easy day hikes to beautiful and interesting areas which are less well known to the public. We offer capsules of ten hikes, one from Monterey County and the rest from the San Luis Obispo area. Most are in the lush oak woodlands just inland from the ocean.

  1. Salmon Creek Falls, Monterey County

    This hike originates from the section of Pacific Coast Highway (California Highway 1) hugging the cliffs high above the Big Sur coast. The huge ocean cliffs garner the attention here but a short hike on the far side of the road leads to the unbelievably spectacular Salmon Creek Falls. The stream pours over a 100 foot rock alcove into a beautiful pool at the head of a narrows. The pool is accessible with some moderate rock hopping. The main trail continues around the falls and offers access to a lush wilderness area. (Note: Photography is very difficult in the morning when the fog is lifting!) 
  2. Bob Jones City to the Sea, Avila Canyon

    An "urban" hike through beautiful Avila Canyon, the trail starts as a paved bicycle path through the dense riparian growth along San Luis Obispo Creek. The path merges into a service road where the canyon widens and follows alongside a golf course with beautiful canyon vistas. The trail ends at the main road in Avila Beach. A short walk then reaches the Avila Beach Pier with very scenic views at the end of the pier. Very nice variety of scenery for one hike. 
  3. Elfin Forest Natural Area, Baywood Park

    This short hike follows a boardwalk through a beautiful area of coastal scrub and riparian woodland on the edge of the Morro Bay Tidal Estuary. Featured here are stands of 500 year old pygmy oak trees. The tiny, gnarled trees are covered with mosses and lichens. Also, two elevated overlooks with excellent views of the tidal estuary. 
  4. Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Los Osos

    The preserve is a small wetland sanctuary for nesting and migrating birds, owned by the local Audubon Society. The short trail goes through a fragrant eucalyptus grove, passes a serene freshwater pond, and then follows a saltwater marsh for a short distance. We observed turtles in the pond and a group of herons in the marsh as well as a solitary pelican. 
  5. Little Falls Trail, Santa Lucia Wilderness, San Luis Obispo

    Gorgeous hiking in a rugged, unspoiled wilderness area east of San Luis Obispo. The trail follows Little Falls Creek, alternatively following the stream through lush forest and then climbing bluffs above the stream bed with spectacular views of the canyon. Also, a side trail to Little Falls, a thin fifty foot fall emptying into a large swimming hole. The access road is also quite exciting, crossing the flowing stream eight times in the last 1.5 miles. 
  6. Reservoir Canyon, San Luis Obispo

    A short but scenic hike no more than ten minutes from downtown. The trail follows the lush riparian canyon bottom of this perennial stream. A short spur trail goes to a small area of cascades on the stream. The trail ends in a very pretty glade shaded by large oaks - an ideal picnic spot. 
  7. Poly Canyon Design Village, Cal Poly Campus, San Luis Obispo

    A bizarre hike which starts out at the campus of Cal Poly University. A dirt road follows a riparian creek bed for about a mile upstream, and the canyon then opens up into an area of rolling hills with scenic mountain backdrops. On one hillside is a collection of artistic structures assembled by the school's engineering department in the early 1970's. It was their idea of "futuristic" architecture which now seems almost humorous. Entry is through the stone arch (photo, left). You may then see such things as the geodesic dome, the "energy-efficient" shell house, the pyramid, and more. The area appears to have been abandoned for years so it feels a lot more like "archaeology" than "architecture". 
  8. Bluff Trail, Montana de Oro State Park

    Montana de Oro offers some of California's finest ocean scenery. The popular Bluff Trail follows along the edge of a grassy terrace with outstanding views of the eroding cliffs below. The terrace has spectacular wildflower displays in spring and early summer. Especially impressive is the heavy surf pounding the rocky promontories. The pocket beach at Quarry Cove has interesting tidal pools.

    The tiny and very private cove in the photo, right, can be reached by a short but strenuous trail.

  9. Coon Creek Trail, Montana de Oro State Park

    Perhaps the finest of the ten hikes listed here, the trail follows the lush bottom of Coon Creek Canyon. The combination of a year-round stream and a foggy, damp climate produces a spectacularly lush riparian area. The profusion of moss-laden trees and heavy brush creates a jungle-like environment. Blackberry canes with ripe fruit are everywhere. Wildflowers are everywhere, including beauties like morning glory, monkeyflower, and honeysuckle.

    Note that the area does favor snakes. We observed two, including a rattlesnake in the brush adjacent to the trail.

  10. Felsman Loop, Bishop Peak Open Area, San Luis Obispo

    Another scenic hike no more than ten minutes from downtown. The trail loops around the eastern flank of Bishop Peak, one of the nine volcanic peaks (known locally as the Nine Sisters) which hug the coast from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. The trail varies from open grassland with outstanding views of the surrounding areas to lush oak glens. More spectacular views are available to those who climb to the top of the peak.



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