4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Montaña de Oro State Park, California

View from Montaña de Oro State Park's Bluff Trail
View from Montaña de Oro State Park's Bluff Trail

"Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher." ~ John Muir

I don’t know if John Muir ever visited what is now Montaña de Oro State Park, but the bard of California’s natural beauty would have appreciated the feeling of solitude one experiences at this gorgeous stretch of land along California’s Central Coast.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Montaña de Oro State Park is perhaps the most beautiful spot in California that few people have heard about. Just south of Morro Bay and west of San Luis Obispo, it’s one of California’s largest state parks, covering 8,000 acres, including over 50 miles of trails and 7 miles of coastline. Trails for hiking and biking snake along the edge of the coast, through eucalyptus groves and up mountain passes. The park may not have the spectacular scenery of Yosemite, but provides just as precious an opportunity to commune with nature. In Montaña del Oro, there’s a sense of solitude and serenity that is often missing in Yosemite.

The park headquarters, known as the Spooner Ranch House, sits atop a bluff overlooking Spooners Cove. At the visitor's center, open on weekends and daily in the summer, you can pick up a free map of the park that outlines the multitude of trails.

Surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs, the cove offers an ideal spot for solitude and contemplation. I sat in the pebbly cove at sunset and felt a sense of peace that is lacking at more open, crowded beaches. There were only a handful of people there, and I found the calm atmosphere nurturing to the spirit. Sunset and sunrise are equally spectacular here.

The beaches at Montaña del Oro are not great for swimming, but they’re good for tide pooling and rock climbing. There's an abundance of marine life: you might spot hermit crabs, sea otters, starfish and sea anemone. I also saw a coyote peeking out from the bushes along Spooner Cove just after sunrise. Many visitors enjoy kayaking from Spooners Cove as well.

Half a mile north of the visitor’s center is a popular surfing spot. Follow a trail that winds down the hill to an isolated, rocky cove.

The park entrance and parking at Montaña de Oro are free, and there are campgrounds available near Spooners Cove. Make a reservation beforehand if possible. Bring jackets and sweaters as it can get chilly at night, even in the summer. Bring food and water also and pack them on your hikes. There are wonderful spots to have a picnic, but food is not sold here.

Docent-led nature walks are available on nearly a weekly basis, but if quiet and solitude are what you came for, you may want to hike on your own. Ambitious hikers might choose the Valencia Peak Trail up to the 1,347 ft.-high Mt. Valencia peak, where they can enjoy magnificent 360-degree views of the area. The Oats Peak is another popular mountain hike. Both hikes take around 3 hours and cover 5.5 miles.

Just up the road from the visitor’s center, the more modest 2-mile walk along Bluff Trail reveals lovely vistas of the coastline. I also hiked the Bloody Nose Trail, which winds through a eucalyptus grove. The name of the park, Montaña de Oro (“mountain of gold”) derives from the brilliant wildflowers that bloom in the spring. Coon Creek Trail takes you past these wildflowers and into gorgeous riparian woodlands.

On any hike, beware of poison oak and rattlesnakes. But these are minor nuisances compared to the wonders of the area. Bring a camera, as there are many photo-worthy views throughout Montaña de Oro.

Nearby Morro Bay is a pleasant town and a good spot to stay if you’re not camping. As you enter the park from the north, watch for an overlook with a magnificent vista of the Pacific and the most famous landmark of the area, Morro Rock.

Hofbrau Restaurant by the water in Morro Bay offers a great view of Morro Rock along with tasty fish dishes and steaming clam chowder.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Mira Mesa library security guard’s tale

“You are in the children’s area. I really can’t have that knife in here, sir. Please?”
Next Article

Garnet Peak is a gem that lives up to its name

This time of year fall colors are on full display
View from Montaña de Oro State Park's Bluff Trail
View from Montaña de Oro State Park's Bluff Trail

"Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher." ~ John Muir

I don’t know if John Muir ever visited what is now Montaña de Oro State Park, but the bard of California’s natural beauty would have appreciated the feeling of solitude one experiences at this gorgeous stretch of land along California’s Central Coast.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Montaña de Oro State Park is perhaps the most beautiful spot in California that few people have heard about. Just south of Morro Bay and west of San Luis Obispo, it’s one of California’s largest state parks, covering 8,000 acres, including over 50 miles of trails and 7 miles of coastline. Trails for hiking and biking snake along the edge of the coast, through eucalyptus groves and up mountain passes. The park may not have the spectacular scenery of Yosemite, but provides just as precious an opportunity to commune with nature. In Montaña del Oro, there’s a sense of solitude and serenity that is often missing in Yosemite.

The park headquarters, known as the Spooner Ranch House, sits atop a bluff overlooking Spooners Cove. At the visitor's center, open on weekends and daily in the summer, you can pick up a free map of the park that outlines the multitude of trails.

Surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs, the cove offers an ideal spot for solitude and contemplation. I sat in the pebbly cove at sunset and felt a sense of peace that is lacking at more open, crowded beaches. There were only a handful of people there, and I found the calm atmosphere nurturing to the spirit. Sunset and sunrise are equally spectacular here.

The beaches at Montaña del Oro are not great for swimming, but they’re good for tide pooling and rock climbing. There's an abundance of marine life: you might spot hermit crabs, sea otters, starfish and sea anemone. I also saw a coyote peeking out from the bushes along Spooner Cove just after sunrise. Many visitors enjoy kayaking from Spooners Cove as well.

Half a mile north of the visitor’s center is a popular surfing spot. Follow a trail that winds down the hill to an isolated, rocky cove.

The park entrance and parking at Montaña de Oro are free, and there are campgrounds available near Spooners Cove. Make a reservation beforehand if possible. Bring jackets and sweaters as it can get chilly at night, even in the summer. Bring food and water also and pack them on your hikes. There are wonderful spots to have a picnic, but food is not sold here.

Docent-led nature walks are available on nearly a weekly basis, but if quiet and solitude are what you came for, you may want to hike on your own. Ambitious hikers might choose the Valencia Peak Trail up to the 1,347 ft.-high Mt. Valencia peak, where they can enjoy magnificent 360-degree views of the area. The Oats Peak is another popular mountain hike. Both hikes take around 3 hours and cover 5.5 miles.

Just up the road from the visitor’s center, the more modest 2-mile walk along Bluff Trail reveals lovely vistas of the coastline. I also hiked the Bloody Nose Trail, which winds through a eucalyptus grove. The name of the park, Montaña de Oro (“mountain of gold”) derives from the brilliant wildflowers that bloom in the spring. Coon Creek Trail takes you past these wildflowers and into gorgeous riparian woodlands.

On any hike, beware of poison oak and rattlesnakes. But these are minor nuisances compared to the wonders of the area. Bring a camera, as there are many photo-worthy views throughout Montaña de Oro.

Nearby Morro Bay is a pleasant town and a good spot to stay if you’re not camping. As you enter the park from the north, watch for an overlook with a magnificent vista of the Pacific and the most famous landmark of the area, Morro Rock.

Hofbrau Restaurant by the water in Morro Bay offers a great view of Morro Rock along with tasty fish dishes and steaming clam chowder.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Allied Gardens invaded by 2000 sq ft houses

Peaceful Navajo Canyon, Grantville independence, Iowa Meats, Superior Ready Mix, sinkholes on Princess View, farmers market, Kaiser parking, Cowles Mountain preservation
Next Article

The Rabbit Hole: the sweet kick of the Rabbit Slider Duet with a Black Friday Eppig 6th Anniversary Imperial Schwarzbier

I felt bad for the rabbit, but grateful for the bird.
Comments

Is this park slated for closure?

Dec. 8, 2011

As far as I know it is not. In 2008, however, it was one of 48 parks slated for closure by Governor Schwarzenegger. Thankfully, there was a public outcry over this and it was saved.

-Derek

Dec. 8, 2011
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close