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.
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.
There is more rugged coastline to explore further down the trail. From Corallina Cove, head directly inland and turn right across the bridge, crossing a nasturtium-filled gorge just inland from the cove. The dirt 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. 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.
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.
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.
Montaa de Oro Bluff Trail
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. 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!
A footpath along the bluff
Trail closure note: There will be major work done along the Bluff Trail through the end of 2014 that will result in temporary closures of sections of the trail. For more information about the upgrades that will make the Bluff Trail ADA friendly, check out this article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune. For current trail conditions, call Montaña de Oro State Park at (805) 528-0513.
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 create your own directions:
|Point Buchon Trail|
This 1 1/3 to 6.8-mile hike explores the beautiful coastline south of Montaña de Oro State Park.
|Valencia Peak Trail|
This 3.7-mile hike summits a 1,347-foot peak with stunning views over Montaña de Oro.
|Oats 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|
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.
|Islay 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 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|
This 9.2 mile loop continues beyond Hazard Peak deeper into Montana de Oro before circling back on Islay Creek Trail.
|Dune 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.
|Morro 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 Reserve|
This easy 1-mile loop on a boardwalk explores a pygmy forest on the edge of Morro Bay.
This tough 2.5-mile hike summits the highest mountain in Morro Bay State Park, a 911-foot member of the Nine Sisters.
This 2-mile loop explores a short hill just east of Morro Estuary in Morro Bay State Park.
|More hikes in San Luis Obispo|
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park and the Morros.
|Jade 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.
|Partington 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 in Malibu|
This 2.5-mile loop offers ocean and canyon views from a unspoiled section of the Santa Monica Mountains.
|Islay 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.