Dune Trail Montaña de Oro State Park Hazard Canyon Reef hike tide pools trail Los Osos California San Luis Obispo

For a quick one-mile jaunt in Montaña de Oro State Park, hike down Dune Trail to Hazard Canyon Reef. At the bottom of this oceanfront ravine there is a rocky shoreline graced with engaging tide pools. Explore up or down the coast to extend your stay, or settle in for a picnic on the sandy beach. The postcard views of Morro Rock are a good reason to stick around.

The trail begins from a dirt pullout in a eucalyptus grove along Pecho Valley Road north of the Montaña de Oro State Park Visitor Center. North is the direction you’ll hike down a dirt track into Hazard Canyon. The ocean appears in no time, and you will reach the bottom of the ravine after a third of a mile. A few wooden steps assist with the 100-foot descent, and a boardwalk across the wetlands at the mouth of the canyon ensure that you don’t have to mess with any mud. To reach the ocean, pass through a gap in the dunes just beyond an unmarked 4-way junction (another section of Dune Trail continues up the coast to the right and a path comes down from the dunes to the left (more on that later)). Beyond the canyon, the trail continues a short distance to Hazard Canyon Reef, a rocky point along the shoreline.

The trail fades and the exploration begins. Step out on the rocks to examine pools housing sea stars, hermit crabs, and sea anemones. Watch waves crash against the rocks, filling and draining the blue pools. North of Hazard Canyon Reef, there is a sandy line of dunes sheltering Moro Bay. A few miles up the sandy beach is the iconic Moro Rock, giving the tide pools at Hazard Canyon Reef a dynamic backdrop.

Montaña de Oro Hazard Canyon Reef
Tide pools at Hazard Canyon Reef

An alternate route to Hazard Canyon Reef is to head west from the north end of the lot on a path across the dunes. After reaching a scenic ocean overlook atop the steep dune wall, angle north along the bluff. When Hazard Canyon appears below, take a precipitous sandy path down into the canyon. This stretch drops 150 feet in less than a tenth of a mile and feels like downhill skiing in the sand. You would not want to attempt this path in reverse, but it can be used to create a loop hike to Hazard Canyon Reef, adding broader views.

Hazard Canyon Montaña de Oro
Hiking the path across the top of the dunes above Hazard Canyon

Hazard Canyon Montaña de Oro
The steep sandy path down to Hazard Canyon Reef

It is a short hike to Hazard Canyon Reef and there is a lot to see. Dogs are not allowed. No fee or permit is required to hike Dune Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: From the 101 Freeway south of San Luis Obispo, take exit 200 onto Los Osos Valley Road. Drive a total of fifteen miles northwest toward Montaña de Oro State Park. After 11.2 miles, Los Osos Valley Road becomes Pecho Valley Road and turns sharply to the south. Continue 2.7 miles, entering Montaña de Oro State Park and a eucalyptus grove. Turn right into a large dirt pullout for Hazard Canyon (If you reach Spooner’s Cove and the visitor center, you’ve gone too far). There is usually a collection of horse trailers in the dirt lot. The trail begins from the north end of the lot, labeled simply “beach.”

Trailhead address: Pecho Valley Road, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, CA 93402
Trailhead coordinates: 35.285512, -120.881105 (35° 17′ 07.84″N 120° 52′ 51.97″W)

Use the map below to create your own directions:

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Photos

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These photos were taken in April of 2012. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Hazard Peak TrailHazard Peak Trail
This 6-mile round trip hike ascends coastal ridges to a 1,076-foot summit with panoramic views that include a dynamic perspective of Morro Bay.
Hazard Peak Islay Creek Loop TrailHazard Peak – Islay Creek Loop
This 9.2 mile loop continues beyond Hazard Peak deeper into Montana de Oro before circling back on Islay Creek Trail.
Montaña de Oro TrailIslay Creek Trail
This easy 6-mile round trip hike follows a wide trail up a coastal canyon flanked by thousand-foot peaks, passing a small waterfall to reach an abandoned barn.
Oats Peak HikeOats Peak Trail
This 8.25-mile hike combines Old Oats Peak Trail and New Oats Peak Trail to reach a panoramic summit towering over Montaña de Oro State Park.
Reservoir Flats Trail Montana de OroReservoir Flats Trail
This 2-mile loop delivers fine ocean and canyon views as it explores the bottom of Islay Creek Canyon in Montaña de Oro State Park.
Valencia Peak TrailValencia Peak Trail
This 3.7-mile hike summits a 1,347-foot peak with stunning views over Montaña de Oro.
Montaña de Oro TrailBluff Trail
This level 3.4-mile hike passes tide pools and beaches along a picturesque rocky coast in Montaña de Oro State Park.
Point Buchon TrailPoint Buchon Trail
This 1 1/3 to 6.8-mile hike explores the beautiful coastline south of Montaña de Oro State Park.
Los Osos Dunes Ecological Reserve HikeMorro Dunes Ecological Reserve
This 2.6-mile loop serves up panoramic views over Morro Bay as it ascends 800 feet from Los Osos to Montaña de Oro State Park.
Elfin Forest Natural ReserveElfin Forest Natural Reserve
This easy 1-mile loop on a boardwalk explores a pygmy forest on the edge of Morro Bay.
Los Osos OaksLos Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve
This short hikes explores a pygmy forest of coast live oaks, providing a shady level stroll of up to 1.5 miles.
San Luis Obispo hikesMore hikes in San Luis Obispo
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Montaña de Oro State Park and the Morros.
Nearby Camping
San Luis Obispo hikesIslay Creek Campground
This 50-site campground is located at the heart of Montaña de Oro State Park in Islay Creek Canyon, and is a great base camp for treks in the park.

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