Preserving Pismo’s Scenic Ridgelands

Preserving Pismo’s Scenic Ridgelands

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(Originally published April 11, 2017; updated February 15, 2018)

For Northern Californians, Pismo Beach, about 180 miles north of Los Angeles, is an eclectic little town that offers a convenient and scenic stopping point along Highway 101 for breaking up one long day’s drive to Greater L.A. into a more manageable and less stressful two-day trip.

But what most travelers don’t know, is that the ridgelands above the town will eventually turn Pismo Beach into a nature-lover’s destination, not just a road warrior’s respite.

The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County raised $12 million to allow it to purchase a nine-hundred-acre private ranch northeast and high above Pismo Beach and the busy highway below and is transforming it into the “Pismo Preserve.” The site has sweeping views south over the town and ocean and to the north, as well as to the hills to the east.

Visitors will be able to hike, and ride horses and mountain bikes along trails and ranch roads.

The Conservancy says that:

“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. Federally threatened South-Central California Coast Steelhead, federally endangered California red-legged frog, and numerous species of concern including the southwestern pond turtle, have all been identified on the preserve.

“The acquisition of Pismo Preserve will allow The Land Conservancy to protect and enhance these natural resources through conservation and restoration efforts which ensures refuge for sensitive species such as these, far into the future.”

In April of 2016, along with other travel writers, I was fortunate enough to be able to get a “sneak preview” of the Pismo Preserve on a tour led by Conservancy staff.

That month is a good time of year to explore California’s coastal mountains: The weather might be a little cool with occasional rain showers, but the winter storms have passed, wildflowers are blooming, and the sun isn’t bearing down on the hills with as much intensity as could be the case during summer.

The Conservancy had originally planned to open Pismo Preserve to the public in the fall of 2016, but the requirements to construct additional visitor access infrastructure and amenities has pushed back the anticipated opening date to late 2018.

However, during “Discovery Days” on four Sundays in March and April of 2018 you will be able to catch a shuttle bus ride to the Pismo Preserve and tour it on your own.

In the meantime, take a virtual trip to Pismo Beach with this video.

(Click here for more information about visiting Pismo Beach, California.)

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