San Luis Obispo Section 11

Cave Landing, Avila Beach, to Pismo Beach Pier

San Luis Obispo Section 11

Cave Landing, Avila Beach, to Pismo Beach Pier

From Cave Landing Road's dirt parking lot, you can see that the shoreline south is not walkable for the next couple of miles. The Coastal Trail follows the old roadway, now closed to vehicles, down the coast. (While we begin this section's description at the parking area at the end of the drivable portion of Cave Landing Road, you might want to start at PG&E's south gate, an option described under Alternate Route.)

From the Cave Landing parking lot, a side trail descends southeast to Cave Landing itself. Also known as Mallagh Landing, this steep rocky promontory forms a natural rock pier that extends into deep water. A steep trail continues east to sheltered Pirate's Cove and a popular clothing-optional beach. Local Chumash people once fished from the rock and buried their dead in its caves. In 1860 sea captain David Mallagh built a warehouse atop the rock and a wooden chute to load local produce onto ships anchored offshore.

Walk past the rust brown gate and follow the dirt road northeast, climbing slightly for the first ⅛ mile. The road bends to the right, descending gradually then moderately with views of the rocky point called Cave Landing and Pirate's Cove below, coming to a locked gate. Continue along the road beyond the second gate, entering the city of Pismo Beach and coming to a cul-de-sac with a chemical toilet.

In another 75 feet you reach a public pedestrian path which the CCT follows down the coast. It follows the ocean side of Bluffs Drive, gated to public vehicles, sometimes as a sidewalk and occasionally as a separate path. Pass a short spur on the right beyond ⅜ mile which leads to a view of the rocky, wave-swept tidal zone below. Descend the main path to the parking area at its end around ⅝ mile, where a steep rough spur descends to the tideline.

CCT continues along Bluffs Drive, following sidewalks where available and the edge of the street where they are not. When you reach the intersection with El Portal Avenue on the left, veer to the right and continue along Indio Drive. You'll glimpse the ocean around ⅞ mile, but generally contour along a residential street lined with homes.

When you reach Florin Street around 1⅛ miles, turn left and ascend Florin. You soon pass small park on your left which has picnic tables, a good spot for a break. Continue along Florin to its end, then go left on Hermosa Drive, quickly climbing to its end at busy Shell Beach Road just beyond 1⅜ miles.

Turn right and walk the sidewalk of Shell Beach Road down the coast, descending gradually. Reach Spyglass Drive by 2⅛ miles. It leads to access to adjacent Highway 101 to the north and coastal access at Spyglass City Park about ¼ mile south, but has no through access along the coast.

Continue along Shell Beach Road to 2⅞ miles where CCT turns right to descend Vista del Mar Avenue to its end. Turn left and follow Ocean Blvd. By 3⅛ miles it comes to the first blufftop parking area above the shore. At medium to low tide you can walk the tideline south from here. Continue along Ocean Blvd. or the tideline, passing two coastal access stairways before coming to Ocean City Park before 3¼ miles. One needs to leave the tideline here and return to the shoulder of Ocean Blvd. to follow the CCT south. Walk through a residential area, reaching the end of Ocean Blvd. at Placentia Avenue before 3½ miles. Turn left and follow Placentia up to Shell Beach Road around 3⅞ miles.

Turn right and follow Shell Beach Road down the coast. After passing an entrance to the freeway south around 4⅛ miles, Shell Beach Road becomes Price Street and draws near the coast, but the shore lies hidden at the base of tall bluffs. Continue past two motels, then an access for the freeway north beyond 4¾ miles to Wilmar Avenue on your right at 5¼ miles. Turn right and walk Wilmar to its end, then descend the stairway to the broad strand of Pismo State Beach beyond 5⅜ miles. The beach extends almost ⅛ mile north from the stairway, but the Coastal Trail turns left and follows the beach south to the Pismo Beach Pier at 6 miles.

ALTERNATE ROUTE: If you need to hike from the south gate of PG&E's Diablo Canyon property, it's 2¾ miles to SLO 11's access point. To do sO, walk east on Avila Beach Drive. At 1⅜ miles First Street on your right leads to the town of Avila Beach and Avila State Beach along its shore. Follow Avila Beach Drive to Cave Landing Road on the right at 2¼ miles. Turn right and ascend steeply on Cave Landing Road, then descend to the dirt parking area at 2¾ miles.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Walk the closed portion of Cave Landing Road and the quiet path along Bluffs Drive and return, 1¼ miles round trip. Walk Pismo Beach from either the pier or the Wilmar Drive stairway, up to 1½ miles round trip.

Distance: 6 miles (9.7 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers. Bicyclists on Shell Beach Road and other streets. Dogs OK on leash. SURFACE: Trail, road shoulder, sidewalk, beach.

Surface: From Bluffs Drive or anywhere south.

Access point: Cave Landing Trailhead.

How to get there: From the north, exit Highway 101 south of San Luis Obispo onto San Luis Bay Road. Turn right and go 1.4 miles to road's end, then turn right on Avila Beach Drive and go .75 mile to Cave Landing Road, turn left and go .5 mile to road's end. From the south, exit Highway 101 north of Shell Beach and go 2.05 miles to Cave Landing Road, turn left and go .5 mile to road's end.

Other access: From Bluffs Drive or anywhere south.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 140 feet+/390 feet-.

Cautions: Stay out of roadway when walking road shoulders.

Further information: Pismo State Beach (805)489-1869.

Facilities: Near Pismo Pier at south end, you'll find restrooms, phone, water and commercial services. The only other facilities are a chemical toilet around ¼ mile and picnic tables around 1¼ and 3¼ miles.

Campgrounds: Avila Beach has a private campground, the Avila Hot Springs Spa & RV Resort. Pismo State Beach's North Beach Campground just south of section's end has 103 units.

Lodging: San Luis Obispo has many choices, Avila Beach a few, Pismo Beach several. Hostel Obispo (805)544-4678 is in San Luis Obispo.

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