California Central Coast

San Luis Obispo: Downtown & Nearby Trails

Flickr: Leif Arne Storset

San Luis Obispo (SLO) is a cute city 11 miles inland from the Pacific. It’s one of the larger centers in the area between Santa Barbara and Monterey. There is some pleasant running downtown in the numerous historic districts, and in some of the hills right near town. Some top spots for running:

Downtown SLO. Wikimedia Commons

Downtown. Put together your own run in downtown SLO, which features 180 historic buildings and homes dating back to the 1880s. There are several historic districts, including Old Town Historic District and Mill St. Historic District. Stay inside the 101 and north of South St.

Trail Running in the Hills Near Town. The Nine Sisters are a string of hills running through SLO, with six of them open to the public for recreation. Just east of town is the Terrace Hill Open Space. From the train station, use Jennifer St. High School Hill is also east of town, but this is a narrower, steep trail. The trails in South Hills Open Space are less steep but a bit rocky. Just west of town, there are hilly trails in the Cerro San Luis Obispo and the Laguna Lake Park Open Space, which are connected by the paved, ~1 mile Madonna Inn Bike Path. For some gentler, but scenic open trails, head to Ferrini Ranch Open Space, 3 miles northwest of town,

Cal Poly Area. Pleasant campus for running, with some nice pedestrian pathways. Hilly. At the southeastern edge of campus There’s wonderfully hilly and scenic running in the hills behind California Polytechnic State University (“Cal Poly”), just north of town.  Hilly but good footing on generally wide trails.  Stenner Creek Trail is popular — trailhead is off Stenner Creek Rd., 3.5 miles from Cal Poly. For a hilly 5k, do the Stenner Creen Trail-Yewks Trail loop. 580 foot gain. For longer, where Stenner Creek Trail intersects with the Yewls Trail, take the Roller Coaster Trail. Many additional trail options.  ROUTE MAP

Cal Poly Road Run: 7.5 mile loop combining Stenner Creek Rd. and Poly Canyon Rd. Generally quiet, with great views and access to more roads and mountain trails. From Cal Poly, start on Mt. Bishop Rd. and run for 1 mile to reach Stenner Creek Rd. At 3.4 miles there’s a trailhead for the Stenner Creek Trails. The route has 740 feet elevation gain, but not too steep. Shorter Loop: Via Carta Rd.-Poly Canyon Rd. (3.3 miles, 480 foot gain). ROUTE MAP LONG   ROUTE MAP SHORT

We’ve also created a separate post highlighting some of the best trail running options near SLO.