Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail, bluff trail montana de oro state park

Montaña de Oro State Park preserves 8,000 acres along the picturesque coast of San Luis Obispo County. This slice of Big Sur is located between Avila Beach and Morro Bay, and is a popular destination for beach-goers, hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The dramatic shoreline and thousand-foot mountains provide a scenic setting for a host of great trails, including this level 3.4-mile out and back hike across the coastal bluffs of Montaña De Oro. The Bluff Trail passes tide pools and beaches, and a magical rocky coastline.

From a parking area on Pecho Valley Road, just past the Montaña de Oro Visitor Center, and across from the trailhead for Valencia Peak), follow the signs for Bluff Trail and begin hiking south over a short wooden bridge. The wide dirt trail turns toward the sea, venturing out to Islay Point. To the north is a nice view of Spooner’s Cove, home to a popular beach located below the visitor center.

Montaña de Oro
Spooner’s Cove

Continue south across the bluff through low brush with coastal views. Cyclists, joggers, and families pushing BOB strollers share the trail, which arrives at Corallina Cove after half a mile. A short spur descends to this small beach with a tide pool full of interesting sea creatures. Children can scour the rocks, spotting sea anemone, hermit crabs, and starfish. This popular destination makes a family-friendly 1.2-mile round trip hike.

Montaña de Oro
Corallina Cove

There is more rugged coastline to explore further down the trail. From Corallina Cove, head directly inland and come to a junction alongside a bridge the crosses a small canyon above Corallina Cove. Straight head, a trail circles back to the start. To explore more of the Bluff Trail, turn right and cross the bridge. In the canyon below, you may spot nasturtiums blooming in the spring. The Bluff Trail heads south again, serving up bold ocean views. The main trail is complimented by smaller footpaths that weave across the bluff for more intimate looks at the beautiful coast. The pounding waves cut channels into the rocks. In certain conditions, you might even spot a blowhole.

Montaña de Oro State Park Blowhole
A blowhole along the Bluff Trail

Half a mile past Corallina Cove comes another popular tide pool, Quarry Cove. There is a picnic table just off trail sitting above a rocky beach marking the spot of the tide pools.

Montaña de Oro
Quarry Cove

Beyond Quarry Cove, the coastline somehow continues to become more dramatic, leading up to Grotto Rock, one of the more wondrous wonders along this wonderful coast. The tall stone island stands resolute within a rocky cove, fighting valiantly against the ceaseless forces of erosion. Most incredible, cavernous waterway cuts through the base of Grotto Rock and water can be seen flowing clear through the dark tunnel. Somehow Grotto Rock has avoided crumbling into the sea. It is an impressive formation, and a highlight of the hike. Take the footpath along the point south of Grotto Rock to gain the best perspective.

Montaña de Oro
Grotto Rock

A quarter mile past Grotto Rock, and 1.7 miles from the start, Bluff Trail comes to an end. A connection trail continues for 0.4-miles to the left, inland toward Pecho Valley Road, where it meets a parking area for Coon Creek Trail and Point Buchon Trail. If you are not hiking further, turn around and make your way back along Bluff Trail. The views are equally rewarding in the opposite direction.

Montaña de Oro Ocean Bluff Trail
A path along the bluff

There is less than a hundred feet of elevation change over Montaña de Oro’s Bluff Trail, making it suitable for hikers of all abilities. Recent improvements have made the Bluff Trail wheelchair-friendly. The great scenery makes it appealing to everyone. For those interested in spending more time in the park, there are several other trails, along with a 50-site campground. There is no fee to visit Montaña de Oro State Park, so get out and enjoy!

Montaña de Oro
A footpath along the bluff

To get to the trailhead: From San Luis Obispo, exit the 101 Freeway at Los Osos Valley Road and 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 the final 3.8 miles, entering Montaña de Oro State Park and passing through a eucalyptus grove before reaching the parking area for Bluff Trail, which is on the right side of the road just past the visitor center The trailhead for the steeper hike to Valencia Peak is on the left side of the same parking area.

Trailhead address: Pecho Valley Road, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, CA 93402
Trailhead coordinates: 35.272858, -120.888755 (35° 16′ 22.28″N 120° 53′ 19.51″W)

Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:

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These photos were taken in September of 2010 and November of 2014. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Valencia Peak TrailValencia Peak Trail
This 3.7-mile hike summits a 1,347-foot peak with stunning views over Montaña de Oro.
Coon Creek TrailCoon Creek Trail
This 5-mile out and back hike ventures up a coastal canyon at the south end of 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.
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.
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.
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.
Hazard Canyon DunesDune Trail to Hazard Canyon Reef
This one-mile hike in Montaña de Oro State Park descends an oceanfront ravine to a rocky shoreline graced with engaging tide pools.
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.
Cerro Cabrillo Peak Morro BayCerro Cabrillo
This tough 2.5-mile hike summits the highest mountain in Morro Bay State Park, a 911-foot member of the Nine Sisters.
Portola Hike Morro BayPortola Point
This 2-mile loop explores a short hill just east of Morro Estuary in Morro Bay State Park.
San Luis Obispo hikesMore hikes in San Luis Obispo
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park and the Morros.
Similar Trails
Big Sur hikeJade Cove and Plaskett Rock Point on the Big Sur coast
This 1.5-mile hike is similar to Montaña de Oro’s Bluff Trail, crossing scenic bluffs to a prominent point and a small cove.
Big Sur hikePartington Cove on the Big Sur coast
This 1.5-mile hike visits a cove and a secluded beach. The cove is accessed through a tunnel.
Corral Canyon malibu hikeCorral Canyon in Malibu
This 2.5-mile loop offers ocean and canyon views from a unspoiled section of the Santa Monica Mountains.
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.

11 Comments on Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park

  1. […] Carolina Cove in Montana de Oro State Park […]

  2. […] Bluff Trail in Montana de Oro State Park […]

  3. […] Obispo area. The second hike is at Montana De Oro State Park. Beach lovers, this hike is for you! Montana De Oro is located near Morro Bay, a area just a few miles north of San Luis Obispo. The area has hikes, […]

  4. […] to check out each week. The first trail is my favorite trail so far at Montaña de Oro. It is the Bluff Trail and is 2.1 miles right along the ocean. This trail is exceptionally breathtaking. Running along […]

  5. […] the road back) and it runs along the edge of the coastal Bluffs that overlook the ocean. This Bluff Trail (as it is actually called) has breathtaking views of ocean, coves, hills, and foothills and is a […]

  6. Joanne Smalley says:

    Please, can you update site to include the extensive Bluff Trail closures and the timing thereof. Thank you.

  7. Denise says:

    I have never hiked before but it is something i really want to do…i am making a trip to pismo beach 3/7 and i would like a trail that will be not be to difficult first timer but has lots to see and i do not own hiking i need anything special? and which trail would be best for a first timer…i want to see lots of trees and greenery like a forest?

  8. rb says:

    I’d like to get feedback from environmentally conscious users about the renovations. I almost cried I thought they are so ugly. They appear to be ruining this trail. We need to start a petition to mitigate the changes.

  9. Kash says:

    The Bluff Trail is one of the best things I have seen. Just amazing views and places to play/rest and absorb the nature. Stay on the trail because there is poison ivy everywhere. Nothing to worry, if you stay on the trail.
    Thank you so much for putting pictures and describing how to get there.

  10. Linda says:

    Bluff trail is open and ADA accessible. Trail work is done and areas that were disturbed are being restored. Fabulous trail and one of the more popular trails in the park. Easy and flat with spectacular views.

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