Treadmill Rating (out of 10):
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Max Elevation: 500 ft.
Elevation Gain: 500 ft.
This hike is an extension of the Guadalupe Beach hike you will find on this site. I had heard that if you pass Mussel Rock (where the Guadalupe Beach Trail ends) and hike up the huge sand dunes that crest down into the Pacific Ocean, you will find stunning views of the coast and a beautiful sea arch jutting out of the water. I have never seen a sea arch before, so I spent the day on the highest sand dunes in the west in search of this visual treasure.
I decided to cut in, away from the shore, and experience the dunes. I trekked up and down huge hills and valleys of blowing sand. I felt like I was in the Sahara or some other wild desert. Only the sound of the crashing surf reminded me that just a couple of hundred yards away was the roaring Pacific Ocean.
You’ll head for the City of Santa Maria. Take exit for Main Street – Highway 166 West. You’ll pass through Santa Maria, then farmland till you hit the “City” of Guadalupe. Continue West on 166 to the end where you will encounter a usually unoccupied entry gate and guard shack. Follow the road through sand dunes till you arrive in the parking lot. During normal daylight hours, there are bathrooms at the parking lot.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THE HIKE?
As I detoured to a more steep area of the Nipomo Dunes and away from the level shore, this hike took on more difficulty. It was quite steep in some parts. Keep in mind, I was hiking away from the face of the dunes, inland. Although steep, I perceived no danger other than getting sand in my trousers should I fall and roll a bit…being on a huge hill of sand. Now, if you have never hiked up a large dune, which I have not prior to today, it is not easy. Its much like hiking in soft snow. Your feet sink in to the sand making them very heavy. After an hour or so of this, I was sitting and gasping for air. I chose to return to the parking area by taking the flat, hard packed sand of the shoreline.
WHO CAN DO THIS HIKE?
This has a rating of five on the treadmill scale. The reason for this rating is that you can make this hike what you want it to be. Hike along the flat hard packed sand of the shore line and its a level two. Hike straight up the highest dunes and it can be a level 10. I took the mid way and hiked along a ridge between the shore and the highest dune, making it a level five.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
Year round the weather is agreeable on the Central Coast. However, you should know that the winds are quite strong in this area. I would suggest a morning hike as these winds, which are often steady and strong, start kicking up in the afternoon.
This is a casual beach hike so I do not think that training outside of being in general good physical condition would be necessary. Always consult your Dr. before taking on any new exercise activities. You should be in very good cardio health for the dunes. As mentioned earlier, I was gasping at points on the steeper sides of the dunes.