Summary: The Cerro Alto Trail is one of the finest in San Luis Obispo County. The views are outstanding. A good portion of the county can be recognized from the top.
If you go in the summer, be sure to get an early start. The elevation at the trailhead is only a little over 1000 feet, this one is unshaded and can get very hot, although an early morning start and late morning exit make it very pleasant.
It can also get very hot in the wintertime. The hike from the high trail is a steady uphill gain. You will know you are climbing. The lower trail is steeper and good for the return.
Bikes and horses also use this trail, so be watchful, this is a well-known biking spot.
Trailhead: From Highway 1 in Morro Bay, exit onto Highway 41 east towards Atascadero. Drive for 7.25 miles and turn right onto forest road 29S11. Follow it for nearly a mile to the end of the campground. Park in the day use area and head up either trail.
Alternatively, from the 101 in Atascadero, head west on the 41 for 8.75 miles to a left on forest road 29S11.
The top trail is very well signed. The lower trail is shorter and steeper and is marked below a 10 mile an hour/ dogs on leash sign 50 yards down the road from the main trail. (Lat:35.41442 Lon:-120.73406)
Trail Guides for Cerro Alto:
by Tom Sinestra and Ann Marie Brown (Avalon Travel)
Walking the California Coast
by John McKinney (Harper Collins)
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Los Padres National Forest (805) 925-9538
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Allen Riedel, who has posted 123 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 3 Submit your own review
Reviewed by JB on 4/18/2016
We hike this once or twice a week. We're in our early 60s so it is a great work out. In the summer months it can be extremely hot in the afternoon. Best to hike in the morning. In other seasons it can be chilly at the top. One of the things we love is that the spectacular view at the top is always different - sometimes foggy, sometimes you can see forever! In the spring the green hills to the west look like Ireland. We have seen rattlesnakes, tarantulas and lots of lizards. Just keep your eyes open. Bring water! It is our favorite hike on the Central coast. Not easy, but worth it.
Reviewed by Kiley E.E. on 2/20/2015
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Reviewed by kate on 3/31/2014
Great hike, strenuous. I used to hike this trail in my late twenties and it was challenging and fun. now I am early fifties and found it much more rigorous, still worth the work. Dogs had fun. Go on a cool day!
Reviewed by JP on 2/13/2012
Great hike, what a spectacular view from the top. Don't see many like that. The trail was in great condition, some flowers starting to bloom. Saw some giant newts and lots of banana slugs. It is a climb but well worth it, took our kids, 9, 11, 14 & 17.
Reviewed by AK on 9/20/2011
My friend and I hiked this trail with our three dogs for the second time today. We took the path that is just beyond the entrance on the right hand side. A good workout, but not too bad. You definitely need to bring lots of water and wear sunscreen. A bit rocky so maybe not good for older dogs or people with knee problems. I had on sneakers and was definitely wishing for some hiking boots on the way down the hill. The views are great though and since it was a weekday we didn't see any other hikers. A bit warm still for this hike, but I imagine in the Fall this place is fantastic!
Reviewed by YG & EG on 9/2/2011
Great trail, we did it multiple times from the campgroud all the way to the top with our kids (9,7,4)
Reviewed by JK on 8/24/2011
It was really beautiful, albeit a little hot since we didn't get started until noon. About a mile from the summit, we encountered a gigantic rattlesnake, several feet long. I stepped to the side of the trail to get out of the sun and didn't see the VERY-well-camoflagued snake. It rattled, hissed and scared the heck out of us. We would still hike it again. I would just recommend that you be vigilant. (BTW the flies mentioned by another reviewer swarmed around us as well. We saw some campers with mosquito nets, which was smart.) Don't forget to bring sunscreen and lots of water.
Reviewed by GF on 7/13/2011
7/13/2011 Good hike. The weather was cool but as we got closer to the top it became foggy so we knew that we would not see the magnificent view that the mountain top is known for. If it looks like fog is rolling in from Morro Bay you may want to reconsider this hike for a day that is clear.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: California Hiking, California Trails, California Hikes, San Luis Obispo County Hiking, San Luis Obispo County Trails, San Luis Obispo County Hikes