Sheila Sobchik

Ever feel like there are so many running shoes to choose from, yet so little places to run?

In today’s high-paced, health-conscious society many people say they love to run, but can’t stand chugging away on the treadmill. The truth about running in San Luis Obispo, however, is that in such a naturally beautiful and diverse ecosystem, burning rubber at the local gym should only be a last resort.

No. 1: The Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail. Like running through town, but hate pounding it out on the sidewalk? Try cruising through this woodland path, which takes you by the Avila golf course and out to the ocean.

“The Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail is the first step in the goal of joining San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach with a trail along the San Luis Obispo Creek,” the Web site said.

The entrance to the trail is located on Ontario Road off of U.S. Highway 101 at the Avila Beach exit, right next to an open parking lot.

No. 2: Madonna Mountain. Currently a popular stomping ground for the Cal Poly Cross-Country team, Madonna has several trails open to the public. Each trail averages about four to six miles and varies in difficulty.

“There’s a trail that goes all the way around the mountain-it’s like a panoramic view of all of San Luis Obispo. And at some points you can see the ocean,” said Rachael Lange, a Cal Poly graduate and former cross-country runner.

The main entrance to the trail is located off of Marsh Street by the Madonna family ranch.

No. 3: Irish Hills Natural Reserve. Described on the Web site as a “hidden open space not far off the beaten path, but few know about it. Not only do the Irish Hills make a beautiful back drop to the Laguna Lake area, but the trails leading through the hills offer a variety of reasons to check it out.”

Located just off of Laguna Lake, the trail offers stunning views of Los Osos Valley, Morro Rock, Cerro San Luis Obispo and Bishop Peak.

“It’s not a good idea to go on the trails by yourself, just in case you get hurt and no one is there to help you,” Lange said.

She added that it’s important to check for ticks after running and to wear proper shoes so “you don’t roll your ankle.”

No. 4: Pismo Beach. Not just a hot spot for tanning and shopping, Pismo Beach is a great place to go on an early morning jog or an afternoon stroll. The beach offers an enjoyable social aspect that many of the other trails don’t feature, and the pier is perfect for group runs, stretching and warm ups.

“Stretching is kind of a controversial topic among (experts), but I say if it feels good to you, then do it. And it’s a nice way to cool down,” Lange said.

No. 5: The Lemon Grove Loop at Cerro San Luis. This trail is located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo and offers a menagerie of different terrains and scenic views. The area is also excellent for hiking and a popular spot for mountain bikers. Most of the trails cover grass lands and also swing by Mission High School.

“I love the Lemon Grove Loop. It’s one of my favorites,” Lange said.

For more information and directions to the trails and parking, visit

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