Afar’s Best Hikes Along the California Coastal Trail

From Kristin Braswell

Hiking San Simeon State Beach

A new digital map has revealed that the iconic California Coastal Trail dating back to 1975 is now 70 percent complete. These are some of the most scenic sections that are accessible for hiking, biking and nature walks.

The California coastline is one of the state’s most beloved and treasured resources, and with good reason. Its diverse topography—which includes soaring cliffs, sandy beaches, and shaded redwood forests—make it ideal for a multitude of gratifying hikes. Couple that with the temperate climate the state is known for and outdoor enthusiasts have ample opportunities to get out and hike or walk along the Pacific Ocean year-round.

Avila Hiking

Last month, California’s Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy made exploring the diverse trails along the coast even more accessible by releasing a digital map of the existing sections of the California Coastal Trail—a network of paths that could eventually allow the public to traverse the entire length of California’s 1,230-mile-long coast. This collection of trails was first named in 1975 and is now approximately 70 percent complete, with 875 miles of opportunity for active treks along beaches, on bluff tops and hillsides, and via bicycle and paved paths. 

Portions of the trail are accessible by foot, wheelchair, bicycle, and even horseback. According to Linda Locklin, the Coastal Access Program manager for the California Coastal Commission, due to some private property and geography restrictions, it could take decades for the segments to be fully completed, but there are already a number of opportunities to get out and enjoy the trails, which are even easier to navigate now with the digital map. 

“Whether it’s the 26-mile long Bayshore Bikeway in San Diego, or just a one-mile stretch within an urbanized area that provides an off-road trail to get away from the city and enjoy some open space next to the ocean, each segment of the trail provides different amenities to different people,” says Locklin.

Boucher Trail, San Simeon

Boucher Trail Along Highway 1 Discovery Route

Distance: 3.8 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

As home to the largest northern elephant seal rookery in the mainland U.S., this secluded trail (located in San Simeon, California, just north of San Luis Obispo) offers intimate views of the elephant seals in their natural beach environment. Midway along the trail sits the Piedras Blancas Light Station, built in 1875 and still operating today. The lighthouse provides a glimpse into the maritime history and heritage of this part of the Central Coast.

Read the full list of hiking trails from Afar.