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Editor’s choice: best panoramic view in SLO

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Looking south hikers can see the Edna Valley and a stretch of ocean all the way to Point Sal.
Looking south hikers can see the Edna Valley and a stretch of ocean all the way to Point Sal.

After a steep hike straight up a mountain, the view from the top of the Reservoir Canyon trail is pure relief. As the trail flattens to a grassy field, hikers can see most of the central coast from Santa Maria to Cayucos along with much of the coastline in-between. This breathtaking view is a great way to escape the daily grind and de-stress.

From the mountaintop, hikers can see all of San Luis Obispo and the Edna Valley, along with three stretches of coastline that aren’t blocked by mountains. The coast from the Oceano Dunes to Point Sal and from the Morro Bay estuary to Cayucos are visible from the top.  San Luis Bay and Avila Beach also peek through a gap in the hills.

Hikers who reach the top of the mountain can turn left where the trail intersects with a dirt road and head towards a group of small trees. The Sargent Cypress and Oak trees have been planted around a stone bench carved into the ground. The stone bench is a great place for hikers to rest and enjoy the view before beginning the long descent back down the mountain.

This view is spectacular, but it isn’t easy to get to. The Reservoir Canyon trail is approximately 5.35 miles round-trip and climbs 1,350 ft. in elevation. The first half of the hike is the easy part. The trail starts at a waterfall with a cave behind it and stays relatively flat through the canyon along a creek. After the last creek crossing, the ascent up the mountain begins. This is where it gets tough.

San Luis Obispo, Madonna Mountain, Bishops Peak, and even the Morro Bay estuary are visible from the top of the mountain.
San Luis Obispo, Madonna Mountain, Bishops Peak, and even the Morro Bay estuary are visible from the top.

At first the trail zig-zags up the mountain with switchbacks, then comes a few Eucalyptus trees with a rope swing, a random metal tee-pee and piles of metal parts. Until this point, the trail is mostly shaded by trees, after the rope swing the trail gets steeper and the shade goes away. The last stretch up the mountain is steep and completely exposed to the sun. At some parts the switchbacks stop and the trail goes straight up the incline.

Eventually the pathway flattens and you’re at the top. Standing at the peak makes everything on the central coast seem so close together. San Luis Obispo and the Five Cities appear as if they’re only a hill apart.

I chose to feature this panorama because the peak shows the beauty of the Central Coast, and getting there is fun too. While it may be easy to get caught up in our daily lives, views such as this remind us of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful area.