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San Luis Obispo kicks off night hiking pilot program

Posted at 6:53 PM, Nov 14, 2018

There are new rules in place at Cerro San Luis, also known as Madonna Mountain, that allow night-time access to the popular San Luis Obispo trail.

If you want to hike this trail at night, you’ll need a permit. All you have to do is scan a QR code at the trailhead and it will bring you to a website.

It only takes 30 seconds to sign up. You can also access the website from your desktop.

“I’d totally do it,” said Jenna Meads of Arroyo Grande. “I think it would be fun, like a date night.”

“It definitely encourages people to get out more, be active and also, it’s cooler at night,” said Dan Canella of San Luis Obispo.

A new sign is posted at the trailhead stating that a permit is required after 6 p.m. Two-and-a-half hours later, the trail closes at 8:30 p.m.

That’s two-and-a-half hours more hiking and biking time people can utilize.

“It’s a two-year pilot project at this open space only so all the other ones still have their regular rules,” said Doug Carscaden, City of San Luis Obispo Ranger Supervisor.

As part of the project, the city is collecting stats on how many people are using it.

“We are seeing about 20 permits pulled per day,” Carscaden said about the project so far.

Weekdays seem to be the most popular.

However, keep in mind, you won’t be out there alone.

Game cameras have captured images of animals along the trail. The information will be used to see if the night time access has any effects on animal movement.

Opponents to the project voiced the effect on wild animals as a major concern.

“It disturbs the nocturnal habitat for the animals,” pointed out Jan Marx, former mayor of San Luis Obispo.

Others point out safety concerns.

“It can be a little more dangerous. If you need a rescue, it could be harder,” Canella said.

Rangers are there at night checking to make sure you have a permit.

“We are extending people into this time a little bit and we are adding a couple of additional staff to help with this pilot project,” Carscaden explained.

A permit is free and only 65 permits are issued each night.

“We want them to be smart users of open space, following the rules and regulations so there aren’t rescues or other situations going on,” Carscaden said.

Fires are not allowed on the mountain.

The ranger adds that a flashlight and a cell phone, as well as the buddy system, are great ideas when using the trail at night.

You will need a permit from now through March.

If you do not have a permit, you can face a $561 fine.