Imagine standing on the peak of a coastal mountain and below you is a beautiful landscape fit for a National Geographic Magazine cover. In front of you is a mountainside abundant with native plants and animals leading into a majestic coastline of large rocky outcroppings and sandy beaches fighting an endless battle with the salty waves of the Pacific Ocean. To your left, your right and behind you are green hills with the occasional dune as far as the eye can see. This is Montaña de Oro: one of the largest state parks in California occupying more than 8,000 acres of the Central Coast. It sits in San Luis Obispo County about 15 miles west of San Luis Obispo and 2 miles south of Los Osos.
The Views. That mountain where you were imagining yourself triumphantly surveying the land below may very well have been Valencia Peak. Standing at over 1,300 feet high you won’t miss a thing. From this mountaintop, one can see nearly 100 miles of the beautiful Central Coast. Who wouldn’t want that?
Recreation. Montaña de Oro offers a seemingly endless supply of trails for avid mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders, as well as more casual trails for a quick walk down to the beach. It is also a great place for beach fishing and swimming. Lifeguard service is not provided, however. There are also three locations with picnic tables and woodstoves: near the park office, at Spooner’s Cove and at Coon Creek.
Camping. Montaña de Oro sports 40 campsites near the old Spooner Ranch House, just above the popular beach of Spooner’s Cove. There are also campsites for groups with horses at the Hazard Horse Camp. If you’re brave enough, there are environmental campsites located in relatively natural settings. These environmental campsites are hike-in campsites and do not support recreational vehicles.
Guided Nature Walks. For those of you who are experts in flora or fauna and want to get the inside scoop on Montaña de Oro from park rangers, or if you just want to learn more about this beautiful piece of California, the park offers a few programs over the summer. For information you can call the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History at (805)772-2694 or check the bulletin located at the park’s Ranch House.
Affordability. Access to the park is free! You could roam 8,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in California for free. Now that’s a bargain. This park is also close to some affordable, yet attractive places to stay the night if camping isn’t your cup of tea. Among the closest is the Sea Pines Golf Resort, which is pet-friendly and slightly off the beaten path in Los Osos. Also not too far away are the Spyglass Inn and the Kon Tiki Inn – two of our favorite beach-front hotels located down the coast in Pismo Beach. San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach and Cambria also offer plenty of nearby lodging options.
Montaña de Oro is truly a natural wonder and if you’re ever heading out to the Central Coast, you owe it to yourself to take in its unbelievable beauty. Visit the Montaña de Oro website for more information.