If you are looking for an easy 45-minute hike to the top of a pimple of a hill between two of San Luis Obispo’s Nine Sisters, take Chorro Trail to Turtle Rock in Morro Bay State Park. This 2.1-mile round trip hike begins with views of the estuary feeding Morro Bay and ends atop a small rise between Black Hill and Cerro Cabrillo. There is only 200 feet of elevation gain along the way, making this a quick hike that can be easily connected to other trails in the park. Turtle Rock makes a great warm-up for the tougher ascent on Cerro Cabrillo, and can also be used to extend the hike over Portola Hill.
Begin from a trailhead on the east side of South Bay Boulevard across from the estuary between the cities of Los Osos and Morro Bay. Take Quarry Trail, heading northeast toward Cerro Cabrillo. At the first junction, 0.17 miles from the start, turn left on Chorro Trail. This level track wraps around the skirt of Cerro Cabrillo, heading west and then north toward Turtle Rock (also known as Chorro Hill).
Hiking Chorro Trail above Morro Bay
Take in fine perspective over the blue waters of Morro Bay before the trail curves to the right, paralleling South Bay Boulevard. Enjoy a view of Black Hill across the boulevard, and drop through a strip of live oaks to reach a dirt service road, half a mile from the start. Turn right here and walk 0.3 miles up to a gate. Turn left on the path just in front of the gate, which quickly takes you to the top of Turtle Rock.
Black Hill from Chorro Trail
Climb up the rocky hill, passing grinding holes carved into the boulders. These “morteros” were used by Chumash Indians to grind acorns from nearby oaks into meal. From the summit of Turtle Rock (if you can call it that), you gain a nice view to the east and north across Chorro Valley toward the Santa Lucia Mountain. Cerro Cabrillo looms to the southeast, a full 700 feet taller at 911 feet. Pines cover the western face of Turtle Rock, framing a view of Black Hill (661 feet). Looking back over the trail, you can see Morro Bay shouldered by the green slopes of the two Morros.
Morteros on Turtle Rock
After planting your flag in the 209-foot mount, return the way you came. When you reach the junction, 0.17 miles from the start, if you turn left instead of right, you can continue hiking toward Portola Hill, Cerro Cabrillo, and other destinations in Morro Bay State Park. Dogs are not permitted on the trail to Turtle Rock. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Highway 1 in Morro Bay, take exit 277, following signs for Los Osos and Baywood Park. Turn south on South Bay Boulevard and drive 1.4 miles to the trailhead parking area, set a few meters back from the road on the left. From the 101 Freeway south of San Luis Obispo, take exit 200A onto Los Osos Valley Road and drive 9.8 miles west to South Bay Boulevard. Turn right and drive 2.6 miles north to the trailhead on the right, 0.4 miles past Turri Road.
Trailhead address: South Bay Boulevard, Morro Bay, CA 93442
Trailhead coordinates: 35.346512, -120.825198 (35° 20′ 47.44″N 120° 49′ 30.71″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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