Riding in San Luis Obispo, filmed and reviewed by
Review Date: 10/232020
Trail Ratings
Fun Factor:4 Star Rating: Recommended Technical:3 Star Recommended

California has many mountain biking destinations and where you go will determine the types of trails you will encounter. If you stay down south you will tend to get more rocky and rough terrain but if you go up north or even east you will get some more scenic and flowy trails winding through the trees and even come across a bike park or two.

San Luis Obispo is one of those in-between types of places where you can get yourself a variety of trails and scenery to look check out at the same time. You can ride up in the hills in rocky, dry conditions or you can ride near the coast with some spectacular ocean views and green surroundings. And the best part is that you can get to all of these riding areas with just a short drive meaning you can ride multiple areas in one day or make it a weekend long ride marathon.

In this review I will be discussing some of the recommended areas to ride in SLO and let you know how they rate in terms of fun and difficulty levels so you can get an idea of where you might want to ride if you decided to make the journey there and check it out for yourself. I will also include some of the trail names along with some videos and links to the trails on Trailforks to help you decide if the trail is for you or not. So on that note, let's get started!


Montana de Oro State Park - Los Osos

If you like to ride with an ocean breeze and views of the water then Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos might be the place for you. There is a nice variety of trails to choose from with most of them being the intermediate (blue) skill level. The area has a paved road that goes from the top to the bottom so it's possible to do a partial shuttle since you cant park at the very top of the trails but it beats having to ride back up the road to your car if you park at the top. There is a lot of parking at the bottom by the beach and there is beach access as well as restrooms.

As for the trails there are a couple that you must do and one of them is Oats Peak which is an out and back ride where you ride about 5.5 miles to the top, turn around and fly back down. It's a gradual incline so its not that bad. You can check out the full review of the trail with a video here.

Another one that is super fun is Hazard's Peak which will require a climb at the beginning to get to the top and then you can have some fun riding down the other side. It's pretty fast and can get bumpy too but you don't need to be a pro to ride it. If you are a beginner you can still enjoy it but at a slower pace. Here is a link to the trail location for more information and a map.

Here is a video of the descent but we stopped at the beginning of Canyon View to take that the rest of the way down rather than going down all of Hazard's Peak.

Speaking of Canyon View, that is another trail you should try while you are there. It's not a rough as Hazard's Peak but its still pretty fast if you want it to be. There are more turns on Canyon View in the form of switchbacks which will keep you on your toes and also on your brakes a little more. Here is a link to the trail and also a video of the run.

Finally there is one more trail that deserves to be mentioned and that is Manzanita which is a short but sweet downhill run with a bunch of small whoops that you can jump off or ride over. Its still a blue trail but might not be a good one for beginners to attempt since its easy to go fast and easy to crash if you overdo it. Check out the Trailforks link for more details.

Here is a video of the trail in action.


Cuesta Ridge

The next area I would like to talk about is the Cuesta Ridge area which is north of SLO up in the hills. You can get to this area by taking the 101 freeway and there are a couple of different ways to access the trails as well. You can park at the bottom and ride your bike up the dirt fire road, or you can drive your car up the dirt road and do a self-shuttle. Just make sure your can handle some dips and ruts in the road. Its not too bad but low riders are not recommended. If you go all the way to the bottom back into town then make sure to have a car parked there otherwise it will not be fun trying to get back to even the bottom of the fire road let alone the top. You will come out near the university and its hard to find a place where you are allowed to park there so you will have to park in one of the nearby neighborhoods and do a little road riding back to the car.

Once you get to the top there, you have several choices as to what trails you can ride down. The two main starting trails are Shooters and Botanical depending on how far up you go on the dirt road with Botanical starting higher up and giving you more distance to ride down.

We like to take Botanical into Morning Glory and both of them are on the technical side with Botanical being faster and Morning Glory being rockier. Botanical is a blue trail and Morning Glory is rated as black, but I would personally give it a harder blue rating. You will also have a little climbing on Morning Glory but it's mostly downhill.

Here is the Trailforks link for Botanical and also a video.

And here is a link for Morning Glory as well as a video.

Once you get to the midpoint of your downhill fun, you can stop at The Eucs skills area where you can practice some jumps and riding on some skinnies. Its not very extensive and there is nothing too hardcore there but it's a fun place where you can session a blue (Flying Ewok) and black (Jailbreak) run to work on your skills. Once again, I don't think the Jailbreak run should be considered a black level but maybe that's just me!

Then once you are done honing your skills you can take Stenner Flow which is a fast and relatively smooth ride with a few features here and there that you can jump off of. Here is a link to Stenner Flow along with a video that includes some footage of Flying Ewok.

Stenner Creek and Tough and Dirty Slide are also fun trails in that area that you can ride after Stenner Flow, but I recommend you avoid Creekside if you come across it unless you are a very skilled rider since it's a crash waiting to happen since it's very technical.

Irish Hills

If you like shopping at Costco and riding mountain bikes then Irish Hills might be the place for you since the main parking\trailhead area is right at the back of the Costco parking lot. One other thing you need to be a fan of to ride here is climbing since that's what you will be doing in order to have your downhill fun.

Most of the trails here are blue with the exception of a few black trails that are only black because of their rocky nature rather than being really steep or having big jumps. Riding in this area is more of a workout than a day of fast and fun riding and rates on the end of the fun areas in SLO. Here is an example of a black trail that will suck up all your energy riding up or down it. It's called Ocean View Trail and its broken down into several sections.

If you want something a little faster yet but will still give you your share of rocky bumpiness then you might want to check out Froom Creek Trail. It's a blue rated trail but will still require some skill if you intend on going down it with any speed.

If you want to try a black rated trail where you can keep your speed up without worrying about death then you might want to try Morro View Trail.

There is also a section close to the Costco entrance where people built some jumps if you would like to test your skills or get a little practice before or after your ride.


Madonna Mountain (Cerro San Luis)

The last area I will be going over is called Cerro San Luis and there is an interesting variety of trails here but once again you will need to be in climbing mode if you plan on riding here (or have an e-bike!). This is one of those ride to the top and decide how you want to ride down kind of places but be aware that many of the trails are one way so make sure you don't fly down an up only trail.

One of the more popular trails there is called Rock Garden and it lives up to its name! When you first start the run downhill it seems ok but then it just gets super chunky and you are torn between going slow to save your life or going fast to smooth things out. If you are not the most technical rider and want to give this a shot just be sure to bring your pads. Check out the trail on Trailforks for more information. Baby Rock Garden is another one you can try if you want something a little less bumpy.

Here is a video of us trying Rock Garden for the first time.

If you are looking for something a little more interesting then you might want to check out The New M Trail. It's a black diamond rating and does have some technical areas at the beginning but is not too bad. The cool part about it is all of the wooden bridges that you get to ride over on the way down. Then at the bottom it gets smoother and pretty fast.


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