Student Guide: The Central Coast offers such an endless supply of nature adventures, I had to come up with a 'challenge'



Welcome (back) to San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly and Cuesta students! For you first-years coming in from out of the area, I have a few predictions to make about your first month in SLO:

1. You are going to hike Bishop Peak at least once.

2. You are going to hear a lot about the "nine sisters," that stretch from SLO to Morro Bay.

3. You are going to go to the beach. Specifically, you are going to go to Avila, Shell, or Pismo Beach (or maybe Pirate's Cove).

Tell me if I'm wrong in October. And look, don't get defensive. I'm not knocking these traditions. They're cool. I'm just saying, like peeling back the layers of an onion, the best is yet to come. There's a whole lot more to this area than first meets the eye. Listen to your outdoorsy elders on campus: The Central Coast is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to natural splendor and new adventures.

This summer, as I approached my four-year anniversary of moving here, I came to the realization that I still have so much to see and do in this place. I started making a list of hikes, camping spots, sights, open spaces, lakes, rivers, mountains, and more in my head that I really wanted to get to. When I got overwhelmed by that, I made a spreadsheet. Then, I turned that into a map with location pins. I even gave the venture a name: Peter's SLO Challenge. I decided to hold myself accountable by posting my progress to Instagram.

A few months into the challenge, I'm happy to report I've made a dent in the list. I've made multiple trips up to Big Sur to do day hikes and check out sights along Highway 1, which has helped me formulate somewhat of a mental map of this incredible stretch of coast and forest.

I've knocked out easy hikes that I should've done years ago, like Cerro Cabrillo near Los Osos and South Hills in SLO. I bought a pair of trail running shoes to complement my adventures. It's all been a ton of fun, and there's still so much to do. There are still, like, five hikes in Montaña de Oro alone on the list. My outings spawn new outings that I add to the list.

So, first-years at Cal Poly and Cuesta, my advice to you is this: Dig a little deeper for more adventure than your average classmate. Go a little farther. Take the path less traveled. Turn over that rock and find out what's underneath. The more time I spend here, it seems, the more I realize how much there is to learn and love. Δ

Join my SLO Challenge or start your own! Email Assistant Editor Peter Johnson for the deets at


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