61-Week Hiking Challenge (Week 13) – Reservoir Canyon Trail
A few weeks back, Arleena and I tackled Bishop’s Peak which I thought was an amazing feet. Climbing that mountain gave me a sense of accomplishment. Last week’s climb trumps Bishop’s Peak! By the luck of the draw, Arleena and I choose Reservoir Canyon Trail located just off the 101 Freeway at the base of Cuesta Grade. On the website, it speaks of a 5.35-mile round trip. Ha! I’m not sure where they clocked the distances from, but by the end of our 8.47-mile hike, MapMyRun said that at the hike’s peak we were at 1637 feet (1198’ elevation gain). Bishop’s 5.48-mile hike went 1439 feet with 1119’ elevation gain.
The Reservoir Canyon Trail is spectacular, but not for the faint of heart or novice hiker! We started in the Reservoir Canyon Natural Reserve taking the detour the website spoke of and saw a small yet charming 30-foot waterfall. Reservoir Creek Falls cascades down a slope of black rock into a shallow oak-shaded pool. There’s a cave under the falls that we wanted to explore, but thought we’d do it on our way back (we were so tired, we will have to come back to see where that cave goes).
The first mile or so is quite easy and level. Nicely shaded by all the trees that grow along the creek. The trail is clearly marked which is helpful. After a leisurely stroll through the forest, the hike opens up and we commenced our steady trek up the mountain. After awhile we came to a very random collection of scrap metal and what they claim are sculptures. I don’t think I’d classify them as sculptures, maybe more like junk or mountainside litter. However there was a swing that encouraged us to rest and play for a spell which was nice seeing as how the climb became progressively steeper. The ascent appears relentless, and this is one of those trails where every time you think you are approaching the summit, the mountain extends itself just a bit further.
Once we finally reached the summit, we saw another trail, Sydney Street Trail to Murray Hill. Unfortunately we thought we explored all there was to see up there, then read that there’s “a stone memorial that includes a U-shaped bench ideal for resting your legs and taking in the view over Edna Valley.” So with this other trail, I guess later on down the road we’ll be re-visiting this mountain again. Just goes to show that I need to research the locations a little better before we start our climbs.
From a less heralded summit northeast of San Luis Obispo, you will find triumphant views of the peaks and valleys surrounding this gem on the Central Coast. The effort is rewarded with an exceptional 360-degree panorama from the top, and there are other points of interest along the way to spur you on, like a waterfall and a puzzling collection of scrap metal sculptures.
There are three windows of ocean views in all, Pismo Beach to the south, Whalers Island in San Luis Bay (by Avila Beach) to the southwest, and Moro Bay to the west. The panorama does not stop there as Murray Hill looks east toward the Santa Lucia Mountains and west toward the Irish Hills and several jagged Morros, including the prominently displayed Cerro San Luis and Bishop Peak. Below the summit is the city of San Luis Obispo. It is quite a sight.
All I could think of while walking along the summit trail was “On top of the World” by Imagine Dragons. Indeed it felt as though we were on top of the world. After goofing off and climbing a bell tower we decided to jog down the mountain. We kept pushing through our run, so happy to see our car after the 2 ½ hours. For those of you living on the Central Coast – this is a must hike!
Difficulty: 9.75 (out of 10)
Beauty: 10 (out of 10)
Distance: 8.47 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,198’
Worth It? YES!
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
To get to the trailhead: From downtown San Luis Obispo, take the 101 North for approximately two miles to Reservoir Canyon Road (an easy-to-miss road connecting to the freeway). Turn right and drive half a mile to the trailhead parking area at road’s end. After the hike, exercise caution when getting back on the freeway.
Trailhead address: Reservoir Canyon Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401