By Greg Aragon
I experienced more than relaxation and boutique hotel luxury on my recent getaway to California’s Central Coast. I also discovered Pismo Preserve, a 900–acre natural sanctuary where the public can hike, ride bikes and horses on rugged, pristine trails overlooking the ocean.
My adventure to the outdoor refuge began at the Inn at the Pier (www.theinnatthepier.com) in Pismo Beach, where a friend and I spent a couple nights in a beautiful, ocean-front suite. While looking for something to do in town, I read about the preserve and found out it was located about 2 miles away from the hotel. From here I made a phone call and scheduled a tour of the property for the next morning.
While studying a local map, I decided to walk to the preserve so I could also get a good look at town. After 25 minutes of strolling along the coast, admiring mesmerizing views of rocky cliffs lining the beach, I arrived at the front entrance to The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo (LCSLO), the nonprofit organization that manages the Pismo Preserve, along with more than 20,000 acres of land throughout the county.
Since 1984 the LCSLO has worked to protect and enhance lands having important scenic, agricultural, habitat and cultural values for the benefit of people and wildlife in San Luis Obispo County. By working with landowners and government agencies to find “mutually beneficial solutions,” the LCSLO has managed to permanently protect the land. “With your support, we’ll ensure that San Luis Obispo County has wild natural areas, productive family farms and ranches, clean fresh water, and stunning landscapes forever,” reads the LCSLO website.
Among the many segments of land and historic sites protected by the LCSLO is Pismo Preserve, which the Land Conservancy purchased in 2014 “with the goal of making it a public open space for passive recreation in the form of hiking, biking and equestrian,” says Dylan Theobald, stewardship manager for LCSLO.
For my visit to the preserve I joined Dylan and his dog Lucy for an exciting off-road Jeep tour. Beginning at one end of the property, we drove up and down the more than 10 miles of existing ranch roads and trails that meander throughout. The trails traverse serene oak woodlands and coastal ridgelines with stunning panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean stretching from the Irish Hills to Point Sal.
In addition to myriad recreational opportunities, the picturesque Pismo Preserve boasts a diverse array of plant communities. The western edge of the ranch is composed of rolling annual grasslands and coastal scrub. These communities give way to maritime chaparral along the southern slopes, while dense coast live oak woodlands cover the steep canyons and north facing hillsides. Majestic sycamore and willow riparian corridors wind through lowlands and a wide floodplain along Thousand Hills Road and Price Canyon.
Streams that flow through the preserve, including Pismo Creek, provide natural habitats that are vital for the protection of sensitive species. Threatened animals identified on the preserve include Steelhead, the red-legged frog, and the southwestern pond turtle. During our tour we saw red hawks squirrels and a wild turkey.
To help get the Pismo Preserve project off the ground, the LCSLO partnered with a nonprofit called the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers which specializes in trail building and trail maintenance.
Though Pismo Preserve is currently opened to the public it is not officially opened, so right now visitors must arrange pre-scheduled docent-led tours, hikes, and equestrian and mountain bike rides. Theobald says the preserve will officially open later this year. The preserve is currently undergoing construction to make it ready for public use. When complete, the park will feature parking, restrooms, and an ADA-accessible trail. Visitors will be able register, sign in at the entrance, explore the Preserve without a docent, and sign out when leaving.
For more information on visiting Pismo Preserve, call (805) 544-9096 or visit: www.lcslo.org. For more information on staying at the Inn at the Pier hotel, call 805-295-5565 or visit: www.theinnatthepier.com. For more information on Pismo Beach, go to: www.classiccalifornia.com/