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Hiking Duna Vista Trail, Lopez Lake, California

When the lake water level is low, there is a shortcut to the Duna Vista trailhead, just past the laughter of the Acorn woodpeckers, at the green water pipe the crosses the dry lakebed. There is a junction at the first wooden bridge, with both paths leading to the same trail. Take your pick but either way you will want to stick to the center of the trail to avoid the heathy groves of poison oak!

A shortcut at the water pipe to the Duna Vista trail.
When the lake is low. Take the shortcut at the water pipe.

In the late summer afternoon, there are long stretches of trail covered in shadows with a cooling breeze from the small amount of water that remains in the lake. Along the trail the plants look parched. Only the occasional yellow flower of the telegraph weed, the red penstemon, and the pink buckwheat, persevere amongst the fields of golden wild oats. After the spring rain the dry fields will fill with color from a rich bloom of wildflowers.

A trail with poison oak.
Leaves of three. Stay to the center of the trail to avoid to avoid the poison oak.

A little over two miles, at the picnic bench, the trail splits. Continue past the Encinal Trail sign to the gently sloping switchbacks that have been built by the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers.

A trai along a hillside of brown grass.
End of summer. Brown grass dries out a the long stretches of a gentle sloping trail.

The summit arrives at about the four mile mark, just past the Encinal Spur Trail sign. Be sure to take the little trail up to the three benches that offer a rest with views all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

A bench overlooking the lake.
Benches at the summit. A lookout over the Lopez Lake dam has a place to rest.

On the way down, listen for the heavy beating wings of the Great blue herons as they bolt between the oak trees, the buzz of the honey bees amongst the buckwheat flowers, and the jingling bells of mountain bikers telling you to leap from the trail to avoid a collision. The trail is complete after 7.2 miles and around three hours have passed.

A shortcut at the water pipe to the Duna Vista trail.
Wild oats. The sun turns dead grass into fields of gold.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

The African savanna with three acacia trees.
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