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Kiler Canyon Road: A Scenic Drive in Paso Robles, California
Kiler Canyon Road Summit
Kiler Canyon Road is for the Bold
My first experience with Kiler Canyon Road was about two weeks after a series of rain storms. My husband and I were coming home from church and thought we'd try a new way home. We had never driven on Kiler Canyon, so we decided to do it and see where it went. The first part of the drive was on a paved road which went uphill in a pretty typical rural neighborhood -- large homes on acreage with trees, fences, some animals, orchards, and small farms. Then we started downhill and saw more of the same.
We then came to a section that warned us not to drive it in rainy weather. Well, it hadn't rained in two weeks, so we decided to keep going. Big mistake. The road was no longer paved, and we entered a forest with lots of shade over the road, which was rapidly becoming very muddy. The woods were beautiful, as is often true during rainy season. We saw some wild turkeys and magnificent oak trees. It was very enjoyable until we got stuck in the mud before the days of cell phones. We were still in our church clothes. It was not likely anyone else would be stupid enough to be driving by, so we were on our own. That was several years ago, and I don't know how we managed to get ourselves out of the mud, but I do remember that both of us expended a lot of effort. So my advice is, don't ever try this drive unless it's been dry for some time and no mud could possibly be left on this road. But during the dry season, it's worth the adventure if you are bold enough.
The Most Important Signpost
How to Find Kiler Canyon Road
Kiler Canyon Road from Vine St. to Arbor Rd.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Choosing Your Route
Kiler Canyon Road begins Off Vine Street, just east of First Street in Paso Robles. It ends on Peachy Canyon Road in West Paso Robles. To see all of it you will need to click on the map. To get back to Paso Robles from the end of Kiler Canyon Road, you need to go right on Peachy Canyon downhill past several vineyards and tasting rooms that you looked down at from the summit of Kiler Canyon Road. Peachy Canyon is PAVED. This capsule explains the route of the most scenic drive on Kiler Canyon Road. Most of it is not paved.
To begin, Take First Street South from Spring Street. Turn left on Vine Street. (The Courtyard Marriott Hotel will be on your left. ) Go about half a block to Kiler Canyon Road and turn right. I will show you below how the scenery on that corner looks. Kiler Canyon will have several curves and go past several homes on acreage. It will briefly pass through a live oak woods. Shortly after that you will pass the Écluse Vineyards on your right. Before you know it, you will reach a dead end. I have put a picture of that dead end at Arbor Road above. This is your last chance to chicken out of taking the full Kiler Canyon drive. If you take the dirt road to the left, it will pass a few farms and vineyards before it becomes a paved road past the intersection with Live Oak Road. In ten minutes or less, you will land on Highway 46 West, just a bit west of the 101 Freeway. It's good to know your options.
The Beginning of the AdventureClick thumbnail to view full-size
Into the Deeper Woods Beside the CanyonClick thumbnail to view full-size
Back into the LightClick thumbnail to view full-size
Darkness Quietly Descends on the HillsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Now the Real Kiler Canyon Adventure Starts
If you're ready for the adventure, at the intersection with Arbor Road, take the paved road around the curve to the right. It won't be paved very long. Just before you enter the unpaved woods, you get your last warning not to proceed if there's been any recent rain. Please heed that warning. If you don't, you will be sorry. Your adventure begins here. The road will get very narrow before you go your first mile. There will be spooky looking woods on both sides. They are so spooky you may imagine there are orcs and spiders waiting to attack. You would not want to get stuck here at night. Allow yourself about three hours to go these few miles because you may want to stop and walk a bit and take some pictures, because you probably won't choose to come this way again.
As you get deeper into the woods, the road becomes very narrow. It gets so narrow, in fact, you will be in a very awkward postion if you meet a car going the other way. I was very fortunate that this did not happen to me because I would not have wanted to back up a very long way. It was difficult enough to go frontwards without hitting the poison oak that grows on both sides and getting the oil on my car doors. You will spend a long time going through this fairlyland of deep woods that go down into what must be Kiler Canyon.
When it finally happens that you see light ahead, you will find yourself at a fork in the road. The way to the left is a driveway with a large address sign. I stopped to ask for directions because the road to the right went up a hill and I wanted to know what would happen if I took it. The homeowner and his small dogs and children met my car so that I did not have to get out. He assured me the road up the hill was the right way and it would eventually get me to Peachy Canyon Road. If I turned right on Peachy Canyon, I would get back to town eventually. Peachy Canyon ends in Pacific, which runs into Olive which curves around to 4th Street and runs back into Vine. So if you take that way, you will have almost have gone in a complete circle. If you turn left on Peachy Canyon, instead, it will take you southwest to Vineyard Drive, which will take you to Highway 46 West. It's always good to see the big picture before you start out. If you'd like a paper map, almost any tasting room will have a map of wine country, and that's all you need.
Once you are past the fork, you are out of the woods and headed for the summit. The road gets wider and you will be a more relaxed driver. For all practical purposes, you are back in civilization, because there is a vineyard with a portable toilet near the top. You probably won't see any people, but you will get an overview of of wine country from the summit. There is room to park and walk around to admire the view of the rolling hills and vineyards below. I decided to wait until the sun set, since it would occur within of few minutes of my reaching the top. It was cool enough to do some walking, so I took advantage of that. As you look at the pictures, you will see that the ones on the shady side are darker, while the ones taken from the other side where the sun was still shining are lighter. They were all taken within minutes and a few yards of each other.
The way down to Peachy Canyon was a breeze compared to the rest. Peachy Canyon was paved, and the views there were also very scenic, but you do have to watch the curves. If you want to visit any of the tasting rooms on your way down, do check the schedules before you start your dirve. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are usually safe times to find them open.
How Brave Are You?
If you had the opportunity to drive this during the dry season, might you do it?
Don't miss my other hubs on North San Luis Obispo County
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If you're ever in North San Luis Obispo County, don't miss these easy and scenic hikes in a variety of settings: lake, river, and oak woods.