61-Week Hiking Challenge (Week 1)

By Shannon Gurnee
In Avila Beach
November 8, 2013

Week 1 Avila Ridge

The other day I found myself writing about how much I love it where I live here on the Central Coast, but then I realized that I really haven’t truly explored the area.  Granted it wasn’t until my twins were in 1st grade (this year) and attending school for full days that I felt like I had time of my own.  So now that I have those extra 3 hours 5 days a week, I’ve found myself wanting to be more active.

My girlfriend, Arleena and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were having this week and set out on an adventure to hike Avila Ridge (that’s what I’ve always heard it called, but come to find out it’s called Shell Beach Bluff Trail – Ontario Ridge Trail Loop).  More details on that trip in a minute. ..We had such a great time!  Was it hard – YES!  Was it fun to go with a friend – Hell YES!  I felt like I accomplished something hard and my body (although exhausted, and today as I write a day later my body is SO Sore!) felt great! 

Week 1 Avila Ridge 

So, I’ve decided to do my New Year’s Resolution early and give myself a challenge…each week I want to go on a hike.  I’d like it to be different every time, but trying to be realistic, I’m just going to say a hike a week.  I will report back to you (to keep me honest) on my thoughts and accomplishments.  After talking about this with some friends, who knows, maybe we’ll get a group going.  So because I’m starting this before the new year, and I don’t want to wait until January; instead of a 52 week challenge, I’m making it the 61 week challenge (to reflect starting this week).

Week 1 – Shell Beach Bluff Trail – Ontario Ridge Trail Loop

Arleena and I started on the Shell Beach side right off of the 101 Freeway.  It was extremely vertical from the get go.  After huffing and puffing for a few minutes we were at the top of the first ridge overlooking the freeway to one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  I can honestly say that on a clear day the stretch from Shell Beach to Avila reminds me of Catalina or even Hawaii until of course you step into the water (co-co-cold!). It is so picturesque!  

Week 1 Avila Ridge

There are a few sections where it’s flat, but there’s a lot of climbing.  Once at the top there are a few trails to explore.  We decided to go through an Oak tree forest.  This downhill path was very slippery, and after falling on our butts we found out by a passerby that the trail we were on was going t take us to Sycamore Hot Springs in Avila (complete opposite of where we were parked). We once again we found ourselves circling back uphill. 

Week 1 Avila Ridge

Week 1 Avila Ridge

Once back on top we decided to go down towards the beach.  Oh, did I mention there is a nudie beach hidden over there?!?  We saw a remarkably steep pathway.  We looked down, and then turned around and looked up…which way would you go?  Yep, we went down & after the first few slips we found we were in no-man’s-land & it was too late.  We had to carefully find footing to make it down without killing ourselves. After we made it, we got a few laughs at watching and hearing the screams of the others attempting to make it down.

Week 1 Avila Ridge

We then found ourselves on the paved Shell Beach Bluff Trail & it was easy peasy thereafter.  Saw some people at the nude beach, laughed, and admired the beautiful mansions along this short route.  And then we were back at my car.

Week 1 Avila Ridge

Week 1 Map My Run

My thoughts:

Difficulty:  7 (out of 10)

Beauty: 8 (out of 10)

Distance:  4.22 Miles

Pace:  16:20 min/mi

Max Elevation:  758’

Gain:  1,364.8’

Time: 1:09:00

Burned:  408 calories

Worth It?  Absolutely! (On a clear day)

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5) 

To get to the Shell Beach Drive trailhead: From the 101 Freeway, exit on Avila Beach Drive and turn south on Shell Beach Road, which runs down the west side of the freeway. Drive 1/3 of a mile and turn right on El Porto Drive. Continue west for 0.4 miles to the end of the road, and make a slight right on Indio Drive. Continue up to the cul-de-sac outside the private Bluff Drive, and turn left down to the parking lot.

Trailhead address: Indio Drive & Bluff Drive, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Trailhead coordinates: 35.174558, -120.707748


Here’s a sneak peak of where I think I’m going next week…

Week 2 – Bishop Peak Trail (San Luis Obispo) – 3.5 miles

This round trip hike summits the tallest of the Nine Sisters for excellent views over San Luis Obispo.



About Has 2061 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of Redhead Mom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

12 Responses to “61-Week Hiking Challenge (Week 1)”

  1. I love this idea! I am going to start looking for places in Northern California to hike more as well!!

  2. Lydia says:

    Such beautiful scenery! (Can I add that you scare me with the idea that I won’t get much “me” time until the kids are in elementary school!!!!! (I have 2 boys under 3.))

    • Caroline Hileman-Schaffer says:

      Hey Lydia. I don’t mean to scare you…but…..yes, it wasn’t until 1st grade that I felt I could do something…anything of value. Not even Kindergarden since it was only 3 hours/day…good luck 🙂 There are a lot of family/stroller friendly “hikes” out there. My kids will be going on some with me.

  3. monica young says:

    Love this challenge. Need to find the hiking trails near me and convince my son to go hiking with me. Great idea, thanks for sharing

    • Caroline Hileman-Schaffer says:

      Thanks, Monica! It’s surprising at how many trails are out there, we just have to look for them (yes, even in LA!). Some are a few minutes away, others may take a 1/2 day. Good luck!

  4. Carmen says:

    What a great idea! I would love to start a hiking challenge too – but it’s the wrong time of year. It’s < 20ºF right now and we may get snow by the end of the week 🙁

    • caroline schaffer says:

      Thanks Carmen! Brrr, sounds cold where you are. I’ll try no to rub it in too much that it was only 80 today 🙂

  5. Sarah Scott says:

    This looks like a beautiful hike, I must confess I tend to stick to flats wherever possible 😉
    This is a great weekly challenge – good luck

    • caroline schaffer says:

      Thanks, Sarah – I’ll need all the luck I can get! I like flat hikes too, but you can’t pass up the views on these bigger ones.

  6. I love this! Is this an app for California only? Would love something like this for Ohio hiking!


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