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Avila Beach Guide to Hiking The Pecho Coast Trail

Hiking the Pecho Coast Trail is a treat, and we are thrilled to share our top tips with you! Avila Beach proper, with its restaurant-lined walkway and swim-friendly surf, is one of the Central Coast’s best-kept secrets when it comes to vacations in California. You don’t have to wander too far if you’re looking to get a little further off the beaten track.

The Pecho Coast Trail Features Scenic Views

The Pecho Coast Trail takes you up to reach stunning views of Avila’s coastline with pretty minimal effort. We also like that you hike to the area’s historic San Luis lighthouse, giving you a little bit of a break and something else to see before you turn around and come back. As a bonus, if you don’t want to hike back, you can wait for the trolley to pick you up!

On the day of your hike, head over to the Port San Luis Pier to park, and walk back towards Avila Beach about 100 yards until you see the group of people gathered for the tour at the Fisherman’s Memorial.

What To Know When Hiking The Pecho Coast Trail

The Pecho Coast Trail is on PG&E land, the land that houses the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. As a result, to gain access to the trail, all hikes must be docent-lead. The tour to the lighthouse takes place Wednesdays and Saturdays. Alternatively, you can do a more extended, 8-mile trail (round trip), the Rattlesnake Trail, the first Monday of every month. To attend, register for the central coast hike online. It’s limited to 20 hikers, so be sure to register early. However, if you fail to register, feel free to show up at the trailhead; ask one of the trail stewards if the tour is full. More often than not there’s room for one or two more!

As an experienced hiker, the requirement to hike touring with a volunteer seemed like an unnecessary precaution. However, the instructional part of the hike was a pleasant surprise. The docents are trained to know the terrain and incredibly informative about the local history, flora and fauna, and the outdoors in general. Did you know that the Pecho Coast trail is one of the best places to see native plants and trees? While the powerplant has been a boon to the local town’s employment over the years, the guides weren’t there to promote the company. It was refreshing to have hiking guides focused on nature, the area, and hiking.

Words of Wisdom for Hiking in Avila Beach

First and foremost, be prepared that the hike could be warm, so bring water and possibly a snack. Secondly, there are some steep inclines so know your ability. After the first (and most rigorous) leg of the hike, there is an opportunity to turn around if need be. A set of hiking poles are handy on the steepest part of the trail, and you will appreciate the extra help on the way back. The trail has about 1000 feet of elevation change over a little more than three miles. As we mentioned, the way back is slightly more difficult, so don’t be shy about opting to take the trolley back to base after enjoying the lighthouse tour. Be sure to bring $5 or more to donate to the lighthouse. We want to support these fantastic historical hikes and scenic views around Avila Beach.

san luis lighthouse hike

San Luis Lighthouse overlooks Port San Luis and is open for touring. You can access the lighthouse by hiking The Pecho Coast Trail or rent a kayak and paddle over.

Additionally, we strongly advise you to resist the urge to sneak onto the trail to hike it on your own. On our hike, our group discovered a couple that had done just that, and they were reprimanded and brought to the authorities. The trail is on closely watched private property, and the volunteers are there for the safety of the landowner, the safety of the hikers and to help protect the natural environment.

Lastly, the beach is always a bonus! Keep your suit and flip-flops in the car so you can jump in the ocean to cool off after your hike. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from Avila Beach Paddlesports in the Sports Launch building that is right in the same parking lot as the famous Fat Cat’s Cafe. Have you embarked on a hike of the Pecho Coast Trail? Share your experience on their listing!

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