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Fun Day Trips from San Luis Obispo To Plan ASAP
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Fun Day Trips from San Luis Obispo To Plan ASAP

Here are seven ideas for day trips from San Luis Obispo to plan when you are in the S.L.O. area.

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4 min read

March 20, 2022

San Luis Obispo is within an hour’s reach of many awesome day trip destinations. Reeling visitors in with dramatic rugged coasts, historic architectural landmarks, unique seaside villages, and wildflower-covered mountainscapes, the areas surrounding S.L.O. are not to be missed. Ready to embark on a memorable one-day adventure? These are the top day trips from San Luis Obispo to have on your radar.

Fun Day Trips from San Luis Obispo to Enjoy this Weekend

San Simeon is a beautiful beach destination on California's famous Highway 1 offering something to explore for everyone.

San Simeon

San Simeon, with its spectacular terraces, lush gardens, and museums brimming with elaborate art installations, is a perfect destination to uncover when traveling to San Luis Obispo. And we know what you're thinking: this day trip sounds like a splurge. Well, even though San Simeon seems like it might be straight out of a book on luxe living, visitors are often surprised at how affordable this beach town can be.

The first stop on your itinerary should be none other than the world-famous Hearst Castle. Not only is the iconic hilltop mansion one of Southern California’s coolest architectural landmarks, but it is also a museum that brings fragments of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst’s history to life. Other things to do on this mini San Luis Obispo getaway include checking out the beaches, visiting Piedras Blancas Light Station, and keeping an eye out for the elephant seals lounging below.

Solvang is known as one of California's most unique destinations for its Danish-style architecture and awesome amenities.

Solvang

How far is San Luis Obispo from Solvang you ask? Far enough to warrant a day trip whenever you feel like a change of scenery is needed. More specifically, the Solvang to San Luis Obispo drive is just over an hour of scenic views and Pacific vistas. A popular choice for a pitstop among those driving to Santa Barbara, California’s “Little Denmark” is always pleasant to visit for a day.

Well-designed for visitors, this quirky destination offers more than 150 boutiques, several unique hotels, and incredible restaurants that serve international cuisine. Touristy activities on this day trip from San Luis Obispo include checking out art galleries, touring museums, and admiring the historic Old Mission Santa Inés. Falling in love with this Danish village and ready to spend the weekend here? We have an itinerary full of things to do in Solvang that’ll keep you busy all weekend long.

Lake Nacimiento

Camping at Lake Nacimiento is one of the top things to do in San Luis Obispo County. About a 45-minute drive from the city of S.L.O., this recreation area is loved by visitors for its warm weather and an incredible range of activities for every interest. 

You can enjoy almost every water activity imaginable along the 165-mile shoreline of Lake Nacimiento. Frequent visitors like to spend time relaxing and sunbathing by the water, hiking in the pine forests and oak groves, and setting up camp at a spot with a view of the lake. Water skiing, boating, kayaking, paddle-boarding, fishing, and swimming are a few other adventures you can enjoy by Nacimineto before traveling back to San Luis Obispo.

Drive out to Lompoc from S.L.O. to see fields of vibrant flowers, admire historic architecture, and tour boutique wineries.

Lompoc 

Lompoc is a Santa Barbara County treasure that’s perfect for a day trip from San Luis Obispo. About an hour south of the city of S.L.O., this rural escape surrounded by hillsides and flowers is an ideal spot to test life in the slow lane.

Spend your Lompoc getaway shopping at artisan boutiques, admiring vibrant murals, exploring the Old Town, and cycling in Lompoc Valley. 

An attraction that’s not to be missed in Lompoc is the La Purisima Mission on Purimisa Road. As the best-preserved mission in California, this incredible attraction features extensively restored buildings that date all the way back to 1787. Once you’re done exploring the ins and outs of the mission structures, consider hiking or horseback riding along the trails that span the 2,000-acre mission property—this will take your day trip from San Luis Obispo to the next level.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes is the largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco. Check it out on a day trip to see its grandiosity in person.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

The Golden State has unparalleled natural diversity and the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes solidify that once more. Resembling the Sahara, this jaw-dropping destination located about 30 miles south of S.L.O. is one of a kind in every way. As the world's largest coastal dune ecosystem, the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve features dunes that stand at over 500 feet above sea level.

Hike through the preserve and admire the windswept mounds of sand, get up close to the endangered plants and colorful seasonal flowers, and cool off by Guadalupe Beach—a popular place for surfing, fishing, and whale watching. If your ideal day trip from San Luis Obispo is a desert escape, then the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes is the perfect place to be.

Named after the yellow wildflowers that cover its fields, Montaña de Oro is one of the most beautiful state parks in California.

Montaña de Oro State Park

Montaña de Oro translates to “Mountain of Gold”—a fitting name for an underrated state park that’s covered in yellow wildflowers during spring. While the pretty fields of golden flowers are reason enough to plan a San Luis Obispo getaway to Montaña de Oro, there are several other recreational opportunities to enjoy here as well. 

Swim and sunbathe on the sand at Spooner’s Cove, hike along the nearby valleys and mountain ridges, pedal along some of the best mountain biking trails, and take in the dramatic natural landscapes. Ready for a challenging outdoor adventure? Hike up to the 1,347-foot peak of Montaña de Oro. The breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains, valleys, and ocean from the summit will duly reward you for your efforts.

Ragged Point

Located 15 miles from the iconic Hearst Castle, Ragged Point is where the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. Also a frequent pitstop for those embarking on a Big Sur road trip from Los Angeles, this photogenic destination along a 300-foot cliff wows every person passing through.

While you’re on a San Luis Obispo getaway, spend an hour, a day, or a week at Ragged Point Inn and Resort. Originally an outpost of the Hearst Ranch, this luxurious location is ideal if you want to extend your stay. Enjoy amenities that include lodging, dining, a gift shop, and panoramas you can’t get enough of.

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