7 Hikes Around San Luis Obispo You Probably Haven’t Tried

By: Lauren Arendt

One of the major selling points for living and working in San Luis Obispo is the collection of hiking trails it offers all around the county. Possibly surprising to some, San Luis Obispo offers much more than just Bishop Peak and Cerro San Luis when it comes to getting outdoors. Entrepreneurs oftentimes have an adventurous spirit, and living in San Luis Obispo offers them countless opportunities to explore new ground.

We put together a list of some of the most breathtaking, yet underappreciated hiking trails in San Luis Obispo to help entrepreneurs get outside and experience the perks of starting their company on the California Central Coast.

1. Reservoir Canyon

This challenging hike off of the 101 offers a 5.6 mile hike surrounded by unique topography and foliage. From the peaceful waterfall at the base of the hike to the vast, panoramic views from the top, Reservoir Canyon is one of the most scenic hikes in San Luis Obispo. You can opt for the loop that takes hikers up and around the ridge, or for the trail that takes you all the way over the mountain to San Luis Obispo. Either way, spectacular views and fresh air await.

3. Harmony Headlands

Just North of Cayucos and only 20 minutes north of downtown San Luis Obispo on the highway one, the town of Harmony, population 18, is tucked away among the hills. On the west side of the highway in Harmony, a gorgeous State Park offers a flat, 4.5 mile lollipop loop through quaint marshes and peaceful chaparral grasses that ultimately lead to a rugged coastal scene. This trail is perfect for hikers of every level.

3. Irish Hills Natural Preserve

Hiking the Seven Sisters, such as Bishop Peak and Cerro San Luis, is the most common choice, but what if you could take a hike with views of the Seven Sisters? Irish Hills Natural Preserve offers just that and more. Surrounded by oak trees, open meadows, abandoned mines, and babbling streams, this 4.1 mile hike offers hikers with the ultimate trail experience. From the top of the 700 foot elevation gain, expansive views of the Seven Sisters await hikers.

4. Islay Hill

Islay Hill is one of the underappreciated peaks of the Seven Sisters volcanic mountain chain. Other than Black Hill, Islay Hill is the easiest of the Seven Sisters to climb at about 2 miles round trip. Although a more leisurely hike, Islay Hill offers breathtaking views of Edna Valley and all of its vineyards, as well as the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. At the summit of Islay Hill, hikers are met with the perfect photo opportunity: a ten-foot tall wooden pole with iron climbing pegs that resembles the bottom of an electric pole. Climb up to the top of the pole and enjoy 360 degree views of San Luis Obispo.

5. Pismo Preserve

The newly opened Pismo Preserve offers a unique opportunity to explore a section of the California Coast almost entirely untouched. At this point, access to the trail is only permitted during docent led hikes. What was before a 900 acre private ranch is being transformed into an open space to be enjoyed by the public. The 10 miles of brand-new trails offer panoramic, coastal vistas and unlimited opportunities to explore wild places.  

6. Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area

Found only a few minutes North on the highway 101, Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area is tucked away among Cypress and evergreen trees. The hike starts at a high elevation, meaning the views start early and often. Although the trail is high in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, ocean views await. The challenging six mile hike gains about 1,000 feet of elevation, but is absolutely worth it for the unique views, foliage, topography and wildlife.

7. Salmon Creek

Salmon Creek, although still in San Luis Obispo County, offers a glimpse of what to come from the Big Sur Coast while only having to drive an hour up the highway one. 6.5 miles of hiking trails lined with rich plant-life and rushing creeks are available, however, the most spectacular part of the trail is a short walk from the highway: a breathtaking 120-foot waterfall. Beyond the waterfall, day hiking or overnight backpacking opportunities await for those craving an outdoors adventure in a rugged, lush environment.

Endless opportunities to get outside and breathe fresh air surrounded by wildlife await entrepreneurs living and working in San Luis Obispo. Whether you are in need of a quick morning hike or a weekend expedition, there is a hike in the county for you. So next time you decide it’s time to go for a hike, skip Bishop Peak and explore one of these hikes in San Luis Obispo that you probably haven’t tried yet.