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Cerro Alto Trail

Hike Name:Cerro Alto Trail Loop

Name of area/general location:
Los Padres National Forest, Atascadero, CA

Land Acknowledgement:
This trail is located on the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Salinan, Obispeño, and Chumash. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit

AllTrails Hike

Trail rating and why:
Moderate to hard; Short distance but moderate elevation gain and little shade.

Trail mileage:
2.3 mile one-way; 4.6 miles round-trip, longer loops can make the trip up to 7.1 miles round-trip.

For more information:
Los Padres National Forest (805) 448-6487

Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail:
Located between the two San Luis Obispo County cities of Atascadero and Morro Bay, the Cerro Alto Trail leads you to the 2,640-foot summit of its namesake, Cerro Alto peak. At start of the trailhead, you are greeted by oak forest and continue to be under an oak canopy for about the first half mile. Eventually you leave the canyon you began in and start ascending up the mountain side that is fairly but still surrounded in green via the various shrubs that will accompany you the rest of the journey.

As you make your way to fairly rocky summit that Cerro Alto, you will gain vistas of several lower peaks and valleys. On a very clear day, it is said that you can see across the San Joaquin Valley and see the Sierra Nevada mountains. Of historical interest is the fact that the U.S. Forest Service maintained a fire lookout tower at the top of Cerro Alto Peak until 1973.

Once at the top, you should be able to see portions of the coastal mountains to the West that are the Santa Lucia Mountains, Morro Rock, and the rest of the Morro Bay. While the views can be amazing, the exposed nature of this trail makes it most ideal to complete during cooler parts of the year.


How To Get There: From Fresno: Take Highway 41 West, approximately 12 miles west of Atascadero and 8 miles east of Morro Bay. Look for the Cerro Alto Campground and go 1 mile past there to get to the day use parking. There is a day use fee of $10 to park at the trailhead.



Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.