New on Sidetracked:

A Slow Celebration

Hiking and biking in SLO CAL
Produced in Partnership with Visit California

What is it that makes SLO CAL such an incredible place for wine? Across the two principal wine-growing regions of Paso Robles and the San Luis Obispo wine country, more than 40 varieties of grape are grown, from Albariño to Zinfandel. It’s partly thanks to the long growing season with hot days and cool nights, partly the fresh, moisture-laden air from the Pacific Ocean. It’s also the variety of altitudes from foothills to mountains, the heat of the interior, the coolness of the ocean front.

And what is it that makes SLO CAL such an exemplary destination for cyclists? The reasons are similar: long dry days in the saddle, the rolling singletrack over the foothills, unusually varied terrain. Road cyclists are thrilled by the lingering coastal roads and America’s great coastal highway, California State Route 1. Mountain biking and road cycling routes criss-cross this fertile region. Trails take you through quaint seaside towns, over ridgelines with views of the ocean, through countryside brimming with wildlife and long stretches of blissful nothingness. But, we’d argue, why not combine the two? The Edna Valley and Paso Robles wine-growing regions are scribbled with on and off-road trails with rural views over the vine-lined hills. And, of course, there are plenty of vineyards who’ll welcome you in for refreshment.

And if you prefer to travel by two feet rather than two wheels, imagine carefree days walking along sea cliffs or sand dunes, the Pacific expanding beyond the horizon, breathing in the fresh aroma of the wildflowers. The Nine Sisters are a string of volcanic peaks stretching from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. Five of them have hiking trails up to modest summits with far from modest views. Montaña de Oro State Park has many paths, with the Bluff Trail a straightforward hike along the coast.

San Luis Obispo County – or SLO CAL as it’s affectionately known – is a diverse region between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s a county of beach towns and the coastal hills that harbour the third largest wine region in California. It’s the America of John Steinbeck novels, where life is slow, rural, and endlessly fascinating. Centuries-old missions stand by clapperboard mansions built as California became a state.

SLO CAL is a place that lives up to its name – slow is celebrated here. On the water, it’s stand-up paddleboards and sea kayaks that set the pace, not speedboats. On the beach, it’s hammocks under the pier, roasting marshmallows as the sun sets, exploring tide pools and rocky inlets. While inland it’s all about riding or walking through flower-dotted fields and vineyards, ranches, and spotting wildlife.

Up the pace a little, and you’ll find yourself hurtling down sand dunes, riding the curling waves, or pulling in a largemouth bass or redear. But once the day is over, it’s back to the pace that SLO CAL likes best.