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San Luis Obispo: BEST Sunset Spots for College Students

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

Flashback three years ago, to a slightly overweight freshman girl in her dorm room on a Saturday night.

All of the girls on my floor were hanging out with their newly found friends, getting ready to go to all of the frat parties. Music was blasting from several different rooms. It smelt like cheap vodka and lots of hairspray.

There I sat in the high corner of my bunk bed, cocooned in a big ball of blankets, binge watching Grey's Anatomy while eating double-stuffed Oreos. I had only one friend at the time, and she had gone to hang out with her boyfriend for the night.

I felt alone.

I was not a partier, and I had never drank alcohol before. I didn't fit in with any of the other girls in my floor, and I had a pretty difficult time making friends. I didn't know what to do other than to hide myself away from everything.

My roommates barreled in through the door, bringing several other of their already drunk friends in with them. They were loud, laughing and complaining to one another about some of the guys they've met. One of them looked through our mini fridge, grabbed one of my mozzarella sticks, and then proceeded to sit in my desk chair and snack on it.

I needed to get out.

I looked outside. The sun was just beginning to set, and I did not have the willpower to stay in that room another minute.

I slid down my bunk bed, grabbed a jacket, and put my dirty Nike shoes on. My roommates didn't notice as I slid out the door, and took off down the stairwell.

I lived in Sierra Madre, Tower 1 my freshman year. Right in the back of the Towers are volleyball and basketball courts. Behind that, was one of the trails that led to the Cal Poly P, which is basically just a giant P on the side of the mountain.

I had never hiked up to the P before. The trail was fairly easy to find, and this particular one I took ended up meeting up with the main trail that leads up to the top. All and all, it's a short and sweet 15-20 minute hike.

When I got to the top, the sun was just setting over San Luis Obispo. It was beautiful.

Even though it's a pretty short hike, there was something about the feeling of it I absolutely loved. I loved that I always had a way escape out my back door when I was feeling trapped. I loved looking out over my new little city, the feeling that it was mine to explore.

I decided that from then on, I would try to get out of my dorm room as much as I could to explore San Luis Obispo, even if that meant doing it alone.

Over the next few weeks I ended up exploring San Luis Obispo, Avila, Cambria, Cayukos, Morro Bay, and Arroyo Grande.

Over the next two years, I would meet tons of new friends, and we built our relationships on exploring these little towns together.

Here's what y'all have been waiting for: the BEST sunset spots in San Luis Obispo, college edition!

The Cal Poly P

This is such a fin hike to go on with friends, and it's also a pretty popular hammocking spot. If you're off campus, park in the K-1 lot (don't forget to buy a short-term permit at the pay station) or park during a time where you don't have to pay. You can park there without paying after 5pm on Friday and on weekends (checked on Feb 10, 2019). Just take the main trail to the top, it's a short and sweet hike but it's especially beautiful around sunset.

Terrace Hill

Terrace hill is a very common place for students to go for sunset. Park on Bishop Street, and then walk up the trailhead. It's a short 5 minute hike to the top. Terrace Hill has a large space where people commonly picnic and take photos at. Don't forget to bring a couple of blankets or windbags to sit on!

Bishop's Peak

This is definitely one of the most strenuous hikes in SLO. Give yourself a solid hour and a half before sunset to make it to the top. My advice is to park at the top of Highland, and then start hiking from there. It has one of the most breathtaking views in San Luis Obispo- you can even see the Morro Rock from the top.

Cerro San Luis (Madonna Mountain)

Again, give yourself plenty of time to climb up to the top for sunset, it will definitely take you a little while. It's a 4 mile round trip hike that you can access at the Charles A and Mary R Maino Open Space area. During November and December, a large lit up Christmas tree is built at the top. The above photo was taken two years ago when I hiked up with a couple friends. It's always a super popular hike around this time of the year. Make sure to dress warm!

Islay Hill

Islay hill is definitely an easier hike compared to Madonna and Bishop's Peak. It's about a 30-45 minute hike, where you can see the beautiful city of San Luis Obispo on one side and farmland on the other. We last did this hike in July, and the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. There's also a giant cow on top that people like to climb. Not condoning this, but it happens.

Prefumo Canyon

Prefumo Canyon has one of the most beautiful views in San Luis Obispo. You can even see out to Morro Bay on a clear day! It's a great place to picnic with your friends and take fun photos.

From Los Osos Valley Road, turn onto Prefumo Canyon Road and keep on driving. But PLEASE go slow and be careful. The roads are very windy and narrow, and visibility can be poor. There's also a part in the road where it's one way because the other side of the road gave out, so just remember to yield and not to drive like a maniac. Regardless, it's one of the easiest and closest places to go to watch a breathtaking sunset.

Did I miss any great sunset spots in SLO?? Feel free to let me know!


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