San Luis Obispo’s “serenity swing” earns honors for living up to its name and meeting high expectations! The swing hangs from a large, lone oak tree secluded on top of a hill high above Poly Canyon. Reaching it requires hiking up to one of the most (yes) serene settings on the Central Coast. The 3.8-mile (round-trip) route is found behind the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus. The trail begins on a shaded creekside fire road before opening up to Poly Canyon, where a ribbon-like fire road rises through bright green hills dotted with oak trees, and cows. The final push to the summit involves steeper singletrack and a very steep final half-mile. From serenity swing you can see out towards Cuesta Ridge to the east, towering Bishop Peak to the south, and even famous Morro Rock—emerging from the ocean. It’s rare to stumble across others at the swing, so you’ll most likely be able to enjoy it all to yourself. Even on hot days, the canyon breeze keeps things as cool as the views.
TIP: En route you can make a detour to visit the Poly Canyon Design Village (aka Architecture Graveyard) located on a grassy hillside and featuring geodesic domes and experimental structures by architecture students.
Exit Hwy. 101 at Grand Ave. and head north to the Cal Poly campus entrance. Park for free on weekends. The hike starts at the Poly Canyon fire road at the corner of Village Dr. and Poly Canyon Rd. From the start of the Poly Canyon fire road take the trail about 0.8 mile before seeing the entrance to Poly Canyon Design Village. Veer up to the right and proceed through three marked Cal Poly gates on the fire road before turning left up a steeper singletrack. At around 1.3 miles you’ll reach an intersection with a gate on your left and trail to the right, but continue going straight up the very steep final half-mile before reaching the peak and oak tree. Return the way you came. Dog-friendly!