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Mimi Ditchie Photography/ Getty Images

Key Info

80 Mattie Road

Price & Hours

Free
Dawn - Dusk

Details

Free, Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Nature lovers will revel in the 11 miles of trails and scenic overlooks at the Pismo Preserve. This expansive area is full of wildlife and funded by a nonprofit called the Land Conservancy. There are trails for hikers of all levels. Previous visitors recommended the Pismo Discovery Trail for beginners, the Peekaboo Trail for intermediate hikers and the Vamanos Canyon Trail for advanced hikers. As you explore the trails, you'll pass through woodland areas and open pastures that look over the Pacific Ocean. You'll likely see cows grazing on some of these open lands, and you may even come across horses as horseback riding is permitted on some trails. There are two trails – the Vamanos Canyon Trail and the Lover's Point Trail – that are dedicated to hikers only; all other trails allow for mountain bikers.

The 900-acre Pismo Preserve stretches from Irish Hills Nature Reserve in the north to Point Sal State Beach in the south. Irish Hills is a mountainous area popular among equestrians, while Point Sal is a great place for fishing, hiking, bird-watching or just relaxing on the sand. (However, the waves here can be strong, so swimming isn't recommended.)

You can park and enter the Pismo Preserve at the south end of Mattie Road off of exit 191B. Entrance is free but hours vary. The preserve is closed at night so as not to disturb wildlife. You may bring your dogs on the trails as long as they stay on a leash. For your convenience, there are restrooms and water fountains located at the start of the trails near the south end of the property. For more information, visit the official website.

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#1 Pismo State Beach and Pier

One of the main attractions in Pismo Beach is undoubtedly the pier. This 1,370-foot-long wooden structure stretches into the Pacific and acts as a community gathering point where visitors can fish, attend seasonal events or simply admire the views. Some of the pier's annual events include Pumpkins on the Pier and the Tree Lighting and Celebration, which kids are sure to enjoy.

Beyond the pier is Pismo State Beach, which stretches along the California coast for about 17 miles. In the beach area near the pier, you'll find many people trying their hands at water sports, including surfing. This area is a surfer's paradise and hosts the annual World Surf League's Pismo Beach Open in January and February. The pier is even lit up at night, so nighttime surfers can navigate the waves. If you'd like to rent surfboards or other equipment, you'll find multiple surf shops near the pier, including the popular Pismo Beach Surf Shop.

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