Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is one of my favorite hiking places along the central California coast. It’s easily accessible for those staying in San Simeon or Cambria. Within minutes of entering Fiscalini Ranch, you can experience a variety of terrain from serene forest paths to jaw-dropping coastal trails.
Picturesque scenery, charming boardwalks, rugged ocean views, and diverse ecosystems make the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve a great place to enjoy nature and observe wildlife. Visitors can often spot whales, seals, otters, and a variety of birds from one of the trails that travel next to the ocean bluffs.
With 17 hiking trails to choose from, there is plenty to explore at the beautiful Fiscalini Ranch Preserve!
Location & Parking
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is located to the west of Cabrillo Highway 1 in Cambria. This nature preserve is surrounded by small residential communities and is easily walkable from the nearby neighborhoods.
Unlike other hiking areas, Fiscalini Ranch Preserve does not have a designated visitor parking lot. To hike the trails at Fiscalini Ranch you can park at one of the residential streets and walk into the nature preserve.
Multiple entrances lead into the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve but the most popular route starts on Windsor Blvd. It is called the Bluff Trail and it follows right along the ocean.
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Address: North Entrance, 4600 Windsor Blvd, Cambria, CA 93428
About Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a beautiful coastal hiking area that covers 437 acres of land and is home to various wildlife. Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a habitat for over 150 different plant species and 430 types of birds. Here you can also enjoy a stroll through a Monterey pine forest, one of the last Monterey pine forests left in California.
During your visit, you can often spot animals such as whales, sea otters, seals, and a variety of birds. Other animals like deer, coyotes, owls, foxes, and bobcats also reside in this wilderness.
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is named after the Fiscalini family that owned it for almost a century and used it to raise cattle. Eventually, the ranch was sold in 1979 with plans to turn it into a beachfront housing development. However, thanks to local fundraising efforts the land was sold to a non-profit organization and turned into a wildlife preserve.
Now this area is managed by Cambria Community Services District and Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. This nature preserve is free to visit and is open from sunrise to sunset every day (around 5:00 am to 8:00 pm).
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is very family-friendly and dogs are also allowed, although they do need to be leashed and kept on established trails to protect wildlife restoration efforts.
Hiking Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
There are over 17 different trails at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and many of them intertwine.
I decided to follow a suggested route by AllTrails that covers multiple trails and extends up to 3.5 miles. This is the hiking route that I will cover in my post but you can certainly shorten it and do a distance that you’re comfortable with.
The 3.5-mile-long hike that I decided to do starts and ends at the Huntington Road entrance.
There isn’t a designated place to park so I just drove around the neighborhood and parked at one of the side streets.
Huntington Road entrance starts next to a gate and leads into the Ridge Trail. There is some information at this entrance describing Fiscalini Ranch Preserve history along with hiking maps.
The Ridge Trail passes along a wide path on top of a hill and from here you can see some peaks of the ocean in the distance.
Following the AllTrails hiking route, I hiked straight along the Ridge Trail, and within a few minutes, I reached a shaded section with Monterey pine forest and coast live oak trees. There were only a few other hikers in this part of the nature preserve and it felt very serene and peaceful.
There are a few benches along the forest section where you can sit down and enjoy a bit of solitude and nature before heading down to the more crowded beach area.
I followed the Ridge Trail to the end of the forest and then started hiking downhill toward the beach. The trail abruptly ends in a residential neighborhood but you can go around and continue again on the Bluff Trail that starts at S Windsor Blvd entrance.
Bluff Trail is the most scenic section of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and it follows along a wooden boardwalk next to dramatic ocean cliffs.
Usually, the Bluff Trail travels in two directions but during my visit, it was turned into a one-way trail. You can find an updated trail map on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve website here.
Some access points lead down to the beach where visitors can observe tidepools and different types of ocean species such as crabs, sea stars, and mussels. Fiscalini Ranch coastline is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest national marine sanctuary in the United States.
If you see any living organisms in the water, please don’t disturb, touch, or remove them from the tidepools. Dogs are also not allowed down on the beach for the protection of this sensitive habitat.
The Bluff Trail has a lot of artistic wooden benches for resting. These were great for taking a quick break, eating a snack, and enjoying panoramic views of the ocean all around. Along this section, you can often spot whales, otters, and seals in the ocean.
Once I reached the endpoint of the Bluff Trail the path looped around and returned to the Marine Terrace Trail.
At this point, I started to look for trails that can lead me back to the Huntington Road entrance. I spotted Arch Trail that climbs up through rolling hills back towards the starting point. This section was the steepest part of the entire hike but it wasn’t very difficult.
I do want to note that you don’t need to know each trail’s name to get bearings on this nature preserve. I just followed a general guideline by AllTrails and frequently referenced the Fiscalini Ranch map pamphlet that I picked up at the starting point.
Although this nature preserve is quite big, it’s not that difficult to navigate once you’re there. There are only a few main trails that everyone takes so it’s easy to figure out which way to go.
It took me a couple of hours to complete the 3.5-mile-long hiking route of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. I was done by the afternoon and stopped in Cambria for lunch before heading out.
If you’re looking for other great trails to check out around Central Coast, here are some of my favorites:
- San Simeon Bay Trail By Hearst Castle
- Black Hill Trail in Morro Bay
- Elfin Forest Trail In Los Osos
- Cass Hill Trail In Cayucos
- There are no restrooms at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. The closest open public restroom that I found is located at Shamel Park up the road.
- There are no drinking water sources either. Make sure to bring along plenty of water for your hike.
- Fiscalini Ranch Preserve trails pass through a variety of terrain. I suggest wearing good hiking shoes and preparing for a change in the weather. It can be quite chilly by the coast in the morning and then sunny and hot by midday.
- Some sections of the trails are overgrown with poison oak. Make sure to keep an eye out for poison oak and walk around it with caution.
- Occasionally Fiscalini Ranch Preserve hosts free walking tours of the preserve. For information on guided tours, you can see more on the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve website here.