The town of San Luis Obispo prides itself on surrounding open space where dog-friendly hiking trails dot the hillsides. The most popular and certainly the most rigorous of day hikes is local landmark Bishop’s Peak, tallest of the Nine Sisters, a string of peaks spanning the 12 miles between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. The hike to Bishop’s Peak’s 1,546-foot summit is a 3.5-mile, out-and-back adventure with an elevation change of more than 1,200 feet. Normal hike times range from three to five hours, and temperatures along the trail will vary, becoming quite hot in summer. Be sure to bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog even when the weather is cool, as this is a strenuous outing.
Another rugged trek leads to the summit of Morro Bay’s Black Hill, second-highest of the Nine Sisters, where stunning vistas emerge as the trail ascends. On clear days, hikers at the peak are rewarded with views of the coastline and inland rolling hills. Springtime finds Black Hill and her sister peaks awash in native wildflowers including poppies, lupine, sticky-monkey and flowering gooseberry. Poison oak abounds, so keep your pup on the trail to avoid this pesky bandit whose oils will adhere to dog hair and easily spread to affectionate owners.
For an easier stroll, seek out the Los Osos Elfin Forest near the namesake town of Los Osos. A favorite of locals, this 90-acre nature preserve welcomes dogs with miles of trails and stunning vistas of the bay. A short walk up the well-maintained, .8-mile boardwalk finds Morro Rock and the estuary peeking into view over a live-oak forest. Visitors are invited to pick up a trail guide that includes a map and information about the natural and human history of the area.
In SLO town, the web of trails leading into the open space bordering Laguna Lake Park offers opportunities both strenuous and serene for outings with your four-legged friend. To keep it mellow, follow a path that stays within sight of the park’s base-area parking lot and building complex.
In spring, another good choice is the Big Falls Trail near Lopez Lake, where an 80-foot cascade splashes most of the year into a popular swimming hole.