Spring to Spring Trail Pismo Preserve
Central Coast

Hiking Spring To Spring Trail At Pismo Preserve

If you’re planning a trip to Pismo Beach and are looking for an easy yet stunning hike, put Spring to Spring Trail on top of your list!

The Spring to Spring Trail is located within Pismo Preserve and offers incredible views of the coastline, especially from up top. From hiking to mountain biking and wildlife viewing, there is so much beauty to enjoy along this trail!

Here is everything you need to know for visiting and hiking the Spring to Spring Trail in Pismo Beach!


Lone Oak Tree along the trail

Quick Trail Highlights

Here are a few quick Spring to Spring Trail highlights before we go into more details:

  • Length: 3.4-mile-long loop
  • Elevation Gain: Around 500 feet
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Dogs allowed?: Yes, this trail is dog friendly

Views of Central Coast from Pismo Preserve

Location & Parking

Spring to Spring Trail is part of the Pismo Preserve which is a large natural area open to the public for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.  There is a large visitor parking area off Mattie Road at the bottom of the preserve.

To reach the trailhead you can set your Google Map directions to ‘Pismo Preserve Trail Parking‘ which will lead you directly to the parking lot. You can also look up the ‘Spring to Spring Trail‘ on the AllTrails hiking app and set directions directly through the app.

Pismo Preserve visitor parking lot

While the visitor lot is decent in size, finding an open spot can be a challenge. Pismo Preserve is a very popular area for outdoor recreational activities, especially on the weekends. If you plan to hike any of the trails, I suggest arriving early in the morning before the parking lot fills up.

At the trailhead, you can check out a map of Pismo Preserve and use the public restroom. It is not permitted to enter Pismo Preserve at night and they have cameras set up to catch any trespassers.

Pismo Preserve Trailhead

About Pismo Preserve

Pismo Preserve consists of nearly 900 acres of wilderness that are managed by The Land Conservancy for protection and outdoor recreation. The main goal of The Land Conservancy is to restore the Pismo Preserve, protect the wildlife that resides here, and provide opportunities for people to enjoy nature.

Pismo Preserve offers over 11 miles of hiking trails that travel through gentle hills and California oak woodlands.

Map of Pismo Preserve by The Land Conservancy

The most popular trails are the:

  • Discovery Trail – 5.2 miles
  • Spring to Spring – 3.4 miles
  • Lone Oak – 2.2 miles
  • Panhandle – 1.1 miles
  • Vamanos Canyon – .75 miles

On our visit, we decided to hike the Spring to Spring Trail which is long enough to get a good morning workout in, but not too long.

I would classify the Spring to Spring Trail as easy to moderate because it only gains 500 feet in elevation through steady switchbacks. This hike is a great choice for beginner hikers and families with kids and dogs.

The Spring to Spring Trail offers a great mix of woodlands and ocean views

The terrain consists of well-maintained but narrow paths that climb up and down rolling hills with some trees for shade. There are multiple benches and picnic tables for resting and taking breaks throughout the hike.

Pismo Preserve has multiple trails that intersect, but the trails are well marked. If you plan to hike the Spring to Spring trail – look for the blue trail markers.

Follow the blue markers for Spring to Spring Trail

At the trailhead, you can take a photo of the Pismo Preserve map or use hiking apps like AllTrails to keep track of the route. This nature preserve is located near Pismo Beach so we had cell reception throughout the hike.


Our Hiking Experience

We were visiting Pismo Beach for a quick weekend getaway and decided to hike the Spring to Spring trail to get some fresh air and exercise before heading back home.

We hiked the Spring to Spring Trail counterclockwise starting at the main trailhead by the restrooms. There is a large map of Pismo Preserve where the trail starts.  

Pismo Preserve trail starting point

Once you head into the trail, you will need to pass through a gate to continue along the path. This area is used for cattle grazing so be sure to close the gates behind you.

The first section follows switchbacks up an exposed hill next to Highway 101. You will see and hear cars passing by from the highway but you’ll notice them less and less as you climb up.

While the bottom part of the hike was covered in morning coastal fog, it burned off as we climbed higher up. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen for the hike as it can get very hot and sunny at the top.  

About 1.1 miles into the trail, you will reach the Lone Oak Tree. This is a grand 100-200 year-old Oak Tree that sits at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. To prevent damage to the tree and its roots, the tree has been blocked off from visitors with a fence.

Lone Oak Tree

After the Lone Oak, keep following the narrow path through lush hills covered in oak woodlands. There will be some shade in this part of the Pismo Preserve which is great for cooling down and taking breaks.

The higher you go, the better the views will get! At the top, the hike will flatten out and you’ll be able to enjoy views of Pismo Beach and see all the way to the sand dunes.  

About halfway into the hike, you will come across two shortcuts that you can take back to the trailhead:

  • Low Road
  • High Road
High Road Trail

If you’re feeling too hot or need to cut the hike short, you can take these roads back to the visitor parking lot.

If you continue along the main loop, the hike will start gradually climbing down through a partially shaded forest. Here we came across an interesting tree with hundreds of small holes made by Acorn Woodpeckers for storing acorns.

The west part of the Pismo Preserve offers amazing views overlooking Pismo Beach, Dinosaur Caves Park and jagged rocks scattered along the coastline.  

On the way down be on the lookout for bikers and move over to let them pass. There will be another gate and soon after the hike will end at the visitor lot.

Exit gate for the Spring to Spring Trail

Other Visitor Tips

  • Dogs are allowed at the Pismo Preserve but must stay on a leash and be cleaned up after.
  • There have been mountain lion sightings in this area. Always stay alert for potential run-ins with wildlife.
  • This area is known for having rattlesnakes. While snake bites are rare, we recommend bringing a snake venom extractor kit.
  • Carry plenty of water to stay hydrated. There are no water sources once you head into the trail.
  • There are ticks and poison oak along this trail. Stay on the main path to avoid contact with both.
  • The preserve is open from dawn to dusk. Overnight visitation is not allowed due to mountain lion and wildlife sightings.
  • Pismo Preserve is a multi-use area that allows hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Where To Stay Nearby

Here are some of the best places to stay in Pismo Beach to ensure you’ll have a great time in this cute and cozy beach town!

SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel

Photo by SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel

SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel is often touted as one of the best hotels in Pismo Beach thanks to its prime location overlooking the ocean. Each room is furnished in a bright and elegant style with modern touches. The rooms also come with a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker to start the morning off right!

On the hotel grounds, enjoy a soak in one of the 3 hot tubs or take a lap in the pool. The SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel has patios with fire pits and a rooftop terrace where you can kick back and relax.


Shell Beach Inn

Photo by Shell Beach Inn

Shell Beach Inn is a cozy boutique hotel with 10 modernly decorated rooms. This top-ranked hotel features a seasonally heated outdoor pool and a sun terrace that is a great place to relax and watch the sunset at the end of the day. Select rooms have a kitchen space with a fridge, microwave, and oven.

The Shell Beach Inn is close to all the top Pismo Beach attractions including a stairway that leads down to a hidden beach. The hotel offers free private parking which is a major plus!


Inn at the Cove

Photo by Inn at the Cove

The beautiful Inn at the Cove Hotel sits on an oceanfront clifftop and boasts cozy accommodations with panoramic views of the coast. Most bookings come with private balconies offering incredible views of the ocean or the swimming pool.

In the morning enjoy a complimentary Continental breakfast with waffles, pastries, and muffins. After a long day exploring the coast, relax at the onsite heated pool and hot tub. Inn at the Cove is pet friendly and they even offer an electric car charging station for convenience!


Looking for more things to do around the Central Coast? Check out these posts next:


Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links which helps me run this blog. Thank you!

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