Northern California is a pawrific place to hike with your pooch, and you will not be disappointed with the Cougar Trail in Arroyo Grande. This three-mile round trip trail is full of twists, turns, uphill grades, downhill grades, canyons, ridge views, trees, grasslands, desert, and wetlands.
Starting at Lopez Lake Recreation Area campgrounds on Lopez Drive, head north along Lopez Lake to end at another end of Lopez Drive in the northern end of Lopez Lake. Along this well-maintained path, you will find some of the most interesting flora and fauna with several ridge-top viewing areas that give you a panoramic view of the lake and the entire Northern California area.
For the first half-mile or so, the path takes you behind some of the camping areas through chaparral, oak, and spruce trees mixed with other mature trees to keep you and Fido shaded. You will also find a variety of berry bushes such as elderberry, coffee berry, gooseberry, and blackberry. Do not eat any berries unless you know exactly what they are as some may be poisonous.
Further on in the trail, you will come to several canyons with a plethora of color from various types of wildflowers such as lilies, daisies, yucca, paintbrushes, baby blue eyes, fiddlenecks, silver lupines, sorrel, and shooting stars. You can also catch a glimpse of elk, deer, longhorn sheep, groundhogs, squirrel, rabbits, and all kinds of other critters. Don’t let your dog chase or scare the wildlife, and make sure your little buddy is leashed at all times.
There are no restrooms or drinking fountains along the path, so bring plenty of water. However, you will never be too far from the park where you may be able to find a vault toilet or port-a-potty. Some say there is a parking fee, but it is not known what the fee is. You will have to check the website or call the Lopez Lake Recreation Area office for more information.