hike, but the extra distance is well worth it.

Even though the incline may be difficult for some, the majority of hikers should be able to manage the well-maintained dirt track on this beautiful, heavily traveled trail.

4. Ontario Ridge and Shell Beach Bluff Loop

Ontario Ridge and Shell Beach Bluff Loop
Ontario Ridge and Shell Beach Bluff Loop

Near Avila Beach, there is a 2.9-mile trail called the Ontario Ridge and Shell Beach Bluff Loop that is popular for hiking, birdwatching, and dog walking. The elevation gain on this path is only about 229 meters (746 feet). Part of it is paved, but getting to the ridge requires navigating some rocks.

From Ontario Ridge, hikers can take in stunning views of the sea and Pirates Cove. The ridge also provides a unique vantage point over the surrounding landscape, which includes hills and vineyards.

The descent is rocky and requires careful footing to avoid twisting or breaking an ankle. Despite this, the trail is popular because it offers some of the best views of Pismo Beach and the surrounding area.

5. Monarch Butterfly Grove and Meadow Butterfly Trail

Monarch Butterfly Grove and Meadow Butterfly Trail
Monarch Butterfly Grove and Meadow Butterfly Trail

Located just outside of Pismo Beach, the 1.5-mile long out-and-back Monarch Butterfly Grove and Meadow Buttery Fly Trail is an excellent destination for hikers and nature lovers. 

With a total elevation gain of only 15 feet, this trail is suitable for hikers of all experience levels. Moreover, there are restrooms conveniently located at either end of the space, making it a fully functional public space.

The ocean is still visible, but the monarch butterflies, birds, and other wildlife are what attract visitors here. It’s a beautiful natural area, and it’s right on the coast of the Pacific!

Some serious hikers may be put off by the suggestion that this is nothing more than a nature trail, but there’s no denying the spectacular scenery and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stroll among towering eucalyptus and melaleuca trees.

Although hikers won’t find much of a challenge here, the stunning butterfly population and ocean vistas make this trail well worth the trip.

6. Oso Flaco Lake Trail

Oso Flaco Lake Trail
Oso Flaco Lake Trail

There is a 2.3-mile out-and-back trail called Oso Flaco Lake Trail in the Nipomo area that is popular for nature walks and birdwatching. With a total elevation gain of only 40 feet, this trail is suitable for hikers of all experience levels. The fact that some of the paths has been paved over makes it even more user-friendly.

This path takes you across Oso Flaco Lake (which has some great vantage points over the water) and out to the water’s edge, where you can relax and take in the scenery. Despite being another trail that won’t test experienced hikers, it is one of the best options for families looking to get some exercise near Pismo Beach.

At the lake’s halfway point, you’ll find a beach perfect for a picnic, and the boardwalk over Oso Flaco is a great place to unwind. All in all, it’s a wonderful place to spend the day having a good time.

7. Pismo Reserve Inner Loop

Pismo Reserve Inner Loop
Pismo Reserve Inner Loop

Near Pismo Beach, the 5.4-mile Pismo Reserve Inner Loop is a popular trail for walkers, runners, and pet owners. The elevation gain on this trail is relatively modest, at only 755. This is an alternate route through the Pismo Reserve for those curious about going further in.

This hike is similar to the first in that it visits many of the same points of interest, but a different section of the reserve. The first mile of the loop features primarily a cattle grazing area, which disappoints some hikers. After a short but steep climb, however, the reward is breathtaking vistas of the sea.

The beautiful Pismo Preserve is home to this well-maintained path, and the area is clearly marked so that hiking there is a breeze.

8. Johnson Ranch Loop

Johnson Ranch Loop
Johnson Ranch Loop

At 3.3 miles in length, Johnson Ranch Loop is the longest loop trail in Avila Beach. It’s a flat trail, ascending only 433 feet, so it’s suitable for hikers of all experience levels. The trail is moderately rocky, but can be safely traversed by anyone wearing sturdy shoes.

Views of the California landscape, which are particularly stunning in spring and summer when the wildflowers are in bloom, are the focus of this section. There is little shade along this trail, so make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and water.

This hike is enjoyable, and it provides a more varied hiking experience than some of the other trails on this list because of its steeper sections.

9. Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park

Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park
Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park

The 4.2-mile round-trip Bluff Trail in Montana de Oro State Park is a popular destination for hikers, runners, and birdwatchers. There is a total elevation gain of 231 feet on this trail, and it is rated as easy for hikers of all experience levels. The hike is beautiful and shouldn’t be too difficult for most people.

The bright and beautiful displays of Californian Poppies along this trail are the reason many people make the journey. The breathtaking vistas of the ocean from the bluff only add to the beauty of the area.

The trail may be muddy in spots, so make sure to wear sturdy footwear. Taking pictures of the ocean and the California Poppies is a must on this lovely hike.

10. Valencia Peak Trail

Valencia Peak Trail
Valencia Peak Trail

Hikers near Los Osos often take the 4.3-mile round-trip Valencia Peak Trail for the stunning ocean vistas it affords from its lofty vantage point. There is some uphill and downhill on the path, making it a moderately challenging hike. The trail is also rocky, so be sure to wear hiking boots.

The Pacific Ocean is easily visible from the top of Valencia Peak, which stands at 1,329 feet in elevation. On clear days, however, the landscape as far inland as Morro Bay and Cayucos and even Cambria can be seen. 

The trail is made more challenging by the presence of rocks and the absence of cover. But if you take precautions, like wearing sunscreen and sturdy footwear, the hike will be more enjoyable.

If you’re looking for more of a challenge on your hike to Pismo Beach, but you still want to take in the stunning ocean views, this is the route for you.

FAQs Best Hiking Trails In Pismo Beach CA

How long is the Avila ridge hike?

Distance: The primary trail is a 3-mile loop made up primarily of loose gravel. Moderate in difficulty, with some very steep sections interspersed with flatter stretches. The views from this trail are best in the middle to late afternoon, when the sky is clear.

How long is Pismo preserve trail?

Over 11 miles of the trail take hikers through tranquil oak woodlands and along coastal ridgelines, providing breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from the Irish Hills to Point Sal.

How long does it take to hike Madonna?

This moderate hike can be completed in as little as an hour to as much as two or more hours round trip, making it ideal for those who live in the area or who are visiting SLO for the weekend. Moreover, there is no admission charge. After summiting Bishop Peak earlier in the day, we decided to make it a day of climbing two peaks.

How do I get to Shell Beach?

To get to Shell Beach Road from Spyglass on the south or Price St. on the north, get off of northbound Highway 101 at the corresponding exits. Up and down the Wilmar Steps. The stairs down to the beach.

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