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Great Short Hikes in North San Luis Obispo County: Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero

Barb loves living in San Luis Obispo County, California and wants to share its beauty with those who can't see it in person.

Narrow Path on Salinas River Trail

This is just one part of the Salinas River Trail that is shaded.

This is just one part of the Salinas River Trail that is shaded.

Stretch Your Legs on Road Trips

As one who often used to travel with children, I was always looking for convenient, educational, and interesting places where we could all stretch our legs and either find somewhere to eat or picnic tables for lunches we had brought with us nearby. Usually we didn't have a lot of time to look around before moving on. We wanted to spend our time actually seeing or doing something fun in an hour or two not far from the freeway we were traveling on. There are many such places in my area of North San Luis Obispo County where one can take a walk of two miles or less within five minutes of the 101 freeway, and also find food not far away, or picnic tables if you have food with you. These are three of my favorite walks -- on each in Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero.

The Salinas River Walk in Paso Robles

One of my favorite walks is the Salinas River Trail. Today, September 20, 2010, I decided to enter Larry Moore Park at the very end of Riverbank Street in the Riverbank Tract in Paso Robles, California. I mistakenly referred to this as Summercreek instead of Riverbank in the video -- must have been a senior moment. In this first video, you can join me in the first leg of this walk. I will point out some of what we are seeing and what you can expect. This segment ends at the end of the first footbridge over a creek that we come to on this trail. Just before we get there, I was lucky enough to get a shot of a cottontail bunny I passed and we will see him bounding away when he sees me.

The park itself is sandwiched between the Riverbank housing tract and the Salinas River. Most of the in between part is a Savannah grassland habitat, flat, with native plants. Signs are posted a various places in the park so you will know what plants and animals you might be seeing and which habitats are represented. There s also an irrigated lawn, basketball court, playground, and picnic area in the center of the part. Restrooms are also available.

At the beginning of the first video, we take the trail that begins on the side of the park right next to the river, which is behind the brush you see. As this trail continues, it gets farther from the houses, and hugs the river. At various points on this trail you have access to paths that will lead you right down to the river (or dry riverbed.) If you continue on this trail, without any right turns back toward the tract, it will dead end into another trail that came from the first entrance to the park, described below. Turning left at this dead end will take you onto the part of the trail that goes under the bridge and beyond. The June, 2010 Video takes this trail until it comes to the access to the bridge itself where you can get onto Niblick Road and grab something to eat at Wendy's or the China Gourmet restaurant on the side of the Albertson's Center nearest the trail. Then you can go back to the trail and continue on for a few more minutes until it ends and you can make the return trip.

There are several entrances to this trail. If you are driving west on Riverbank from South River road, you will come to the first entrance right before Riverbank curves to the left. That is where I normally enter the park. One interesting thing about this trail is that it begins in the Riverbank housing tract and after it leaves the main part of Larry Moore Park, as it continues on, the left side of the trail is wild and the right side is adjacent to shopping centers, with some greenery in between. So you are never very far from civilization. That first trail leads straight to the main trail-head that goes past the Kohl's Department Store and leads to and under the Niblick Bridge, and then past the Albertson's shopping center, finally ending before some apartment buildings. The other side of the trail is the river side, and has many places to access the river, which has water generally only in the winter and early spring after the rains. The entrance we used in the first video dead ends into the trail one takes from the first Riverbank entrance I've just described.

River Trail from Beginning to first Footbridge

Larry Moore Park, Where Salinas River Trail Begins

Salinas River Walk, Part 2

Salinas River Walk, Under the Bridge, June, 2010

Donati Family Vineyard Near Beginning of Oak View Walk

The Oak View Lane walk begins behind this building and to the right, past the winery in back.

The Oak View Lane walk begins behind this building and to the right, past the winery in back.

Oak View Lane Walk in Templeton

This is a good walk to take if you are driving along Highway 46 West between Cambria and the 101 Freeway. It begins in the parking area of the Donati Family Winery and Tasting Room, under the trees as you enter from Vineyard Drive. This is a rarely traveled back dirt road called Oak View Road, which begins behind the winery and ends a mile later on Vineyard Drive. It is woodsy and mostly shaded. Because it's a dirt road, it's best for walking during dry seasons of the year. I often take this road at dusk, and I often see deer, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife as I walk.

The picture of the Donati Family Vineyard is to let you know what to look for at the corner of Highway 46 West and Vineyard Drive. I am taking the picture from the parking area under the trees, opposite the one you see here, where the walk begins behind the winery. You can't miss it. The photo below shows you the entrance, and the video below that will show you some of the highlights of the walk, which is two miles, mostly level with slight slopes. It was dusk when I took the video because we were in the midst of a heat wave and it was cooler as the sun was going down.

Beginning of Oak View Walk

This is the beginning of Oak View Lane, which begins behind the Donati Family Winery

This is the beginning of Oak View Lane, which begins behind the Donati Family Winery

Some Highlights of the Oak View Lane Walk in Templeton

The Walk Around Atascadero Lake

If you will be in North San Luis Obispo County for more than a day, you could actually spend a whole day in and around the Atascadero Lake Park.It is located at 9305 Pismo Ave., Atascadero. From the 101 Freeway, you would take the Highway 41exit and go south on 41, and then you would turn left on Pismo. This will lead you to the parking area.

Although the walk around the lake, approximately two miles and level, is the main reason for my directing you to the park, there is large picnic area, a great playground, and, in the summer, paddle boats and other rides available. Although waterfowl abounds, you are not supposed to feed the ducks and geese. And although the park has restrooms and drinking fountains, I had a hard time getting water out of the drinking fountains, so I suggest you bring your own water. If you go to the web site linked to above, you will notice there is also a zoo adjacent to the park, so this is a great place to spend one day of your vacation if you have children along. Adjacent to the Park on the other side is our Faces of Freedom Veterans' Memorial, another attraction you might want to see before you leave. You can leave your car in the same parking lot to see and do everything.

If you get hungry, there is a McDonald's on 6300 Morro Rd (41)not too far from the park, or you can take 41 back to El Camino Real, just past 101, and go right on El Camino Real.You will see several places to eat as you travel south.

In the video below are some of the highlights of my walk around Atascadero Lake on Memorial Day, 2010. One of the things I love about this walk is the diversity of birds one sees. There is very little narration, but you will hear the birds and an occasional passer-by. The lake is bordered on one side by a residential street and some parking areas on the lake side of the street, so these are often somewhat noisy if people are parked in their cars with radios on. Most of the walk is pretty quiet, which I appreciate, because I like to hear the nature sounds. In the middle of the south end of the lake is an island where you will see many of the waterfowl hanging out. You will see some of that in the video.

Since our recent three-year drought, the Atascadero Lake has been bone dry for months at a time, but it now has some water again. It is nowhere near up to the level it used to be, but the ducks, geese, and other water birds are coming back now.

Water Returns to Atascadero Lake

This photo was taken on March 8, 2015 after some water has returned to the lake. All the grassy areas used to be underwater, so you can see the lake is still suffering, but at least birds are returning.

This photo was taken on March 8, 2015 after some water has returned to the lake. All the grassy areas used to be underwater, so you can see the lake is still suffering, but at least birds are returning.

Highlights from a Walk Around Atascadero Lake

Which walk looks most interesting to you?

Scenes from Jack Creek Farms

There's lots to look at when you stop to see Jack Creek Farms

There's lots to look at when you stop to see Jack Creek Farms

Goat peeking out of fence at Jack Creek Farms

Goat peeking out of fence at Jack Creek Farms

Ready to Put on Your Walking Shoes?

I hope I've convinced you that some of these places in North San Luis Obispo County are worth the time to make a pit stop -- with or without children along. These are just some of the walks.

Within five minutes to the west of the Oak View Road Walk on Highway 46 West, you will find Jack Creek Farms, a small working family farm where one can see live farm animals, buy a delicious snack at the farm store, and pick up fresh produce in season. During some seasons you can even pick your own apples or tomatoes. You will see several friendly cats as you walk around the farm, as well. In September there is sometimes a threshing bee, and they also have a corn maze in October for the children. Check the Jack Creek Farms website for special events.

Come visit visit us in the North County Wine Country. You won't be sorry.

Please leave you comments and feedback here.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on May 26, 2018:

I'm glad you found the article useful. I hope it made your summer more fun.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on July 11, 2017:

I'm glad you liked these suggestions. I keep discovering new walks every year. We live in a beautiful place.

Leisa Martick on July 09, 2017:

Barbara, As an Atascadero resident,I am so happy I found your hiking Blog! I have been trying to find walks such as these to enjoy here in North County. You have given me many to enjoy all summer! I love your photos of the trails. They show me all the beauty I have been missing to experience on foot!!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on August 21, 2012:

SweetiePie, I think a lot of California scenery is like this. Highway 154, the San Marcos Pass, looks a lot like this, as do the mountains of San Luis Obispo and the Santa Monica Mountains. It's most beautiful at its green times of year after the rains.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on August 21, 2012:

Congratulations on getting the hub of the day, and I see the similarities you were talking about between Salinas and here on the backside of the San Bernardino Mountains. It looks like there is a lot of chaparral up there like here.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on June 08, 2012:

CarlDoughy,Sorry to take this long to respond. Your comment was accidentally caught in a spam folder. I hope you've been able to get back to SLO in the time your comment has been languishing undiscovered.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 06, 2011:

KMattox, I have never been to Crescent City proper, but we did camp in the Jedediah Smith State Park near the Smith River, and we loved it. San Luis Obispo County is also a scenic area, especially if you like vineyards. But we also have coast, beaches, and woods, a few lakes, and one parttime Salinas River.

Paul, I'm hoping I'll get a chance to see the Bob Jones Trail and Bishop Peak someday, but I still don't have my moutains in SLO straight. There's a big one that dominates the landscape in town with an "M" on it that woud logically be called Madonna, but I'm not sure if that's it official name. I'm assuming Bishop Peak is the one next to it, but I've never checked it out on a map. The North County is my home territory, so that's the part I tend to explore the most. When did you leave this area?

To all the others who commented about the area, I hope you will come see it sometime if you have the opportunity. I saw an ad the other day in Paso Robles reminding those of us who live in the North County that we are lucky enough to live in the place others get away to. I feel very blessed indeed to live here.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 06, 2011:

Thank you all for your congratulations.

My Esoteric, you probably wouldn't recognize San Luis Obispo now wth all its new developments. You left the area 20 years before I got here, and it's changed a lot since I got here. Shasta is also a beautiful area, though I've never had a chance to actually stop in Shasta itself and walk around -- just driven past it many time on the way back and forth from Seattle.

Paul Edmondson from Burlingame, CA on September 06, 2011:

I grew up in SLO and have done the walk around the Atascadero Lake, but not the others. Have to try them! We often walk the Bob Jones trail in Avila and have hike Bishop's peak and San Luis Mountain several times.

UnconqueredCoop from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on September 06, 2011:

Very nice hub, I would love to check this out some day

KMattox from USA on September 06, 2011:

Wow Great hub. I love to walk. I felt like I just did. Thanks for the tour. Looks like a great area. I have been to Crescent city. It's real pretty there too! Thanks again

bluebird on September 06, 2011:

Wow, a great hike w/o the physical effort! Scenic. Enjoyable. Oh, and your hub was good too! Congrats!

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on September 06, 2011:

Congratulations on being selected for the Hub of the Day!

These sound like great hikes. I love hiking! I love the photos too! Great job. I will vote up and share!


Jason F Marovich from Detroit on September 06, 2011:

Congratulations! Beautiful hub.

marellen on September 06, 2011:

I haven't been to the Central Coast in many years. Thanks for sharing this hike with us.

Congrats on hub of the day!!!!

Carrie Smith from Dallas, Texas on September 06, 2011:

Congratulations on being featured as the Hub of the Day! I've never been to California but you make it look very picturesque. I love being outside in nature, so this is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

RTalloni on September 06, 2011:

Nice work on this hike hub, and congrats on Hub of the Day!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on September 06, 2011:

Great hub with many tips for getting the most out of a quick hike on these paths. Congratulations on earning Hub of the Day.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on September 06, 2011:

Like @William, your wonderful hub brought back very old memories for my time at Cal Poly, 1965-1972. I lived in various parts of California most of my earl life; finally moving out to Virginia in 1988. San Luis Obispo county is one of four places I would consider moving back to, Tahoe, Shasta, and Mariposa, being the others, that I might consider moving back to; it is simply beautiful there; thanks for the memories.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on September 06, 2011:

First let me say congrats on making hub of the day!

All the trails have their own unique features so I wouldn't walking all three then making up my mind. You did a great job especially with the videos. Thanks for sharing.

A M Lehrer from Southern United States on September 06, 2011:

Beautiful! Wish I lived closer!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 06, 2011:

I wish you could have done that, too. I need a walking partner.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 06, 2011:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

What a wonderful walk, I wish I could have got my walking shoes and joined you!

alvinalex on September 06, 2011:

Congratulations! Really Great Hub.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 29, 2010:

Om,The Atascadero lake is great if you want to spend the day with a variety of activities pretty much all together from the same parking lot. Paddle boats may only be rented in the summer, but I'm not sure. The web site probably will tell you. The Zoo and the Veteran's Memorial are also right next door.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 29, 2010:


The hikes are all in the North County, and we do have drive-throughs up here. Atascadero has an In and Out Burgers that I think also has a drive through, and McDonald's also has drive-throughs, as do Taco Bell and other places. I never use them, but these last two places are within walking distance of the Niblick Bridge exit from the Salinas River Trail In Paso Robles. The North County is about 30 minutes north of SLO.

Om Paramapoonya on September 29, 2010:

I voted for the Atascadero Lake (paddle boats and geese rock!), but the other two places sound very lovely as well. And congrats on the win! This is an awesome hub. It was a fun read and I really enjoyed your videos. :)

CariDoughy on September 29, 2010:

I am an avid hiker, and I have a friend out in SLO. It sounds like a beautiful place except for the lack of drive-thrus at restaurants. :-P I can live without it though. For the task at hand, now I have more incentive to visit my friend in SLO. These trails look great, and I love the heavy overcast from the density of the trees. The internet better be prepared for all the photos I upload when I trek on these amazing hikes. Thanks for the tip as I am always looking for new places to visit.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 28, 2010:

Thank you, Les Trois Chenes. I take my cameras in my fanny pack or in the car so they will be along whenever I see something interesting. I took most of the videos on a separate trip just for that purpose when I realized I had no pictures of the first part of the Salinas River hike already on my computer.

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on September 28, 2010:

Hi, some walk and a great Hub. I love your photos.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 26, 2010:

Thanks, Sheila and Kathy.

Kathy McGraw on September 26, 2010:

congratulations on your winning best hub...this was indeed a good hike ;)

sheila h on September 26, 2010:

hi..just voted..up..

great article..good luck..

i'm on gather..:)

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 26, 2010:

Thanks, Sandy.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on September 25, 2010:

Congratulations on winning best Hub.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 25, 2010:

William, we drove through the road that went through or very near Hunter Liggett long ago. I believe it was Jolon Rd. -- don't remember much except that some of it was dirt road and went so high that Hwy 1 looked like a ribbon below us and I was afraid we might fall off. I think there were war games of some sort going on at the fort, and I was hoping no one would miss.

Williamjordan from Houston TX on September 25, 2010:

I was station at Hunter Liggett In 1979-1982 spent a lot of time in Paso Robles,San Luis Obispo And King City also along the coast highway, it was beaituful back then. Thanks for the reminder those were some good days.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 25, 2010:

Thank you. That contest is what lured me back here after my year absence.

WordCustard from Scotland on September 25, 2010:

What an interesting Hub. These walks look so lovely. Congratulations on your win!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 25, 2010:

Thanks for stopping by, Peggy. I'd love to have you along if you're ever near here.

Thanks also to Sandy, Buckhawk, and Ecolicious for your visits.

Thank you, Purple Perl for coming back.

Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on September 25, 2010:

Well you have maxed the test,WannaB Writer! Congrats on your well deserved win!

Joy Bergquist on September 25, 2010:

Very nice, I have walked all of these trails and just love all the great places we have around the central coast. Your videos brought back many memories of times on the trails. Great job in writing a wonderful article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

How lovely! Wish I could go on one of those walks right now. Enjoyed hiking along with you!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 22, 2010:

Thanks for the congrats, Purple Perl. I guess the real test is where I will come out in the vote for this week's winner. That depends on getting the votes on the Contest Page at https://discover.hubpages.com/travel/

arne on September 22, 2010:

Lovely little walkalogue

Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on September 22, 2010:

Wonderful places.You have captured them with excellent pics and videos. Thanks very much for sharing. And Congrats too! Truly well deserved win.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on September 22, 2010:

Simone, where I live, it's easy to combine the walks with the wineries, since vineyards can be some of the loveliest places to walk, especially when the vines are loaded with grapes.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on September 22, 2010:

I voted for the river walk, but I'm a little partial to rivers. Lovely hub, and the videos were especially nice. San Luis Obispo is such a nice area - I really need to get back down to CA. Congrats!

Ecolicious on September 22, 2010:

I agree. Great travel page.

buckhawk on September 22, 2010:

What a beautiful walking tour. I certainly enjoyed myself and enjoyed your writing, too.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 22, 2010:

Oh, all of these sound lovely! I know people really like the area for the wineries, but I'm all about the local hikes, and you've presented them all wonderfully.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on September 21, 2010:

I felt like I was there. Wonderful travel lens on these short hikes.

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