Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop

moderate 117 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.

Distance: 2.8 miles Elevation Gain: 744 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

partially paved

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

hiking
1 month ago

We went clockwise which was nice since the hard part was over with - would not want to try and come down that side. Super, super steep, going to feel that tomorrow. Beautiful weather and views. Lots of other hikers, Saturday, December 28, 2019. Def. need good tread on your shoes. Great photo ops. The swings were mostly broken. Would love to fix up some new ones!

Needs trail markers. Also, highly recommend poles and shoes with good tread. This has very steep and very slippery sections. Amazing views.

hiking
4 months ago

our niece suggested this trail and we are glad she did! Very challenging at the start heading up the steep incline. Once we reached the top the views are amazing. The swing overlooking the water it awesome.

hiking
rocky
5 months ago

Awesome views throughout hike. To start the loop, we went straight uphill from the trail head off the parking area on a well worn and slippery steep incline. Based on reviews, we preferred to do that hill going up, it can be hairy coming down. Well worth it. The loop takes about 90 mins with stops for photos.

hiking
5 months ago

I don’t know why this is marked as a moderate hike. I found it strenuous with extremely steep up-and-down sections on the trail. I had shoes that did not have good tread and found it very slippery. I fell a few times. And I noticed other people falling as well. Be careful parking in the dirt parking lot. If you have a high suspension and four-wheel-drive it’s not a problem. Great views but I probably wouldn’t do this hike again.

hiking
5 months ago

Started from the alternative trail head. That worked well, but parking is very limited. The trail head is at a fire road which has a no parking sign. Very steep up and down as others note. Highly recommend counterclockwise because the slope going up from the main trail head is all sand, straight up and very slippery. The views from the ridge are great. The bottom half takes you along a street for a portion. Don’t miss the swings.

hiking
scramble
5 months ago

Great view, solid little hike, easy to miss trail entrance so ended up doing a section through neighborhood. End (counter clockwise) is VERY steep and loose underfoot. I would not bring small kids, shame because of the cool swings on top. Maybe if you out and back instead of loop...

hiking
6 months ago

Fantastic hike. One of the best in SLO County on a high visibility day. Recommend parking on Shell Beach side of loop and hiking counter clockwise for best views. Swing at the top. Very steep decent on Avila side. Take side trail from Pirates Cove parking lot to Cave Landing. Only negative - last time I did this, there was transient camping at Pirates Cove parking lot.

hiking
6 months ago

Great, very challenging hike! The initial assent was crazy steep, but as you walk along the ridge the trail is wide mostly and great 360 degree views. Used the all trails map to make sure we were on course as we came down. The swings are fun and cute. The best part was watching marine layer disappear and blow over the top of the mountain as we hiked.

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful rewarding hike! Loved coming across these two sweet swings overlooking the ocean. A definite must.

hiking
7 months ago

Love this trail, it’s a little rocky but well worth it especially if you get a chance to use the swing at the top and enjoy the beautiful view

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

Challenging hike, saw lots of wildlife. There are several swings in the summit. Overall great hike with amazing views

hiking
9 months ago

Great trail. Very steep in some places so best to have hiking shoes, which we did not. Great views!

hiking
9 months ago

I can’t believe we waited this long to do this trail. At this time of year there was still a lot of blooms and scenery was beautiful, party cloudy but perfect weather for a hike. It took us a little over an hour but that included play time on the swings and taking pictures. There was some really steep hills but perfect for getting the feel of a workout. Really nice shaded areas and ocean views.

Oh my God Steep and we didn’t even go up the Freeway side. It was a great hike however. Make sure you have hiking shoes not slip-on’s. The wild flowers are taking over and watch for ticks.

hiking
9 months ago

This one has never disappointed. I'll hike this about every other week, typically around sunset. Steep incline at first with loose dirt, but after that it's even or downhill. Great views of Avila and Pismo.

hiking
10 months ago

A local favorite. Definitely do the steep incline first to get it over with. There is some loose gravel in parts, but the views at the top as well as the swings at various points and the ocean breeze are definitely worth it.

hiking
11 months ago

Definitely park in the dirt coldesac on the bluff. If you are facing the mountain then look to your left and you will be see a wide dirt walking trail straight up the mountain. It’s very steep. Take that way up . It will loop you all the way up and around and back down the mountain on the other side, take you through a beautiful neighborhood, and pop you right back out at your car.

hiking
11 months ago

Really steep part at the beginning. It was really hard but after that it was all good. If you are fearful of heights I would definitely do the steep part first. The views were FANTASTIC! SO worth the pain of the first portion.

Fri Oct 19 2018

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

hiking
Wed Oct 17 2018

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.

Mon Sep 24 2018

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.

hiking
Fri Sep 07 2018

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. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFO02nxPdM4-CabegFIPlow?view_as=subscriber

hiking
Wed Aug 08 2018

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.

hiking
Sun Jul 29 2018

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.

hiking
Sun Jul 01 2018

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.

Wed Jun 27 2018

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.

Tue May 08 2018

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!

Sun Apr 15 2018

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.

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