Just south of Morro Bay, you'll find the beautiful Montaña de Oro State Park, one of the true gems of the Central California coast. The park is a paradise for hiking, walking, tide pooling, or simply relaxing on a quiet stretch of beach.
Experience the Beauty of Montaña de Oro
Named for the "golden mountains" colored by spring wildflowers and poppies, Montaña de Oro State Park is located less than 20 minutes south of Morro Bay. The park is full of wonderful activities. If you're wondering what to do in Montaña de Oro State Park, here's a list of our top picks.
With about seven miles of undeveloped coastline and over 8,000 acres of beautiful bluffs, hills, and plains, Montaña de Oro has a little bit of something for everyone. But the best way to see it is by getting out of the car and walking a bit.
Trails in the park range from quick walks to the ocean bluffs to long and strenuous out-and-backs and circuits. Some of those trails climb up peaks with a thousand feet or more of elevation gain.
For a beautiful day that will get your blood pumping, try the Valencia Peak Trail. This is a 4.5-mile round trip that climbs up over 1,275 feet. Once at the top, though, you're rewarded with panoramic views from the park's tallest peak.
If you want to stick closer to the water, try out the 3.4-mile out-and-back Bluff Trail. You'll leave from near the visitor center and the Spooner Ranch House and continue for many amazing ocean views. Since it's an out-and-back, you can turn around anytime to make the trip as long as you want.
Many of the park's trails also welcome mountain bikes. As with walking these trails, things can get pretty technical with some elevation gains. But the views are incredible, and there are plenty of easy or intermediate trails to work on first.
Once you look at the park map, it's pretty clear what to do in Montaña de Oro State Park.
The most noted beach in the park is Spooners Cove, named for the dairy farmer and rancher that worked these lands in the late 1800s. Like many of the nearby Morro Bay tide pools, Spooners Cove is a great place to wade and explore at low tide. It's the perfect spot for a picnic or just a day by the water.
Access to Sandspit Beach is located on the north end of the park off of Sandspit Road. The beach is long, and you can walk all the way north to the inlet across from Pillar Rock and Morro Rock Beach. This area is in Morro Bay State Park, and is well worth the visit.
On the south end of the park, check out the secluded Coon Creek Beach on Carolina Cove, where the creek empties into the sea. To get here, you've got to park the car and hike in, and the Point Buchon Trail is only open Thursdays through Mondays.
You're sure to cross paths with lots of campers during your explorations of Montaña de Oro. Several rustic campgrounds make great spots for afternoon picnics. Some folks drive in RVs, while others bring tents. People from all over the world enjoy rustic living in the park with direct access to wonderful hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and surfing.
Historic Ranch House
You can take a self-guided tour of Spooner's 1892 ranch house. It's located near the park visitor center and is a great place to learn about how the early settlers lived and worked the land here. Inside the house is a preservation museum, a gift shop, and a general store.
Get Out and Explore the Central California Coast
Montaña de Oro State Park is a gorgeous spot and a gem of this part of the Central California coast. No matter what time of year you're visiting, don't miss a stopover at Montaña de Oro for some hiking and beachcombing.