Hiking in Cayucos

Sweeping coastal views and a temperate climate make hiking the trails in and around Cayucos a must-do. Ready to hit the trail? Bring water, sunscreen, a hat…and your sense of adventure.


Choose from one of the four Cayucos hikes mentioned below to start trekking


These easy 4-mile out-and-back trails skirt the eastern side of Whale Rock Reservoir, the smallest reservoir in San Luis Obispo County. Built in 1961, the dam was named after historic whalers who watched for whales swimming through Estero Bay. Today the 1,350-acre reservoir supplies San Luis Obispo County with water.

Fishing is permitted along the Whale Rock Reservoir shore from the last Saturday in April to November 15th. (California Department of Fish and Game fishing regulations apply.) Find steelhead, catfish, blue gill, and Sacramento suckers among the fish population. Also look for bald eagles, osprey, and migratory birds around the lake. Dogs are allowed on leash on the trail, but watch for rattlesnakes and note that ticks present a serious, recurring issue for pets and owners alike. To reach the trailheads from Cayucos, drive 1 mile south to Old Creek Road. Turn left onto Old Creek Road and drive for 1.5 miles. Park on the left, just before entering the PG&E substation. Note that the trails require an entrance fee.

Whale Rock Reservoir Trail Summary

Distance: 4 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 288 ft
Hiking difficulty: easy
Dogs allowed: yes, on leash
Permits and fees: $2 access fee
Hours: 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. Wednesday through Sunday during fishing season for fishing and hiking
Amenities: pit toilets, picnic areas, parking.

Cayucos Whale Rock Reservoir

Estero Bluffs State Park Trail

Once home to the Chumash and Salinan people, and later owned by the California Missions, Estero Bluffs State Park was established in 2002. The park comprises 353 acres and features panoramic views of the bay and Morro Rock. The rocky coastline supports tide pools, as well as otters and harbor seals who play offshore. Birds like pelicans, cormorants, sea gulls, and snowy egrets can also be found here.

At about 4 miles, the Estero Bluffs Trail  runs north to south overlooking the beach. A series of lateral trails connect to the wide, flat main trail from informal parking areas just off Highway 1. (In other words, a hike at Estero Bluffs can be as long or short as you’d like it to be.) The beach is accessible to those willing to scramble down a trail near San Geronimo Creek. Be aware, however, that to get from cove to cove, you’ll need to cross some tidal rocks. Dogs are allowed, on leash. From the south, travel north on Highway 1 and pass Cayucos. The Estero Bluffs State Park lies on the ocean side of the highway. Find several pullouts and ample room to park throughout the park’s four-mile stretch. Access is best found at the trailhead at San Geronimo Road. Find the restored windmill on the left and park at the pullout.

Estero Bluffs State Park Trail Summary

Distance: 4 miles, one-way along the coastline, though lateral trails can shorten the trip
Elevation gain: 276 ft
Hiking difficulty: easy
Dogs allowed: yes, on leash
Permits and fees: none
Hours: 6 A.M. to sunset, daily,  year-round
Amenities: parking

Estero Bluffs

Harmony Headlands Trail

One of the state’s newest state parks, the Harmony Headlands State Park opened in 2008. Untouched grasslands and coastline make this a rare California landscape, thanks to a purchase by the American Land Conservancy in 2003. At 784 acres, Harmony Headlands State Park once belonged to the Rancho San Geronimo land grant, and was later a working ranch. Today, the space welcomes hikers, walkers, and trail runners to travel its length amidst coastal rushes and a craggy shoreline.

To reach the trailhead, travel five miles north of Cayucos and look for the sign for Harmony Headlands State Park. Park in the gravel lot for a $3.00 fee or along Highway 1 for free. Find a large map on the interpretive sign at the trail’s start. Stroll along the inland section of trail, and peek into the old bunkhouse that remains from the land’s cattle ranching days. (You’ll also find the trail’s one and only pit toilet here.) Watch birds for birds at the man-made pond, another remnant from ranching days. At 1.75 miles in, the trail meets the ocean bluffs and runs parallel to them for another 0.75 miles. At the northwest edge of the park, turn around and came back the way you came.

Harmony Headlands Trail Summary

Distance: 4.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation gain: 250 feet
Hiking difficulty: easy
Dogs allowed: no
Permits and fees: $3.00 parking fee at trailhead
Hours: 6 A.M. to sunset
Amenities: Parking, bike rack, three benches along the trail, pit toilet

Harmony Headlands

More hiking trails along the Highway 1 Discovery Route

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