Ontario Ridge and Sycamore Crest Trail, Avila Beach

The view from Ontario Ridge

I was told about Ontario Ridge by another hiker we met at the top of Madonna Mountain and decided it would be a fun new trail to try. The hike was a total of 4.73 miles (check out the googlemap snapshot to see the trail loop from above!), and we started at 12:50 p.m. and got back to the car around 3:50 p.m.

google map of hike

We parked at Pirate’s Cove and started the hike through the gate that dead-ends the road. This brush-filled path led us to a cul-de-sac street lined with ocean-view mansions and a walking path.

Following the long row of grand houses, we turned left onto shell beach drive, where there was a little parking area. This was the beginning of the real hike.

The beginning of Ontario Ridge Trail

The start was a short but very steep climb up to the ridge that followed some telephone lines to the left side of the trail. The entire Ontario Ridge hike is literally on the “ridge” of the hill, and follows the steep dips, and peaks of the ridge. While the terrain is challenging, the view is spectacular. To our left we saw the ocean and a bird’s eye view of shell beach and all the large homes adjacent to the hill. And to our right, trees shading the ground and plants covering the hillside.

bottles should be in recycling, not on the trails! grrrr....

We saw a tiny Monterey Ring-Neck snake on the trail, and lots of pretty flowers along with the occasional butterfly.

Monterey Ring-Necked snake photo credit: Brad Alexander

In the middle of the hike we passed through what looked like a radio tower of some sort.

After a few miles along the ridge, the path came to a fork. We decided to go right, heading gradually downhill into the shady tree-lined path. There were quite a few other hikers on this path, and even a couple biking. Halfway down we found a bench at the side of the trail. Eventually we found ourselves at the bottom, where, much to our surprise, we discovered that the trail ended at the Avila Hot Springs.

So, we turned around and headed back up, taking a little break at the bench on the way.

Sycamore Crest Trail

It turns out that the shady trail we turned onto at the fork is a different trail called Sycamore Crest trail, and is three quarters of a mile each way.

The resting bench

Back at the top and once again in the afternoon sun, we took the left side of the fork. This took us straight down the steep hill to the parking lot of Pirate’s Cove.

The hill down to Pirate's Cove

Going down the hill was a slow process, complete with a few slips and slides along the way.

yellow wildflowers with Avila in the background

But we had the ocean in front of us, a view of Avila to the right, and tall yellow flowers lining the trail the whole way down.

not quite the yellow brick road...

At the very bottom we hopped over some low barbed wire, but I’m pretty sure that there is a gate located a little further to the right at the bottom of the path, away from the parking lot.

There are three places that you can park if you want to do the entire hike:

– Pirate’s Cove (that’s where I parked)

– Shell Beach Road at the start of Ontario Ridge

– Avila Hot Springs (next to the green bridge that goes over the road)

Best part: all the parking is free!

Don’t forget sunscreen and a camera, the hike is exposed to the sun but the views are amazing!


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