On Paso Robles Country Roads ... Our Favorite Day Trips

This way to the tasting room

“Guess what we found ...”

How often I've said that, after we've been exploring country roads in Paso Robles wine country.

It could be a sun-drenched meadow ...

... a secluded little town in the countryside ...

... or surf and headlands along the Cambria shore.

Within an afternoon’s drive around Paso Robles, we've passed from arid plains, through stream canyons, vineyards, and oak woodlands, to the meeting of mountains and sea.

Oaks and Meadows, Chimney Rock Road
Oaks and Meadows
Chimney Rock Road

In fact ... that’s more than half the fun of exploring the country roads around Paso Robles ...

... that element of surprise.

... followed by great memories that draw us back again and again for another day in the country.

What about those memories and discoveries? What’s our favorite day in the country?

Susie and I have too many favorites to pick just one. Perhaps we could start with a drive along the country roads into the hills west of town ...

Oak Canopy, Adelaida Road
Oak Canopy
Adelaida Road

The Western Hills

Country roads lace the hills west of Paso Robles. They wander among vineyards and wineries. They follow the contours of ridge, canyon and grass-covered hill. Some open up to panoramic views.

Just listen to the names of some of these roads ... Peachy Canyon ... Vineyard ... ... Adelaida ... Chimney Rock.

On Vineyard Drive
On Vineyard Drive

Many’s the time I’ve had to pull over and stop along these country roads, so compelling was the view ...

Golden meadows ...

Emerald vineyards aglow in late afternoon light ...

Wineries tucked into the hillside ...

Grass-covered hills dotted with oaks ...

They’re waiting for you, the views on those country roads. But drive slowly. On these winding lanes, beautiful vistas come and go before you know it.

I mentioned panoramic views a few sentences ago. There’s another one you shouldn’t miss ...

Ridgetop View, Highway 46
Ridgetop View
Highway 46

Highway 46 to Cambria

From the summit on Highway 46 on an April midday, the emerald hills give way to the aquamarine of Morro Bay, softened in haze.

I was surprised – captivated – by this view, the first time I traveled this road. Now, I return to the same pullout to savor it anew.

It’s only 30 miles from Paso Robles westward to the Cambria coast. But those 30 miles offer the essence of Paso Robles wine country ... vineyards ... clusters of boutique wineries ... grass-covered hills ...

... and that incredible view.

From Cambria, Highway 1 begins its 100-mile journey up the Big Sur coast. Within five minutes, you'll join the roaring surf as you travel through coastal grasslands ... emerald in winter, golden in summer. Ahead, you'll see the 2,500-foot rise of the Santa Lucia Range.

Big Sur Looking North from San Carpoforo Creek
Big Sur Looking North
from San Carpoforo Creek

In about 20 minutes' time, Highway 1 begins its roller-coaster climb up the ocean-facing flank of the Santa Lucias, to which it will cling, far above the waves, for the next 90 miles.

But just before that, about 15 minutes north of Cambria, you'll be in for a surprise, as I was a few years ago ...

After all ...

Elephant Seals, Piedras Blancas rookeryAt Clautiere Vineyard
Elephant Seals
Piedras Blancas Rookery

... it's not every day you come across an elephant seal rookery.

And now you know the answer to the riddle ...

What weighs two tons, dives to ocean depths of 5,000 feet, and makes a noise like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

There they are on the beach, within barely 70 feet of the road’s edge. They're northern elephant seals. Depending on the time of year, you might see hundreds of them ...

Elephant Seals, Piedras Blancas rookery
Keeping Warm
Piedras Blancas Rookery

... lounging on the sandy beaches from headland to headland and beyond.

For me, this is a mandatory pull-over. From a parking area it’s an easy walk to a viewing path. And from there, you have a close-up view of the seals just 15 feet below you.

... It's true. An elephant seal rookery really does sound like a convention of Harley-Davidsons.

This next place is completely different.

In the Santa Margarita Countryside
In the Santa Margarita Countryside

Santa Margarita Back Country

It’s so quiet and peaceful along this country road. The call of a meadowlark carries far across the land.

This drive begins in the village of Santa Margarita, old store fronts facing the railroad tracks across the highway. From Santa Margarita, the road continues into a rolling parkland of meadows and oaks, stretching to the olive greens of the far ridge. Then it twists along a sage-scented stream canyon, emerging in tiny Creston ...

...in time for a sumptuous dinner in the country.

April is a special time here, when the lavenders of lupines spread across the emerald hills.

From secluded meadows to rows of grape vines ... from hidden canyons to the Pacific surf ... the country roads of Paso Robles offer such diverse choices.

But drive slowly on those winding country roads.

Otherwise, you might miss something.

Return from Country Roads to Paso Robles Uncorked