Sycamore Crest Trail is a wide dirt road on the north slope of Ontario Hill, which runs east to west between Shell Beach and Avila Beach. Beginning from Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Valley, the trail climbs through a lush oak grove to reach a junction with Ontario Ridge Trail at a south-facing saddle with lofty ocean views. Sycamore Crest Trail serves as a 1.75-mile out and back hike with 575 feet of elevation gain, and the trek can be extended by exploring more of Ontario Ridge.
Sycamore Crest Trail is fairly straightforward. Once you leave Sycamore Springs, there are no junctions until the top of the hill. From the parking lot, look for a sign marked Sycamore Trail to the right of Gardens of Avila Restaurant, and follow the road up a steep switchback to the trailhead. When the pavement ends, pick up the well-maintained service road climbing steadily up a broad ridge lined with red-barked Manzanita trees and Coastal Live Oaks. Through the forest, there are obstructed views of the Irish Hills to the north, and the Santa Lucia Mountains beyond.
As you ascend, the oaks grow taller and the forest becomes lusher, filled with ferns and mossy undergrowth. Despite limited views, the landscape is quite pleasant. This is a suitable hike for a warm day, minus the steady elevation gain, thanks to generous shade from the canopy overhead.
Sycamore Crest Trail
After progressing east up the side of a draw in Ontario Hill, Sycamore Crest Trail tapers out and comes to an end at a T-junction with Ontario Ridge Trail. The trees break, giving way to dramatic south-facing views down a sage-covered slope. Below the hill are Pirate’s Cove, Cave Landing, and a whole lot of turquoise water. To the west are Avila Beach and San Luis Harbor. It is quite a sight! Before returning down Sycamore Crest Trail, take a moment to explore the ridge, and redeem the ocean vistas earned on the ascent.
To the left, the trail crosses the backbone of the ridge, rising to 735 feet before dropping down to Shell Beach. To the right, the ridge trail connects to a short spur trail ascending to a rise on the west end of Ontario Hill. Beyond the spur, the trail drops dramatically to Cave Landing.
Looking down on Avila Beach and Cave Landing from the west end of Ontario Ridge Trail
An elaborate extension to this hike, which requires a car shuttle, is to continue east from Sycamore Crest Trail down Ontario Ridge Trail to Shell Beach, and then hike back up the coast on Shell Beach Bluff Trail to the trailhead at Cave Landing. This is a scenic 3.25-mile one-way hike. Without the shuttle, you could hike up the steep track from Cave Landing to Ontario Hill and return down Sycamore Crest Trail for a 4.5-mile lollipop loop with some serious ups and downs.
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort has been in business for over a century, treating visitors to more than just nice trails. If you are just here to hike, the resort offers free parking in their main lot. No fee or permit is required to hike Sycamore Crest Trail, and dogs are welcome.
To get to the trailhead: From the 101 Freeway seven miles south of San Luis Obispo, exit on Avila Beach Drive and head west for 0.8 miles to Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. Turn left into the large parking lot, find a space, and walk up the road to the right of Gardens of Avila Restaurant to reach the trail.
Trailhead address: 1215 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Trailhead coordinates: 35.18595, -120.714558 (35° 11′ 09.41″N 120° 42′ 52.40″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
|Bob Jones Bike Trail|
This easy 5-mile round trip hike or ride follows San Luis Obispo Creek to Avila Beach.
|Shell Beach Bluff Trail – Ontario Ridge Trail Loop|
This 2.8-mile loop explores the coast between Shell Beach and Avila Beach, on and below a 700-foot ridge.
This half-mile round trip hike descends 100 feet to a natural rock bridge at the end of a headland east of Avila Beach.
|Point San Luis Lighthouse via Pecho Coast Trail|
This docent-led 3.5-mile out and back hike crosses scenic coastal bluffs to reach the historic lighthouse on Point San Luis.
|More hikes in San Luis Obispo|
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park, Montaña de Oro State Park, and the Morros.