Morro Strand Trail Morro Strand State Beach Morro Rock Cloisters Park Cloisters Wetlands San Luis Obispo Morro Bay California beach hike stroll walk sand lagoon central coast

Morro Rock is an iconic landmark on California’s Central Coast. Located north of San Luis Obispo, the 578-foot tall mass of volcanic rock rises above of the Pacific Ocean, separating the inviting sands of Morro Strand State Beach from the blue waters of Morro Bay Harbor. Starting from a protected coastal wetland along Highway One in Morro Bay, this easy beach hike crosses sand dunes into Morro Strand State Beach, where you can walk along the ocean to the wave-battered mini-mountain guarding the entrance of Morro Bay. It is half a mile from Cloisters Park to the beach, and another mile down Morro Strand State Beach to Morro Rock. Spin around to the south side of Morro Rock to stretch things out to a 3.5-mile round trip hike.

From the parking area, take one of several paths westward into Clusters Park, walking under a tenth of a mile to Morro Strand Trail, the coastal route to Morro Rock. There will be a field to your left where dogs can run around and a lagoon to your right where ducks can float around. Take a quick detour down a wooden boardwalk to the right to visit a viewing platform of the small lagoon.

Morro Rock from Cloisters Park
The trail to Morro Rock from Cloisters Park

When you reach Morro Strand Trail, turn left and head south toward Morro Strand State Beach (or take a side trip to the right to explore more of the Cloisters Wetland). As you walk down the level Morro Strand Trail, there will be low sand dunes to your right, protected by a white fence. Straight ahead, the treeless pyramid-shaped form of Morro Rock can be seen towering above the dunes.

Stay straight through the next junction, passing a path that links the trail to a nearby neighborhood. The paved trail transitions into an artificial boardwalk, bending through arroyo willows. Cross a short bridge over the 54th Street Channel to a T-junction and turn right, following a line of pines as they sweep south toward Morro Rock. The trail makes a hard right turn for the beach, and then you will begin walking on the sand. Enjoy a lovely view to the left toward Morro Rock above the dunes, as you follow a sandy path straight toward the ocean. It is roughly half a mile from the trailhead in Cloisters Park to the sand in Morro Strand State Beach.

Morro Rock and Morro Strand State Beach Sand Dunes
Morro Rock above the sand dunes in Morro Strand State Beach
Morro Rock and Morro Strand State Beach Sand Dunes
Morro Rock above Morro Strand State Beach

When you reach the firm sand near the water’s edge, turn left, heading down the beach toward Morro Rock. Morro Strand State Beach is graced by sea breezes and rolling waves, presenting a long straight stretch of sand that ends at Morro Rock. As you enjoy the picturesque views of the massive rock straight ahead, be sure not to miss the broad over-the-shoulder views up the coast toward Cayucos and Cambria.

Morro Strand State Beach Sand Dunes
Walking down Morro Strand State Beach

After 2/3 of a mile walking down the sand, you will reach the mouth of Little Morro Creek. After a good rain, you will have to wade through ankle or calf deep water to cross this seasonal creek (sandals and towels recommended), but there may be no water at all to cross during dry months.

Morro Rock from Morro Strand State Beach
Morro Rock above the mouth of Little Morro Creek

Beyond Little Morro Creek, you may continue another third of a mile to the end of the beach, where the sand hits the basalt at Morro Rock. Cross a parking lot to reach Coleman Drive, which you may follow around the east side of Morro Rock to a breakwater at the mouth of Morro Bay.

The breakwater was constructed with boulders quarried from Morro Rock. There is no longer any quarrying on Morro Rock today as the California Historical Landmark is protected by Morro Rock State Preserve. Morro Rock is the westernmost peak in the Morros, a string of volcanic plugs running across San Luis Obispo County nicknamed the Seven Sisters or the Nine Sisters (depending on how well you count). Climbing up Morro Rock is prohibited, but if you would like to hike to the top of one of the other Morros, there are trails on five of the volcanic peaks: Black Hill, Cerro Cabrillo, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis, and Islay Hill.

Morro Rock from Morro Strand State Beach
Jogging toward the seabirds below Morro Rock

It is 3.5 miles round trip to the south side of Morro Rock. Those with smaller ambitions can still enjoy a satisfying scenic day at the ocean by taking a shorter trip to any part on Morro Strand State Beach. The Beach continues north for two miles past the path connecting to Cloisters Park, allowing for longer walks on the beach.

Dog are allowed in Cloisters Park. They are not allowed on the beach in Morro Strand State Beach, but are allowed at the state park’s developed campground, which has 81 tightly-packed RV-friendly sites along the beach north of Cloisters Park (56 sites may be reserved online). No fee or permit is required to hike Morro Strand Trail from Cloisters Park across Morro Strand State Beach to Morro Rock, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: From Highway One in Morro Bay (14.5 miles north of Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo), exit on San Jacinto Street and drive west for one block to Coral Ave. Turn left and drive a third of a mile to the parking area for Cloisters Park, on the left.

Trailhead address: Cloisters Park, Coral Ave, Morro Bay, CA 93442
Trailhead coordinates: 35.38898, -120.860108 (35° 23′ 20.32″N 120° 51′ 36.38″W)

Trail Map
View Morro Strand Trail in a larger 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.

Photos

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These photos were taken in December of 2012 and may of 2013. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Black Hill TrailBlack Hill
This short 0.6-mile out and back hike ascends 175 feet to the summit of Black Hill, which presents 360-degree views over 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.
Turtle Rock Chorro TrailTurtle Rock
This easy 2.1-mile hike reaches a short rise between Black Hill and Cerro Cabrillo in Morro Bay 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 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.
Cerro Alto Peak HikeCerro Alto
This semi-loop bags the 2,624-foot summit of Cerro Alto, plus a scenic ridge south of the peak, for a 5.35-mile hike with 1,600 feet of elevation gain.
Eagle Rock Viewpoint Nature TrailEagle Rock Nature Trail
This 2.4-mile hike in El Chorro Regional Park climbs 450 feet to Eagle Rock Viewpoint for an overview of the valley between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.
Moonstone Beach BoardwalkMoonstone Beach Boardwalk
This 2.85-mile out and back hike crosses a boardwalk along a charming Cambria beach in Hearst San Simeon State Park.
San Luis Obispo hikesMore hikes in San Luis Obispo
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park, Montaña de Oro State Park, and the Morros.
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Tagged with · Free Trails · Morro Bay · Morros · Ocean Views
Distance: 3.5 miles · Elevation change: 25 feet

4 Comments on Morro Strand Trail to Morro Strand State Beach and Morro Rock from Cloisters Park

  1. Check out my blog post about this amazing hike with more information and personal insider tips at https://adulthoodinslo.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/morro-strand-trail-to-morro-rock/ !

  2. Ed says:

    I think the park’s name is ‘Cloisters’. You have it as ‘Coisters’ and as ‘Clusters’. Great pictures, by the way!

  3. Gar Salzgeber says:

    I live in Cloisters and walk Morro Strand State Beach daily. Think you need to emphasize at the beginning that the State Beach is a Natural Preserve and dogs are not allowed at all! Too many times I’ve watched dog owners walk to the beach with their dog on a leash, then unleash it on the beach. Dogs are playful and hungry. If they see any kind of wildlife on the beach they want to chase it, sniff it, lick it, bite it or eat it. Grounded sea otters, snowy plovers, seals, etc. don’t enjoy hassling. A dog beach is at Morro Rock and 1/2 mile north of the MSSB Campground. Wildlife are loosing more safe areas. We are loosing wildlife…

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