About 5 miles south of Morro Bay sits one of the coolest coastal state parks in all of California, Montaña de Oro State Park!
The best way to see what Montaña de Oro State Park has to offer is by going on a hike. Hiking is a must here, especially because the hiking areas are so easy to access.
There are so many awesome options that suit every skill level, from the easy 3.4-mile roundtrip Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail to the longer Coon Creek Trail (7.1-miles roundtrip). Both will bless your day with ultra-scenic views!
Today, I’m sharing my experience of the Bluff Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park so you know what you can expect when you arrive for this hike. Spoiler alert: the more I explored this trail, the higher it jumped up on my list of favorite state parks!
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Montaña de Oro State Park: Quick Facts
- Montaña de Oro State Park is twelve miles southwest of Morro Bay and seven miles south of Los Osos on Pecho Valley Road.
- The park’s name, “Mountain of Gold,” comes from the golden wildflowers that bloom in spring.
- Wildlife in the park includes black-tailed deer and the black oystercatcher.
- The best-known beach is Spooner’s Cove, across from the campground.
- Aside from the many hiking trails, there are also mountain biking and equestrian trails.
- The park has primitive and equestrian campsites.
- Park Hours: 6:00 am – 10:00 pm daily
- Coastal weather can be unpredictable–layered clothing is recommended all year round.
Bluff Trail At Montaña de Oro State Park: Overview
The highlight of Montaña de Oro State Park has got to be the Bluffs Trail. Not only is it the most beautiful hike in the entire park, but it’s also likely the easiest, making it perfect for families and all types of outdoor enthusiasts.
On this popular hike (which is really more of a leisurely stroll), you will wind through staggering cliff edges, rugged coastal bluff views, beaches, and tide pools for just about 2 miles of walking each way.
Along the way, there are going to be about a million photo ops. So get your camera ready to snap up all kinds of photos on your hike!
- Length: 3.4 miles round trip
- Elevation: 150 feet of elevation
- Duration: You could easily complete the Bluff Trail in about 1 hour 20 minutes, but with so much stunning scenery to take in and so many tidepool corners to explore, I suggest allocating at least 3 hours for this hike.
Bluff Trail At Montaña de Oro State Park: Hike Details
The trailhead for the Bluff Trail is located across from the Valencia Peak starting point, just across from the visitor center.
Alternatively, you could also park in the Spooner’s Cove parking lot and take a short, well-marked path over to the start of the trailhead. This is where I parked. Restrooms are by the visitor center.
Once you’re on the trail, it’s almost impossible to get lost. You’ll just follow the well-defined, well-marked trail for ~2 miles to the parking area on the opposite end. The trail will meander closely to the edge of the cliffs along the Pacific Ocean.
The first viewpoint will be of Spooner’s Cove.
Keep walking to see more views of the cove. They keep getting better and better!
You’ll find lots of short little trails that branch off the main path. I recommend taking some of these in order to get closer to the edge. Peer over the cliff carefully to catch a glimpse of the magic that happens when waves hit the rocks below. It’s a gorgeous sight to see!
Along your hike, you’ll also be able to see views of Morro Bay to the north.
As you walk, you will likely be impressed by how many rock formations are in the water. They’re certainly some of the most jagged rock formations I’ve ever seen. It’s so interesting how they actually look like little mountain ranges in the ocean.
Thanks to millions of years of volcanic activity, plate tectonic interactions, and erosion, we get to enjoy this super-unique landscape.
You can stop at Corallina Cove about 0.5-mile in. Corallina Cove is a great spot for tide pooling. Having said that, you will need to time your arrival so that the tide is at +1.5 ft or lower. You can find upcoming tide levels for Corallina Cove here.
While you’re down here, be sure to scope the water out–you might catch a glimpse of harbor seals or even the occasional otter in the bay! Once you have gotten your fix of the tidepool views, head back up the stairs and continue on your hike.
You’ll eventually cross a bridge, where the views of the poppies and hills really start to impress. At this point, there are coastal views and wildflower views beckoning you for your attention!
Once you reach the parking lot on the other side, it’s time to turn around and walk back to where you came from. When you return make sure to swing by Spooners Cove and the visitors center if you have extra time.
Don’t forget to pack a cooler to store your picnic lunch and post-hike drinks. A quick beachside meal is a perfect way to end this hike. Just be careful of the seagulls who roam this area looking for leftover food to snack on!
Bluff Trail At Montaña de Oro State Park: My Trip Report
We started the Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail from Spooner’s Cove at about 9:30am, after enjoying yet another coffee in San Luis Obispo upon waking up. We completed the out-and-back trail around 12pm.
We definitely stopped a lot for photos, but who could blame us–the bluff views of the ocean as well as the views of the poppy-dotted hills were to die for!
This rock formation jutting out of the ocean was by far my favorite view–I could have stayed here all day staring at its majestic beauty!
This is seriously a spot perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, coastal lovers, and nature lovers all around. Montaña de Oro translates into “Mountain of Gold”, and it’s really noticeable why it’s named that. The park is best known for its yellow/gold wildflowers that cover its hills in the springtime!
I visited in late February, and already the wildflowers were peeking, totally ready for spring to officially hit. Being this colorful already in February, I could only imagine what the months of April and May would look like here!
Once we finished our hike, we took a quick break at the visitors center. There are a few rocking chairs here, so if you’d like to sit and just soak in the expansive views for a good minute, this is a good place to do so.
After using the restrooms here, we headed back to our campervan to grab our sandwiches and drinks. We sat at the iconic Spooner’s Cove (a great spot for tide-pooling during low tide) to enjoy our lunch.
Take a look around this area before leaving–if the tides are low, check out the tide pools here too. If the tides are not ideal for tide pooling, why not try beachcombing for pretty shells instead?
Once you take in your final views of Spooner’s Cove, you can opt for another hike or spend some time driving through the rest of the park.
All in all, I have no doubt that you’ll love this state park. You’ll get a jam-packed day of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, tide pools, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and lush green/golden hills galore.
Are Dogs Allowed On The Bluff Trail?
No. Dogs are allowed only in campgrounds, roadways, and Spooners Beach. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on trails.
Other Popular Hikes At Montaña de Oro State Park
Valencia Peak Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 4.5 miles round trip
- Elevation: 1,275 feet in elevation
- Features: 360-degree views atop one of Montaña de Oro State Park’s tallest peaks. At the top, there is a picnic table for you to eat and enjoy views of Morro Rock, Cerro Cabrillo and Point Buchon.
- Trailhead: At the parking area just beyond Spooner’s Cove, across from the Bluff Trail trailhead.
Islay Creek Trail
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length: 6 miles round trip
- Elevation: 300 feet in elevation
- Features: gentle canyon hike with access to a small waterfall; great views of Valencia Peak and Hazard Peak
- Trailhead: at the mouth of a stream at Spooner’s Cove (a dirt trail that continues past the Islay Creek Campground)
Coon Creek Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 5 miles round trip
- Elevation: 250 feet in elevation
- Features: a gentle trail following a small creek through a coastal canyon; features a beautiful grove of Monterey cypress; junctions with Rattlesnake Flats Trail and Oats Peak Trail to allow hikers to explore even more of Montaña de Oro State Park.
- Trailhead: At the parking area at the end of Pecho Valley Road
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