You will see warning signs noting this is mountain lion country. In the springtime especially you may encounter ticks.
Guidelines for Hiking in Lion Country
Don’t hike alone—try to hike with at least one other person or take your dog along for company.
Don’t let your children wander too far ahead of you—a lion may mistake your child for prey due to his or her size or the more animated way children often are.
Don’t run away—this may stimulate the lion to chase you. Stand still and face the lion, and don’t turn your back. Make eye contact and keep it until the standoff ends.
If you see a lion don’t approach it—give the lion as much space as you can. They will usually try to avoid a confrontation.
Crouching or bending over is to be avoided—humans standing up do not look like prey but crouched over in more of a four-legged position may make you look like dinner.
Stand tall—do everything you can to appear as large as you can. Raise your hands in the air and if you have a jacket raise it above you. Talk firmly and loudly.
Defend yourself if necessary—carry a walking stick or have a few stones in your pocket which you can throw if you need to. If attacked fight back.
For those who'd rather spend more time on a trail than jeep roads, the Ortega Trail is an excellent choice. You will be walking on an old fire road but it has been allowed to mellow until it is more a wide path than roadway. You'll have an opportunioty to wander for a half hour or so on a relatively level trail with occasional glimpses of Gaviota Peak and light chaparral, open grassland and oak canopies as constant companions.
After you pass the locked gate, follow the jeep road for several hundred yards to the point where the road bears right and begins to climb. Look for the beginning of the Ortega on the left. The Ortega Trail parallels the freeway for three-fourths mile to a point where you reach an oopen area almost immediately below the radio tower. At this point the Ortega Trail goes to the right and turns into a grass-filled jeep road that climbs up to the south end of Hollister Ridde. At the top of the ridge, bear left for the hike out to the radio tower.
Within a few yards you'll spot the turnoff to the Beach to Backcountry Trail that leads, not surprisingly, down to the beach. The hike out to the Radio Tower is definitely worth it fi oyu come this far, though to get there you'll need to drop down to an open saddle on the spur ridge and then climb back up a bit to the tower. Just beyond it the views up and down the canyon and across towards Gaviota Peak are pretty impressive.
On the way back down you can re-trace your steps on the Ortega Trail or loop back via the Hollister Ridge. You'll have some more climbing in the form of a series of ups and downs but the hike along the ridge is spectacular, especially in the hours near sunset.