Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop

MODERATE 64 reviews

Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop is a 2.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Pismo Beach, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

2.8 miles
744 feet

dogs on leash

kid friendly



nature trips

trail running



partially paved


wild flowers

So beautiful. Pretty steep incline but well worth the trip for the stunning views. Cute swing at the top for a photo op.

3 months ago

The good: great views all around.
Why I would not do this trail again, or for the first time if I knew, is mainly the road noise. Also, it's the strenuous side of moderate, as has been noted. It's very steep for a fairly prolonged period. That doesn't bother me so much if I knew going in. There is very little shade. We parked at Pirates' Cove, and went along the Bluff Drive. Go left at the humongous yellow/gold house, that has a chain across what looks like a driveway. It's not the driveway. There's a little sign that looks like a dog print that says "keep our nature trail clean." That's how you know where the trail is. The easier way is if you go on the left trail that goes up from there. We went to the right, and the "up" when you turn is actually a bit scary, it's so steep and along a ridge. I may be in the minority about this trail, most people seem to love it, but... I'm not a fan.

3 months ago

Um... this was very difficult if you are a new hiker. Reviews didn’t adequately prepare for this shit, as y’all probably have killer calves and fancy hiking boots. Just when I thought I had hit the highest point and climbed the steepest hill, another was there, staring me down, proving me wrong. People were laughing on this hike. I was just attempting to breathe. The final decent on the way down to pirates cove is an absolute joke. A straight 90 degree angle. If you didn’t have bad knees yet, now you will. They should provide sleds to get down. I decided to just ride it down on my ass since I kept falling on it anyway.

Long story short, most beautiful views on the coast guaranteed, but don’t let these meatheads tell you it’s easy.

4 months ago

The Shell Beach Bluffs and Ontario Ridge Trail is an tough hike in spots however the views are spectacular of the Central Coast and Pacific Ocean. This hike of of the Shell Beach Bluffs and Ontario Ridge Trail is well worth doing, great all year long, maybe not so much in rainy season. This video was shot in the summer so very little bird life as compared to winter. Lots of wildlife if you look for it, mostly squirrels and rabbits so hawks can always be present. Many vultures soaring overhead.
A Virtual Treadmill video of this hike can be seen on my YouTube Channel, copy and paste link below to watch it. Thanks.

5 months ago

A bit dusty at points and a steep incline and descent that would be difficult to navigate without the appropriate footwear. Watch out for 2 swings near the cell towers.

5 months ago

So much fun! The climb up (west end) was gnarly - dry loose soil + loose gravel + steep AF made more a scary incline. But once we started, downwards was hella scarier than upwards (and the folks headed down looked pretty scared!). The ridge itself was really good - fabulous views above the clouds. The climb down (east end) was just a tiny bit scary.

6 months ago

Gorgeous views of Pirate's Cove and the coastline, north and south. It's steep going up and down no matter which way you go, but well worth it.

6 months ago

We went the bottom half, got lost in residential area and then the last part was coming down the hill from the top of the map. I recommend going this way. The hills are steep, bring good hiking shoes and stretch.

8 months ago

First trail I've ever done. I had a ton of fun, met some great strangers along the way and have some fantastic photos! I started at the parking lot by Pirates Cove. Getting to the tip-top from there was a challenge but it was smooth sailing after that. There are two swings along the way if you can find them!

9 months ago

Didn’t see previous entry. No parking at trailhead and could find one in the residential area next to trailhead. For someone new to area need trailhead parking directions with basic trail info.

9 months ago

If you follow these directions, you will be lead to a cul de sac with little to no parking. Instead take Avila Beach Road to Cave Landing Road. There’s a nice parking lot there. Also if you do the whole loop, it is not an easy hike. In fact it’s very strenuous at times. However, the views are amazing and worth the hike.

10 months ago

This is an easy paved walkway. You can continue the trail up the hill and over to the Pirates Cove parking area.

11 months ago

great views of the beach

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The description on this hike is misleading. Ontario ridge trail (El portal & Shell beach road) is not stroller friendly since it starts with an incline with shale. The majority of the trail is shale lined & it’s mainly uphill. If you take the trail behind the homes, it’s maintained & a different terrain. Scenic ocean views & cute swing for selfies.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Worked my butt

Friday, December 29, 2017

Very cool app! I can’t wait to use this wherever I travel!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Loved this hike. Starts very steep and ends even steeper as you go down toward the ocean, but most of it is rolling up and down along the ridge with incredible views and a couple rope swings along the way.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

very steep hill on the cave road side, but the views are phenomenal and well worth the climb. find the swing overlooking the water for a picturesque break.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Giving it a 4+ because of the awesome views of coast. Hike is not hard. Pretty short but some pretty steep sections. Take a camera

Friday, August 11, 2017

A little steep on each end for hobbits, an easy trek for elves. But very scenic.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Great views of the coast, but some inclines were more than moderate. Footing was loose on some very steep downhill portions.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Best views on the coast!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

awesome views

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My favorite

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Very beautiful trail. Paved most of the way. Has different routes you can take.

Monday, August 01, 2016

We added this trail to another one that starts from Avila Springs hotel (parked there), then came back by Bluff Trail. with all its nice villas. We also descended the hill to Pirates Cove and that was the worst part, stones rollings everywhere I thought I was going to strain an ankle! Very nice views from the crest!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nice vistas of the ocean and the pier. Eroding in some sections and a steep decent down to Pirates Cove

Sunday, May 01, 2016

beautiful day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

great moderate hike. has some steep parts that can kick an out of shape butt like mine but the views are unmatched. nice little swing to soak it all in at the top of the mountain overlooking the water too. going down the back way by pirates cove is like going down a free fall because its almost straight down but overall a good hike.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Great Hike up the ridge .. Awesome views .. Steep sections at times , but very doable ..

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