Santa Margarita

Striking Santa Margarita Lake, CA- The ultimate hiking spot for nature lovers

By Donna Polizzi

If you’re looking for a gorgeous, pristine lake on the Central Coast, you will love Santa Margarita Lake; especially if you’re a nature lover at heart. The Central Coast is filled with natural treasures. Santa Margarita Lake is one of them.  Tucked away in the pristine hills of San Luis Obispo County, is a little-known town called Santa Margarita. Each and every quaint little town along the California Central Coast have unique characteristics, advantages and fun things to do.

Santa Margarita Lake is a hidden gem in San Luis Obispo County and not everyone knows about it.  When you visit the Santa Margarita Lake Natural Area, you will see exactly why. With a multitude of permitted activities at this lake, you will definitely have decisions to make. Are you in the mood for strenuous exercise or a  leisurely beautiful hike? Santa Margarita Lake has over 20 miles of hiking trails, all of which lead to breath-taking views of the lake and Santa Lucia Mountain Range, which lies east of the Central Coast. If you are looking for something more challenging, parts of these trails are ideal for backpacking. Santa Margarita Lake also invites equestrians to explore the trails.

Many have planned and enjoyed educational field trips, for students who want to learn about the ecology and the habitats that are in this special area. Water sports, like boating or kayaking, are perfect during the summertime, when the weather gets very warm. Visitors love to bring their mountain bikes to explore parts of the Santa Margarita Lake area on wheels.  Lots of people come to this lake for the activities.  To me, it is so serene, that experiencing being with nature and the stillness of the area, while enjoying the views, is one of my favorite ways to recharge and put my mind into low gear.

Santa Margarita Lake is part of the longest river on California’s Central Coast, the Salinas River. The lake was created in 1941, after the Salinas Dam was built upstream, by the Army Corps of Engineers. This allowed the lake to play a huge role during World War II. The dam was built to provide a source of water for the infantry division camp, Camp San Luis Obispo, during World War II. Now the lake serves as a drinking water reservoir for the city of San Luis Obispo. This is why you will find that there is no swimming allowed in the lake. The only swimmers allowed are the catfish, rainbow trout and small and largemouth bass. Yes, there is fishing allowed at this lake, too! Bring out the family and have some lunch on the shore or at the picnic tables. Come see what’s buzzing in this lovely little valley located in the San Luis Obispo hills.

(Keys 2 The Coast is a Travel Resource for San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties. Donna Polizzi is a Travel Expert, columnist and Founder of, offering honest recommendations on the “Best Places to Wine, Dine, Explore and More!”) Visit Keys2theCoast.Com or Facebook Keys2TheCoast.)

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