Trail Running in Pismo Beach and Beyond

Calling all trail runners. If you haven’t been running in Pismo Beach lately, you’re in for a treat. Spring is the perfect time to plan a visit to explore the well groomed trails of Pismo Beach and surrounding areas. Enjoy miles of world-renowned views – from coastal vistas to inland valley fields and groves – all of it is gorgeous. The weather is ideal with cool mornings and evenings, along with warm sunny days if you prefer to run in the heat of midday. The flowers are still in bloom, so every stretch greets you with rainbows of happy spring colors and wafts of sweet floral fragrance.

Run for the Hills


For excellent trails, no matter where in town your starting point is, you won’t have to go far. Depending on the kind of vista you’re seeking or what distance you want, we have some favorite recommendations below. This is by no means a complete list. There are miles and miles of worthwhile trails all over the county. Some sites to research and map trails include,, and

Pismo Beach Preserve

Ok, so this beauty, the Pismo Beach Preserve, is not 100% open to the public yet, but is an exciting trail we are all awaiting with great anticipation. The trails run through indigenous oak woodlands and along the coastal ridgelines with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Irish Hills to Point Sal. For now you can join a scheduled docent led run – the next one is May 7th, and keep your ear to the ground for announcement of the opening of the completed trail…a day and a trail you’re not going to want to miss.

Cal Poly

A few miles north of Pismo and just beyond the Cal Poly campus boundaries are miles of agricultural landholdings with a bountiful network of trails. The Poly Canyon loop is about 8 miles of dirt running along the hills and valleys of the canyon. The area is a favorite with the local cross-country teams as well as all kinds of ultrarunners who stray off the loop to cover the many trails climbing higher and further toward Cuesta Ridge. You literally could run for days on the interconnected network of trails.

Cerro San Luis

This large property is central to the SLO network of trails. It’s privately owned as part of the Madonna Inn acreage, but the family graciously allows public access for recreation. There are several great trails with varying mileage and elevation from a quick 2 mile with a slight incline on the Lemon Grove loop to a full rigorous 4+ mi climb to the summit with approximately 900 ft. gain.

Well Tended Trails

Because the weather is so optimal in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo county, athletes flock to the area to train on these trails. With huge demand, the city and regional caretakers (like Parks and Rec, CCCMB, and the Land Conservancy), as well as residents and the athletes, all pitch in to keep the trails looking great and functioning well for everyone. During the heavy rains, for example, many trails officially closed to keep the trails (and the runners) safe. Following the rains, crews of staff and volunteers headed out to trim overgrowth and tidy the trails, so you can rely on the trail underfoot and keep more of your focus on the beauty of the views. With a place as special and beautiful as Pismo Beach, you want to be able to enjoy it fully!

If you need some helpful local advice, visit the Running Warehouse headquarters in San Luis, or The Mountain Air where you’ll find support with shoes, gear and equipment along with the lowdown on all of the local trails. Finally, we’d be remiss to not leave you with a few safety tips. Run with a buddy whenever possible, always carry water, and watch out for wildlife. These hills are definitely alive!

When you wrap your run and are looking for an equally breathtaking place to take a warm bath or even a jacuzzi soak with an ocean view, cross your finish line at the SeaCrest hotel in Pismo Beach. We’ll make sure to top off your trail run with plenty of pampering. Book your adventure today.

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