Ontario Ridge To Shell Beach Bluff Loop


This may be the best coastal hike we’ve done so far! This hike is in Pismo Beach, CA.

You can do this loop either clockwise or counterclockwise. We happened to do it counterclockwise and in the end we were glad we chose to do it this way. If you are like me and have acrophobia, I recommend doing it this way as well. There is multiple access to this trail. We started at Shell Beach.

Plug in the GPS coordinates (provided below) into your GPS app and park on El Portal Dr near there. End of Bonita Street, you will see the trail access. Once you are on the trail, turn right. After 0.1 miles, turn left on the trail that’s going up north. This uphill soon meets up with Ontario Ridge Trail and when it does, turn right. At 0.25 miles, stay on your left. You will continue to gain elevation and have the view of San Luis Obispo on one side and the view of San Luis Obispo Bay on the other side.


We haven’t even started the real climb yet! It’s steep but very doable. A little bit of scrambling is required in this section.


Find the perfect fit Salomon hiking shoes for women.

We thought the top of that hill was the highest point of this hike but it wasn’t. Meanwhile, we had a great view of San Luis Obispo Bay and the nearby beaches – Pismo Beach, Shell Beach & Avila Beach – along the way.


When we reached the top, we found a swing near the T-Mobile towers which is not visible when you are hiking up. What is it about a swing that makes you feel instantly like a kid again? Love it! There is another swing in a better location not too far away if you keep going. It’s kind of hidden away from the trail but you can see it on your left. I would’ve gone in and taken a picture for you but it was already occupied by a couple so I didn’t want to disrupt their private moment.


At 1.30 miles, you can either stay on Ontario Ridge Trail and make this hike shorter if you’d like or take Sycamore Trail on the right. Sycamore Trail soon became shady and cooler. And slowly but surely we started to go downhill. You know what that means. We’ll have to climb back up eventually.


After 0.28 miles of a peaceful stroll, we met up with Ontario Ridge Trail and we were faced with 0.4 miles of steep uphill. This section kicked my butt! Look at Xena taking a breather and wondering how much more she has to go. Ha!


Find the perfect fit Salomon hiking shoes for women.

Ahh…at last we were presented with the view again. It’s all downhill from here. Just take in the view and enjoy the rest of the hike. When you come to a split at mile 2, turn right.


Best view of San Luis Obispo Bay!


As you know, Xena likes to roll on plants, grass, bushes, you name it… Well, she found these prickly plants to roll on. When she was finally satisfied, she walked out of the area looking like this. Her butt was in a worse condition. They were stuck between the layers of her fur. Ridiculous! First, I checked for ticks then had to remove those as much as I can.


Would you look at her vest! Guess who had to pull out those things one at a time the next day before putting it in the washing machine.


The last hill before you reach Cave Landing Rd. This is the hill I’d rather go down then go up. I recommend shoes with good traction. Turn left on Cave Landing Rd and continue on to Shell Beach Bluff Trail which will take you through a neighborhood of impressive water-front properties. You will come out to Indio Dr. Turn left on El Portal Dr and you are done!


A perfect ending to our fun spring road trip! This should be on everyone’s must-dos when visiting the San Luis Obispo area!

Good to Know:

  • Hike Date:  4.16.16
  • Trailhead:  35.175980, -120.702903
  • Distance:  3.5 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain:  738 feet
  • Free street parking in the residential area
  • No restroom
Get Our Latest Comprehensive Dog-friendly Trail List Here. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!


4 comments on “Ontario Ridge To Shell Beach Bluff Loop”

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