K and I took a glorious early summer trip to France: half in the Alps and half on the shores of the Mediterranean.
We hiked up snowy mountains, descended cliffs into turquoise waters, made unfamiliar dishes like poulet noir in unfamiliar convection ovens, and lived the high life watching the sun set over Marseille. We also shared a baguette and a pain au chocolat every day with our “expresso.” First things first.
Our trip took us to Paris, Chamonix, Nice, La Ciotat, and Marseille. We went with a budget, taking only a small backpack each and cooking most of our meals. I even got to refresh my manual driving skills! Hello, tiny alleys with many cars! My personal favorite? Les îles du Frioul, a short ferry from Marseille, with many beautiful inlets (calanques) for swimming in the teal limestone waters. Just beware the seagulls.
Given that there are so many shorter trails in San Luis Obispo, I thought it would be a great idea to have a local adventure linking multiple trails! I booked a campsite in Montaña de Oro for me and K, and then we started our micro-adventure bright and early after campsite coffee.
The first, shown above, is the view from Valencia Peak, 1,347 feet. The trail is 4.5 miles R/T with oh-so-lovely ocean. And poppies!
Also from Valencia Peak. You can see all the trails of MDO snaking around. This looks out on Morro Bay.
Next on the list was Black Hill, which is one of the morros! It’s just 661 feet and has a 0.6-mile R/T trail. A great spot for PB&J!
View of Morro Rock from Black Hill!
Looking back from whence we came! View of Montaña de Oro from Black Hill.
Finally, we hit Cerro Alto, an awesome 4.7-mile R/T trail. Unfortunately, this site now charges $10 for parking, so we may not hit it again in the near future. It’s too bad, since this trail is beautiful! The peak is at 2,624 feet, so almost double our first spot, Valencia Peak!
We love the fog rolling in to the valleys… a common occurrence in this area!
Bishop Peak is the quintessential SLO hike. It’s the highest of the morros at 1,559 feet, and the trail is 3.7 miles out and back. A quick jaunt! There’s a less official steep back way up too–for some extra ooomph.
At the very top are great big boulders to scramble up for the best views. It can be windy!
John Muir had this to say on the subject:
The trail brings the traveler suddenly in sight of Bishop Peak… The town is fairly encircled with beautiful hills…the one just named being most conspicuous.
Wow, what a review! Haha. A nice claim to fame nonetheless.
It surely is nice and green in these photos – definitely a winter thing! This is in January 2016.
One of the coolest things about SLO is the morros! Morros are volcanic plugs, essentially the tough necks of old volcanoes that remain when the rest of the volcano erodes away. Islay Hill is one of the morros K and I hit up all the time! It rises to 780′ and is a quick mile to the top.
You can actually make this a loop trail! With the bottom portion heading down through a park and bike path. Both sides have beautiful views of rolling hills.
It looks pretty green here, but this is January 2016. The colors change dramatically as the seasons pass on the Central Coast.
In January 2016, we moved K up the coast to start a brand new job in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and start living that SLO life :D Our first stop after the move? Montaña de Oro, of course!
As native East Coasters, it never fails to amaze us that Californians can walk a sunny beach on New Year’s Day and not be –that– cold.
“Sunny” is also up for interpretation! We soon learned that Montaña de Oro is often socked in by fog, and that clear sunsets are hard to come by! You can often see the fog spilling inland from the coast, filling the valleys with soft mistiness.
I was super impressed with K’s new digs. A tiny house on a beautiful ranch with a long dirt driveway. And horses next door!
After hitting up Knapp’s Castle for sunrise, I would head just down the road to the trailhead for Fremont Ridge and 2 miles out, 2 miles back. As I went along downhill, the trail kept going…and going… I was the only person on that trail that day, and I now suspect that I made a wrong turn along the way. This “trail,” mostly an unmarked fire road, provides great views of the green 154 bridge, aka the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge. It’s the highest arch bridge in CA, and one of the highest in the USA, at 400ft above the canyon (thank you, Wikipedia). You can also see (barely) Lake Cachuma (a reservoir) in the above photo, that blue spot to the right of the mountains.I eventually decided that I had to turn around and head back uphill! I was glad to get back to the car and rewarded with this view of Santy B:
East Camino Cielo snakes along the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara. Up here, there are great views of the ocean and, to the north, Lake Cachuma.
Along this road lies a short trail to Knapp’s Castle, originally built as a mountain lodge in the 1900s by George Owen Knapp. In 1940, the mansion was purchased by Francis Holden to live in with opera singer Lotte Lehmann. A few weeks later, however, it burned down in a forest fire. The stone ruins remain today.
A rope swing transforms the place into a playground!
Morning rays of light hitting the Santa Ynez Mountains
This is a fairly popular place to watch sunrise/sunset, so it was a bit crowded when I arrived (despite my empty photos). Made it a little less spooky!
Inspiration Point is a nice little 3.75-mile hike (via the Tunnel Trail) in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santy B. On clear days (most days), you can see the Channel Islands as you look to the south.
The viewpoint (of inspiration!) is at 1,800 feet, and the trail gains a total of 800 as you go along.
It’s a very popular hike, so it can be a little congested (with music-blasting types :O), but not so much if it threatens to rain. After heavy rains, there’s plenty of evidence of micro mudslides and rockslides, particularly at the sandstone walls.
There are connector trails along the way to an area called Seven Falls, but it was so devastatingly dry while I was there that there were definitely no falls.
Catching up on adventures past, I lived in Santa Barbara for a year! aka SANTY B. As part of my joint degree program in geography, I spent a year studying and researching at UCSB. These are some shots from when I had just moved in and was starting to get my bearings.
Up in the foothills
Lake Los Carneros, great spot for watching birds
The best part about living in Santa Barbara was proximity to the ocean and mountains. I didn’t appreciate the tar at the beaches (very sticky – remove with oil!), but the sunsets and runs were breathtaking always.
Ellwood Beach, my personal favorite
I spent most of my weekends hiking while I was here, so there will be many mountains to come in the posts!