Montana de Oro State Park

Montana de Oro State Park
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo County is home to a staggeringly beautiful coastline. One way to experience this is to go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, or beach-combing, at Montana de Oro State Park. Located south of Morro Bay and adjacent to the beach side town of Los Osos, the park is a great way to spend an afternoon, a weekend, or even an entire vacation.

Exit the 101 freeway at Los Osos Valley Road and drive west for several miles, then turn left on Pecho Valley Road. The street will twist and turn as it winds through an out-of-the-way neighborhood and away from civilization. The views begin on the drive, with beautiful ocean vistas competing with views of rolling hills, stands of eucalyptus, and secluded beaches. Finally, one enters the state park at the end of the road.

Islay Creek Campground is reached by taking a left turn before arriving at the parking lot for the Bluff Trail. The campsites are primitive, with drinking water and pit toilets, but no showers. The forty-seven sites can be used by tents, trailers, or motor homes. Those who wish to get completely away from cars and motorized vehicles can also hike in to more remote sites. Those preferring more creature comforts might prefer to stay in a hotel in San Luis Obispo or Morro Bay and make the drive after a hot shower and breakfast, returning to town for a restaurant dinner.

Various trails within the park are open to bicycles, equestrians, and foot traffic, and one can spend a week exploring the various choices. The mostly flat Bluff Trail offers constant views of the coastline and ocean on one side and sprawling meadows on the other. Buckwheat and other plants offer food and shelter to mammals and avian breeds, and bird-watching is rewarding here no matter the time of year. Because the Bluff Trail has many loops within its expanse, a hike here can be customized in terms of length. Bring a camera, and plan to spend an hour or more exploring the twists and turns.

Several mini-trails connect with the Bluff Trail to allow beach access to Spooner’s, Corallina, and Quarry Coves, and a popular hiking option is to combine a walk on the Bluff Trail with time spent beach-combing. Various kinds of environments can be found at the water’s edge, from sandy areas to rocky pools that provide homes for various marine animals. These beaches are also wonderful places for a picnic or an hour or two with a blanket, book, and/or journal.

Those wanting to hike into the hills can do so as well. There are several trails that gain elevation, some of which connect to others, forming loops. This again allows the visitor to customize the length of one’s hike. For a challenge, one can ramble up Alan, Valencia, or Oats Peak. These trails allow one to explore the oak woodlands that lay just beyond the bluff and chaparral habitats.

As is true for so many of California’s State Parks, poison oak is present and ready to attack. Be forewarned, and dress in layers, as the proximity to the ocean means that fog and mist can be present no matter the time of day and year. Remember to pack out what was brought in, and enjoy one of California’s true gems of a state park.

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Content copyright © 2023 by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . All rights reserved.
This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.