Los Osos Oaks California State Natural Reserve hike San Luis Obispo

The 90-acre Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve protects a pocket of 800-year-old oaks near San Luis Obispo, California. Los Osos Creek Trail, Chumash Trail, and Oak View Trail loop through the park presenting easy hikes between 0.75 and 1.5 miles. The trails pass beneath (and sometimes between) the gangly branches of pygmy oaks, offering quiet hikes through a shady grove.

Los Osos Oaks Chumash Trail
A bridge into the oaks

The quick stroll begins from a free parking area along Los Osos Valley Road. Enter the grove of coast live oaks, crossing a wooden footbridge to reach a three way split. The heart of the oak forest lies straight ahead on the east side of Chumash Loop Trail. Farther to the east is Los Osos Creek Trail, which passes the near stagnant waters of a seasonal stream.

The west side of Chumash Loop Trail breaks off to the right and all three paths reunite farther to the south. At that point, the trails also join Oak View Trail, which offers another loop trail heading farther south through more oaks and chaparral woodlands. If these trail options sound overwhelming, don’t be concerned. Each trail offers a similar experience hiking beneath the oaks. See the map in the park brochure for a better understanding of the trails.

Start down any trail you like and make your way into the grove. Century old coast live oaks offer a dense canopy overhead. Grown upon ancient dunes, these oaks are stunted to about 30-feet tall. The oaks have broad sprawling limbs decorated by lace lichens. The mossy growths hang like a Santa Clause convention of white beards, adding further charm to the forest.

Los Osos Oaks Chumash Trail
Oaks above Chumash Trail

If you turn left on Los Osos Creek Trail, be sure to follow the trail when it curls to the right. If you remain parallel to the road, you will come to a sudden dead end on the bank of the creek’s murky pools. The preserve has a few unnamed side paths, but the major junctions are well marked, like intersections at the south end of Los Osos Creek Trail with both Oak View Trail and Chumash Loop Trail.

Return via either side of Chumash Trail for a 0.75-mile hike with 25 feet of elevation change. Oak View Trail circles farther to the south exploring more chaparral and oaks. No matter how far you hike in Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, make a point to include a stroll on the section of Chumash Loop Trail that passes through the center of the park. Here long gangly oak branches spread across the trail to creating interesting obstacles that enrapture you in an enchanting world. Dogs are not allowed, but no fee or permit is required for this short hike in Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: From Highway 101 south of San Luis Obispo, take exit 200A onto Los Osos Valley Road and drive 9 miles west. Turn left into a marked turnout for Los Osos Oaks (If you pass Palomino Drive on the right, you just missed it).

Trailhead address: 1813 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos, CA 93402
Trailhead coordinates: 35.306274, -120.81351 (35° 18′ 22.58″N 120° 48′ 48.64″W)

Trail Map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Central Coast trails and campgrounds.


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These photos were taken in April of 2012. Click to enlarge.
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Tagged with · California State Parks · Free Trails · Los Osos
Distance: 1.5 miles · Elevation change: 25 feet

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2 Comments on Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve in San Luis Obispo

  1. Joe wrote:

    Are these trails accessible? I use an electric scooter for mobility.