The horses kept looking over toward the other side of the road in the bushes. We were in bear country . . . would we come across one on the Duna Vista Loop Trail today?
Bear country in SLO County? Yes, bears show up in the area surrounding Lopez Lake where my friend Beverly took me for a trail ride recently. Our rig was parked in the staging area near Camp French which is at the North end of the Lopez Lake campgrounds, kitty-corner from the Black Bear Equestrian Camp area. Beverly has seen bears here a few times.
Since our horses seemed to “see” something we didn’t, we both commented on the possibility of encountering a bear. We finished saddling the horses and didn’t hear any rustling or see anything black, round and hairy so we ventured towards the trail head for Duna Vista Loop Trail.
Getting Away from the Hectic Pace of Life
Our lives had both been a bit hectic recently, so we were very glad to be out riding. The conversation we started in the truck we carried onto the trail. Along the way we marveled at the vista views of the lake and surrounding foothills, the moss-draped oak trees providing frequent shade canopies, and the wildlife sharing the environment with us. We kept talking and sharing life insights while the horses steadily climbed to the top.
Duna Vista Loop Trail
Duna Vista Loop Trail starts out as Wittenburg Trail along the west side of the Wittenburg arm of Lopez Lake. It then takes on the shape of a tossed lariat rope as the trail begins to ascend uphill (in the tossed loop shape) in a more due north direction.
At the top of the climb we come to a trail junction where one can take the Encina Spur option to the north-west or continue on the Duna Vista Loop trail to the south-east. There is a boat hike-in camp at the end of the Encina Spur trail – a nice spot for a picnic lunch on the trail. This junction is also a welcomed flat resting place after the steady uphill climb. We take the Duna Vista Loop trail to our left along the ridge above the Lopez arm of Lopez Lake.
The Crown of the Duna Vista Loop Trail
The crown of the Duna Vista Loop trail is the lookout point which is also about halfway round the lariat loop shape. Looking around you get a 360 degree view of all of Lopez Lake including both arms, the surrounding foothills and even a glimpse of the ocean. A nice up-draft carries along all types of birds and provides a welcome breeze on a hot day.
Continuing on in the same southern direction to the left, keeps us on the Duna Vista Loop trail. We come to another trail option where the Duna Vista spur leads one on a very technical trail to another lookout point. This trail should only be negotiated by experienced trail riders and horses. We pass it by this time and head east to finish out the lariat loop shape.
The trail has been descending for a bit now and we continue a winding descent as we look to reconnect to the throwing arm of the Duna Vista Loop. Now, much of Lopez Lake is always in our view. We can clearly see a squadron of white pelicans huddled along the shore and we enjoy watching other birds soar overhead. Once a little family of deer stopped in our path. Their ears twitched as they froze in place. Soon they bounded off and our horses watched them go.
The sun is mostly behind us during the decent. The oak tree canopies and hillsides to our left provide sections of shade. Our conversation continues as we meet up with the throwing arm of the Duna Vista Loop Trail and head back to the rig. We unsaddle our equine partners and grab our sack lunches and water to eat in the car as we head home. We are refreshed, renewed and grateful that we didn’t actually come across a bear!
Notes for a Perfect Day
- Yes, you might encounter a bear out here. Check out our story on what to do if you do encounter a bear on the trail.
- The Day Use entrance fee for horse trailers into Lopez Lake campgrounds is: $10.00/ Vehicle + $3.50/animal. Annual passes for both vehicles and animals are available if you plan to frequent the trails all year.
- Call Lopez Lake Office 805.788.2381 to reserve the Black Bear Equestrian Camp for a group staying a weekend or more.
- The Duna Vista Loop Trail takes about 3 hours traveling mostly at the walk going uphill steadily and downhill steadily. Your horse should be in good shape to manage the hills.
- There are no facilities at the staging area or on the trail.
- If the gate to the Black Bear Equestrian camp is closed you can park along the roadside on Lopez Drive at the far end of road. You will then ride down the dirt road and cut across to the Wittenburg trail head.
- Pack in water and food and pack out your trash.
- Summer conditions can be hot so bring water. The trails are mostly clay dirt so a few days are needed after rain for the trails to dry out a bit. Dress in layers during winter months.
Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen