Explore the most popular birding trails near Pismo Beach with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The Monarchs were starting to arrive when we visited but this is a beautiful place to walk through trees, sand dunes, and the beach. Loved watching the Monarchs. Don’t miss this if you are around during Monarch season—Late October until February or so.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

This was a beautiful trail even outside of butterfly season, we saw probably 10, but enjoyed the hike to the beach that was easy enough for kids:)

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.

This is a beautiful area; especially when the monarch butterflies have arrived. Well worth checking out and walking. The trail goes all along the beach for some beautiful scenery and fresh air.

Not too many butterflies in April! We saw maybe 10, so be aware this is their winter spot not spring!

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.

Love the thousands of butterflies. I have now done this trail in February and also in January. January seemed to have more butterflies.

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

great views of the beach

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

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

We love this one! It’s so fun to see all of the butterflies!

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

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.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The last hike of my SLO County days and offers a pretty scenic view. The trail itself isn't maintained and is really steep and loose in some spots initially but improves once you get up to the top. From what I saw it goes all the way down to pirates cove. Parking isn't available so you have to find a spot in the nearby neighborhood.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Didn't read the other review. Entry is gated and chained.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Shorter than expected. Perfect for a dog walk, not great for exercise. One small hill, flat enough for a jogger stroller, but easy enough to have baby in a carrier.

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