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El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area

An ancient oak grove, the Elfin Forest is home to trees that grow only 4 to 20 feet tall. Walking the path among these itty-bitty beauties, adults often stand a full head taller than the trees! Skirting the Morro Bay Estuary, this enchanting area offers plenty of moments for seeing wildlife, native plants, and ocean views.

History of the Elfin Forest

At 90 acres, the El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area faces northwest toward the Morro Bay Estuary. The natural area was so named for its pygmy trees: California Live Oaks that grow to a maximum of 20 feet tall. (Elsewhere in Los Osos, California Live Oaks grow up to 50 feet tall.) Even after centuries, these trees remain small due to a combination of environmental conditions and the history of the place. At the end of the most recent ice age, the Elfin Forest did not grow here. Instead, the area was occupied by a deep river valley. The climate was much cooler and damper than it is now, resembling that of Northern California and the Oregon coastline. As the town name of Los Osos implies, the valley likely saw grizzly bears, in addition to saber toothed tigers, mammoths, and even camels. Over thousands of years, the ocean rose to its current level, with sand dunes taking over the river valley. The Elfin Forest grew in the middle of one such dune system. A lack of minerals, nutrients, and moisture keeps the Elfin oaks from growing to full size. Among the pygmy oaks, the Elfin Forest is also home to coastal brackish marsh, maritime chaparral, coastal dune scrub, riparian woodland fringe, and manzanitas. In total, the area houses over 200 plant species, 110 bird species, 22 mammal species and 13 reptile and amphibian species. It also boasts a number of insect species, including a whopping 23 species of moths and butterflies.

Chumash & Back Bay

Locals call the area of the Elfin Forest the “back bay.” Here, a large Chumash archeological site stands just adjacent to the Elfin Forest. Throughout the area, Chumash middens can be found. These ancient refuse heaps show that people occupied the area of the forest dating back at least 9,000 years. The forest was likely a seasonal hunting and gathering point until 500 years ago, when lethal diseases traveled up the coast from the earliest European visitors. Later, European explorers reached the area of Los Osos, bringing cattle and several plant species with them. The sedimentation of the back bay shows that these species quickly changed the landscape through cattle grazing, deforestation, and foreign plants competing with native species.

Park History

As far back as 1889, the land where the Elfin Forest stands had been subdivided into sites for vacation homes. Fortunately, only a few sites ever sold, and even fewer were developed. In 1987, with strong support from the community, California passed legislation to fund the purchase of 51 acres on the forest’s north side. The purchase was meant to be an annex to Morro Bay State Park. In 1994, the remaining 39 acres were purchased collaboratively by the Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP), San Luis Obispo County, the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Department of Transportation. Today, a portion of the forest belongs to the State Lands Commission, while the rest belongs to the County of San Luis Obispo. SWAP works with SLO County Parks to manage, maintain and restore the natural area.

Elfin Forest Trail Stroll

A walk through the Elfin Forest offers views of its unusual pygmy oaks, views of seabirds from a comfortable platform, and coastal panoramas. Entrance to the trail is free, and dogs are welcome on leash. Benches, trail guides and interpretive displays are provided, but restrooms, drinking water, and other facilities are not. The park is open year-round, every day, from sunrise to sunset.

Trailhead Access Points

The Elfin Forest can be accessed at seven different points just north of Santa Ysabel Avenue. From Highway 1 South, just past Morro Bay, take exit 277 toward Los Osos/Baywood Park. Turn right on South Bay Boulevard and right again on Santa Ysabel Avenue. Access to the Elfin Forest and street parking can be found at 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, and 11th Streets. Handicap access is only available at the 16th Street entrance. Mutt Mitt dispensers (for picking up after dogs) are available at every entrance.

Boardwalk Loop

At just under one mile, the Elfin Forest boardwalk loop was built in 1999 to provide access for all ages and abilities. The boardwalk is reachable via open sand trails leading from parking areas and access points. The one exception is the 16th Street access point, where the boardwalk starts and stops beside the parking area.

Viewpoints

The boardwalk loops through the heart of the Elfin Forest, including two platforms for viewing the bay. Called Bush Lupine Point and Sienna’s View, these platforms provide the perfect perch for viewing seabirds and enjoying the breeze.

Accessibility

Handicap parking and direct access to the Elfin Forest boardwalk are available only at the 16th Street entrance, just north of Santa Ysabel Avenue. Picnic in the Elfin Forest and Oaks State Reserve in Los Osos

Docent Lead Trail Walks

"Nature Walks in the Elfin Forest" are led by experienced and knowledgeable docents on different topics each month. Examples of trail walks include an exploration of the different insects in the forest, wildlife rehabilitation, and others. Walks are free and take place the third Saturday of the month at 9:30 A.M. There’s no need to RSVP: just show up at the 15th Street entrance off Santa Ysabel. Volunteers ask that you kindly leave pets at home for the walk, which lasts 90-120 minutes.

Other Nearby Activities

Los Osos Oaks Natural Reserve Discover this other area with pygmy oaks, as well as a 1.5-mile series of trails on the southern edge of Los Osos. Enjoy the beauty of gnarled, gangly branches throughout this protected nature reserve. Montaña de Oro State Park This sprawling state park offers mountain biking, equestrian, and hiking trails throughout its 8,000 acres. Visit beaches for tidepooling and picnicking, or wander the historic Spooner Ranch House, historic home of the park’s early settlers. From any point in the park, enjoy views of its 7 undeveloped miles of coastline. Golfing Los Osos is home to two popular golf courses with ocean views. Try the executive 9-hole course at Sea Pines Golf Resort, as well as foot golf and disc golf. Or head to Dairy Creek Golf Course for a links-style 9-hole course that’s easygoing enough for beginners, and challenging enough for seasoned golfers. Kayaking Kayaking enthusiasts love Los Osos for its wide range of conditions. For confident kayakers, a paddle from Spooner’s Cove to Morro Rock offers plenty of thrills. For those who like to take kayaking easy, the calm waters of Morro Bay and the Estuary make for a peaceful outing. Outfitters include the Kayak Shack in Los Osos, as well as Central Coast Outdoors, which leads half- and full-day kayaking tours across the region [post_title] => Elfin Forest [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => elfin-forest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-18 15:45:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-18 23:45:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/?post_type=activities&p=118435 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97400 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-06-24 12:00:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-24 20:00:11 [post_content] =>

History of Montaña de Oro

The human history of Montaña de Oro State Park begins with the Chumash people who lived here long before the first European explorers arrived. It’s been estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 Chumash people lived across California’s Central Coast between Morro Bay and Malibu. In 1542, Spanish explorers noted how open and welcoming the Chumash people were when they greeted them from their canoes. The Mission Period began when Don Gaspar de Portola came to claim this stretch of coastline for Spain. Sadly, with the introduction of European viruses, most of the Chumash people died. Those who survived fled their villages, and the Chumash way of life all but disappeared. Remnants of Chumash culture like middens (ancient refuse heaps) can still be found throughout Montaña de Oro State Park. After Mexico ceded Alta California to the U.S. in 1848, ownership of Montaña de Oro changed several times, as did its borders. Part of Montaña de Oro, called Rancho Cañada de los Osos, combined with Rancho Pecho y Islay to the south to comprise 32,431 acres.

Key Facts About Montaña de Oro

In 1892, Alden B. Spooner established a section of that property as Pecho Ranch & Stock Co., with a dairy, ranch and row crops. He built a home, sheds, stables, a creamery, barns and even a water mill for power. Spooner and his sons made use of a nearby cove by building a warehouse, chute, and a boom to load steamers below. To the north, Alexander S. Hazard established agricultural crops as well as a dairy. He also planted a forest of eucalyptus trees, hoping to sell timber across the state. Sadly, eucalyptus trees produce wood unfit for commercial uses. (The mistake was a common one across the Central Coast, as evidenced by the thousands of eucalyptus trees across the Central Coast.) Hazard Canyon saw several natural events in the 1940s, including a flood and a wildfire that burned down Hazard’s diary. The property transferred from a rancher named Oliver C. Field to Irene McAllister in the 1950s. (McAllister is the one to first call the land Montaña de Oro ― “mountains of gold” ― for the poppies and wildflowers that grow there.) The property went into bankruptcy in the 1960s, during which California Governor Pat Brown launched a park acquisition program. The state stepped in to purchase Montaña de Oro and it became a state park on April 24, 1965. Today, Rancho Montaña de Oro is some of the most untouched publicly-owned land in the state. Virtually hike the trails on Google here. Bluffs Hike in Montana De Oro State Park

Hiking in Montaña De Oro State Park

Bluff Trail

This 3.4-mile out-and-back trail skirts rugged coastline, bluffs, and tide pools. Look for the trailhead near the Montaña de Oro visitor center and Spooner Ranch House. The trail begins with a wooden bridge, followed by ocean vistas. After a half mile, stop at Corallina Cove or continue hiking for more primitive trail to Quarry Cove.

Valencia Peak Trail

At 4.5 miles round trip and 1,275 feet in elevation, this hike offers a 360-degree view in return for hard work! The peak itself is 1,347 feet and one of Montaña de Oro State Park’s tallest. The hike begins at the parking area just beyond Spooner’s Cove, across from the Bluff Trail trailhead. Take the single-track Valencia Peak Trail inland through wild sage, a series of switchbacks and some steep terrain. At the top, sit at the picnic table and enjoy views of Morro Rock, Cerro Cabrillo and Point Buchon. The trail requires no fee or permit, but bring sunscreen as the hike offers little to no shade. No dogs.

Hazard Peak Trail

This essential Central Coast hike offers clear views of Morro Bay and beyond from its 1,076-foot peak. Round-trip, the hike spans 6 miles and climbs an elevation of 950 feet. Unlike the Valencia Peak Trail, Hazard Peak Trail ascends steadily, rather than steeply. Stay to the right throughout and pass by sagebrush, eucalyptus groves and expanding views of the ocean. At the top, find benches and a picnic table for taking in the 360-degree view. The trail doesn’t require a fee or permit, but remember that dogs aren’t allowed on the trail. To reach the trail, just after entering the park find the trailhead on the left, before Spooner’s Cove. Park on either side of the road.

Islay Creek Trail

At 6 miles round trip, the Islay Creek Trail offers a gentle canyon hike with access to a small waterfall. Elevation gain clocks in at just 300 feet. Start the trail at the mouth of a stream at Spooner’s Cove. Take the dirt trail inland from Spooner’s Cove, past the Islay Creek Campground. Look for great views of both Valencia Peak and Hazard Peak. Find a waterfall after just 1.4 miles in Islay Creek. At 3 miles into the trail, turn at the abandoned barn for a 6-mile-total hike. Fees and permits are not required. No dogs.

Oats Peak Trail

At 1,373 feet tall, Oats Peak lies further inland from Valencia Peak, but offers better views of the Irish Hills to the east. A gradual trail with plenty of switchbacks ascends 1,325 feet over 10.8 miles, round trip. Along the way, wide open views abound. To begin, find the trailhead behind the Spooner Ranch House along the road to Islay Creek Campground. A sign for the Reservoir Flats Trail and Oats Peak Trail stands beside a dirt trail. Any time a junction mentions the “Old Oaks Peat Trail,” stick with the New Oats Peak Trail, as it is complete and more gradual. (Most trail intersections are marked well along the way.) Along the ascent, find patches of shade, a trickling stream, and expansive views of the ocean. Note: the last 0.15 mile section of the trail is the steepest, but it’s worth the effort! Find picturesque views of Morro Rock and the San Simeon coastline beyond at the summit.

Reservoir Flats Trail

This two-mile loop takes in a 200-foot elevation gain and offers a variety of views. Find the trailhead between the Spooner Ranch House and the Islay Creek Campground entrance, marked by a sign. After 0.3 miles, bear left at the junction of Reservoir Flats Trail and Oats Peak Trail. Walk through the empty reservoir which once served the Spooner home below. Enjoy a forested walk through a canyon of cottonwood trees and oaks. At the edge of the Islay Creek Campground, walk through the campground to return to the trailhead to finish.

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LEARN MORE Mountain Biking on Montana De Oro, Colby Lindeman, Instagram Photo Mountain Bike on Hazard Peak Trail in Montana De Oro Sate Park

Mountain Biking in Montaña de Oro

Picturesque views and well-maintained trails make Montaña de Oro State Park a mountain biker’s paradise. Depending on the trail, a full suspension bike is best (but not necessarily essential) for most. Note that hikers and bikers share trails; please use a bell for the safety of everyone on the trail. Bluff Trail Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2.3 miles, point to point Elevation: +142 feet / -77 feet Avg / Max Grade: 2% / 6% Type: Doubletrack Hazard Peak Trail Difficulty: Easy/intermediate Distance: 4.1 miles point to point Elevation: +915 feet / -308 feet Avg / Max Grade: 6% / 12% Type: Singletrack Islay Creek Trail Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles, point to point Elevation: +68 feet / -352 feet Avg / Max Grade: 3% / 7% Type: Doubletrack Oats Peak Trail Difficulty: Intermediate Distance: 11.3, out and back Elevation: +1,433 feet / -1,438 feet Avg / Max Grade: 5% / 36% Type: Singletrack Reservoir Flats Trail Difficulty: Easy/intermediate Distance: 2 mile loop Elevation: +132 feet / -187 feet Max Grade: 4.4% Type: Singletrack

Free Hiking and MTB Maps

The Highway 1 Discovery Route Stewardship Travel Program partners with local organizations to offer free hiking and mountain biking maps. Visitors and local residents are invited to download free maps for trails across Highway 1.

Volunteer Trail Work Days

As part of the Stewardship Travel Program, volunteers are welcome year-round to help build, restore and maintain hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. All work day events and classes are organized by the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers group, a non-profit organization since 1987. They require no experience to jump in and help! The annual volunteer trail workday in Montaña de Oro State Park is the first Sunday in February. Opportunities for volunteering on trail restoration include at least one trail work session per month. Two major workdays are offered each year and are called TRAILWERKS: all-day events with free meals, tee shirts, and raffle prizes for participants. The Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers group encourages everyone who enjoys California trail systems to volunteer for workdays as well as practice important trail etiquette that helps prevent trail erosion, reduces user conflicts, and ensures trail access. More detailed information, trail guidelines, and volunteer locations can be found at their website. And if you can’t join a trail work day, consider donating toward the purchase of trail building tools for volunteers.

Montaña de Oro Tide Beaches

Beaches at Montaña de Oro State Park include quaint, protected coves, long stretches of sand, remote shores and ideal surfing conditions.

Spooner’s Cove Beach

At the point where Islay Creek drains into the ocean, Spooner’s Cove Beach offers a comfortable place to wade, explore tidepools, and picnic. Interesting rock formations invite climbers to play, particularly at low tide. The beach lies just across the street from the Islay Creek Campground, and allows dogs (on leash). As a central point in Montaña de Oro State Park, many trails begin nearby. Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, and free parking. Find Spooner’s Cove Beach to the right, just before the campground.

Sandspit Beach

This long beach begs for long walks on soft sand, and the dunes beg for jumping! The sand spit that gives the beach its name continues north, almost all the way to Morro Bay. Amenities at Sandspit Beach include restrooms, free parking and picnic tables. To find the beach, make a right into the Sandspit day-use area, and look for parking at the end of the road. Then make the short walk on a trail to the beach. Enjoy views or Morro Rock and watch surfers ride the waves. Note: Sandspit Beach is an advanced surfing area. Sharks have been known to swim in these waters; surf at your own risk.

Hazard Canyon Reef

A dramatic, rocky section of coastline, Hazard Canyon Reef is one of the best tide-pooling locations in the state. Visit at low tide to see creatures like sea anemones, urchins, sea stars, and crabs in abundance. (Check tide information for best times to tidepool.) Other activities include walking 1.5 miles to Sandspit Beach to the north, and perhaps even several miles further into Morro Bay State Park. Find sand dunes near the parking lot to jump, roll and play on. Explore the reef by following the trail north from the parking lot to a deep drop to the water. Amenities include free parking and equestrian use. Surfing is also popular here, though this is an advanced surfing area; do so at your own risk. To find this beach, enter the park, pass the eucalyptus grove and look for the Hazard Canyon Parking sign.

Coon Creek Beach

The most remote and untouched of Montaña de Oro’s beaches, Coon Creek sits at the southern end of the park. To reach the beach, drive to the end of Pecho Valley Road (the park’s main thoroughfare) park, and follow the Point Buchon Trail to the beach, only open Thursday through Monday. Enjoy tidepools and caves, but remember there are no facilities for visitors to Coon Creek Beach. Spooner's Cove, Los Osos

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Montaña de Oro Camping Overview

Camping in Montaña de Oro allows visitors from across the globe to experience California in its natural state. With nearby hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, surfing, and fishing, these campsites can be reserved at ReserveCalifornia.com.

Islay Creek Campground

This secluded campground with coastal views offers 50 campsites during summer and 25 during winter. With some shade from pine and Monterey cypress trees, each site can accommodate up to 8 people. The campground also offers six primitive sites for backpackers and equestrian sites for those with horses. Trailers, vans, RVs up to 27 feet, pets and campfires are all allowed. Amenities include fire pits, primitive toilets, electrical hookups, potable water and picnic tables. Reservations are essential during summer months, and first-come, first-served during winter. Islay Creek Campground is open year-round. Find the campground entrance just across from Spooner’s Cove, along a half-mile-long loop.

Hazard Canyon Equine Camp

This campground offers 40 sites for either tents or RVs and 4-5 horses each. (Note: electrical hook-ups are not available here.) Two group sites (Madrone and Oak) accommodate up to 50 people and 16-18 horses. Amenities include stalls, pit toilets, fire rings and water for horses. Guests are asked to muck-out their stalls, bring potable water, and keep dogs off equestrian trails. Campers must have a horse to camp at Hazard Canyon Equine Camp. Find the entrance to the horse camp to the left almost immediately after entering the park.

Environmental Campsites

For more options for camping in Montaña de Oro, try hiking into one of its four environmental, primitive sites. These sites can accommodate up to 8 people, but note that they do not allow dogs or campfires. Fees for environmental campsites are $25 per site, per night, plus $10 per vehicle. Environmental campsites can be reserved at the Islay Creek Campground. Find the Bloody Nose Camp and Hazard Grove Camp just north of the Islay Creek Campground. Badger Flat Camp and Deer Flat Camp can be found to the south of the Islay Creek Campground.

Spooner Ranch House

No visit to Montaña de Oro State Park is complete without a visit to the old Spooner Ranch House. Built in 1892, this historic building houses a museum, gift shop and general store for the park. Learn about the Central Coast’s rich agricultural, cultural and natural history with a self-guided tour of the house, which has been lovingly restored by volunteers. Find the Spooner Ranch House just before the Islay Creek Campground, across from Spooner’s Cove. Spooner Ranch House, Los Osos [post_title] => Montaña de Oro State Park [post_excerpt] => This park features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => montana-de-oro-state-park [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-30 06:57:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-30 14:57:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/montantildea-de-oro-state-park/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 112919 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-04-24 20:31:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-25 04:31:04 [post_content] => Of the 101 miles of coastline in San Luis Obispo County, half are protected shoreline. In other words, the odds are good that surf, sand and sun are always within reach here. The Central Coast boasts some of the best beaches in the U.S., and certainly on the West Coast. What sets them apart? Think miles of white sand, uncrowded, untouched ― and unbelievably scenic. Visitors can find a spectrum of options, with ideal beaches for sunbathing, beachcombing, wildlife viewing, surfing, tidepooling, doggie fun or even dune-driving. No matter your idea of the perfect vacation, the beaches between Big Sur and Nipomo have you covered.

When To Visit

Due to temperate weather, the Central Coast’s beaches can be visited comfortably year-round. But depending on your goals, a bit of planning and insider info goes a long way.  For sunny family fun, swimming and kayaking, the months of July through October offer the best weather. For surfing, winter tends to be the best season for wind and swells. (Just bring a wetsuit! Central Coast waters can be quite chilly.) Opportunities for whale watching, bird watching, and elephant seal mating and birthing peak in winter to early spring. Beachcombing, pet play, horseback riding, tidepooling and driving on the beach occur year-round.

What To Bring

Weather tends to be temperate but can be changeable, so layered clothing is recommended. Bring towels, sunscreen, sand toys, boogie boards/surfboards, wetsuits, bottled water, snacks and beach blankets.

Best Beaches for Families on the Central Coast Along Highway 1

Avila Beach

Pick your perfect paradise on one of the best family beaches in California! This spacious beach features soft, fine sand and gentle waves, ideal for little ones and safe water play. (Lifeguards stand watch over the beach during peak summer months.) The boardwalk offers restrooms and outdoor showers, as well as the adjacent Pirate Park with basketball courts and a playground. Additional amenities include picnic tables, grill stands, and parking, along with multiple lodging options. Bring your family for a walk along the pier, or hit up one of the many restaurants that line the beach. Just remember to leave Fido at home between 10 A.M. and 5 P.M. (Or take him to Olde Port Beach / Fisherman’s Beach, just south on Avila Beach Drive, where off-leash dogs happily play.) Directions: From Highway 101, take the Avila Beach Drive exit and head west for 2.5 miles. Turn left on San Juan Street and take the next left onto Front Street, which faces the beach.

Cayucos State Beach

Cayucos State Beach blends sand, surf and sun for a classic California vibe. Kids will love the sizeable beach playground, tidepools and fishing off historic Cayucos Pier. (No fishing license required!) For surfers, the waves near the pier offer thrills, and surf schools like Cayucos Surf Company help newbies get in on the action. (Lifeguards watch the beach in summer months.) Multiple casual restaurants line the shore (including the sea-worthy Schooner’s Restaurant) as well as a range of accommodations. Other amenities include restrooms, outdoor showers, and parking. Dogs are allowed on Cayucos State Beach on leash. Directions: From the south, take Highway 1 to the 13th Street exit and head west on 13th Street. Turn right on South Ocean Drive and drive for 1 mile. Turn left on Cayucos Drive and left on Ocean Front Avenue, which faces the beach. From the north, turn right off Highway 1 onto North Ocean Avenue. After 0.7 miles turn right on Cayucos Drive and left on Ocean Front Avenue, which faces the beach. cayucos pier san simeon pier

W.R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, San Simeon

A local favorite, this beach stands adjacent to the town of Old San Simeon, across Highway 1 from Hearst Castle. In addition to calm waters and a long coastline, this protected cove also offers picnic sites, parking, restrooms, and grill stands. Little ones will enjoy sand play, walking the pier and fishing (no license required), as well as swimming, kayaking and sunbathing. The Coastal Discovery Center, just beside the beach, contains educational exhibits about the shoreline, wildlife, local history and more. Note that leash laws are enforced to the left of San Simeon Pier, but to the right, Fido can play leash-free. Directions: From Highway 1, turn onto Slo San Simeon Rd toward the ocean and follow to the beach.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria

One of the best beaches in Central California for beachcombing, Moonstone Beach encourages exploration for visitors of all ages. This beach is known for its smooth “moonstones” as well as sea glass and driftwood. Waves can be large and strong here, often unsuitable for swimming or surfing. But adjacent Shamel Park offers parking, restrooms, a playground, gazebo, horseshoes, playing field, and seasonal heated swimming pool. Note: dogs are not allowed on Moonstone Beach, but are permitted on leash in Shamel Park. Directions: From Highway 1, turn west on Windsor Boulevard. Drive 0.3 miles and park beside Shamel Park. Moonstone Beach can be accessed through the park. Walking along Cambria Boardwalk Must-See Spots In Cayucos

Morro Bay Strand State Beach Day Use Area, Cayucos

The 6 miles of white sand beach between Morro Rock and the Cayucos Pier make for a scenic and challenging walk in Highway 1 Discovery country. The Morro Bay Strand Day Use Area covers a section of that beach boasting ideal conditions for fishing, windsurfing and kite-flying. It’s also a popular training ground for joggers. With excellent facilities for picnicking, this stretch enjoys a picturesque view of Morro Rock in the distance. Note that leashed dogs are allowed in the adjacent campground, but not on the beach. Directions: The Morro Bay Strand lies 2 miles south of Cayucos on Highway 1. From Highway 1, head west on Cass Street. Make a slight left on 24th Street and follow toward the beach. Park in the lot beyond the State Beach sign.

Morro Bay Dog Beach, Cayucos

Let your four-legged friend play in the surf at this charming off-leash dog beach on Cayucos’s southern end. This stretch of coastline has something for the whole family, including beachcombing (sand dollars!), wildflowers, tidepools, surfing, fishing and birding. It also offers beautiful views of Morro Rock, as well as free parking. Note that this beach does not have restrooms or facilities. Also, if your dog is aggressive or has a strong hunting instinct, please leave him or her on leash or at home. Directions: Access North Point Dog Beach off Highway 1 just south of Cayucos. At Toro Creek Road, turn toward the ocean and find parking between the highway and the shoreline. Estero Bluffs in Cayucos, CA

Estero Bluffs Beach

Part of a scenic state park, this beach can be reached by hiking through grasslands along the bluffs. While several beaches skirt the trail below, the most accessible sits in a sandy cove where Villa Creek meets the sea. Here, find a great spot for tidepooling, whale and birdwatching, and beachcombing. Parking is easy to find along Highway 1 between Cayucos and Cambria. Directions: From Cayucos, drive north on Highway 1 for about four miles and look for parking areas on the ocean side of the road.

Best State Park Beaches on the Central Coast Along Highway 1

Montaña de Oro State Park

Want a state park with an ocean view? This scenic spot offers multiple options. If lounging by the ocean is your style, nothing beats the views at Spooner’s Cove beach. Find a protected cove here, fed by a freshwater stream perfect for wading. Amenities include bathrooms and free parking. (Note that dogs are permitted here on leash, but not on trails or other beaches.) For a challenge, try hiking Valencia Peak, a 4.2-mile loop trail that ascends 1,347 feet. One of the highest in the park, this peak makes for a moderately strenuous hike with striking wildflower and coastal views. To find the trailhead, enter the park and drive through the eucalyptus grove. The parking area for Valencia Peak is on the left, just beyond the visitor center. For horse lovers, Hazard Canyon provides terrific equestrian trails and access to potable water. Try the 11.2-mile Hazard Peak trail for a secluded, moderate ride. To get to the trailhead, enter Montaña de Oro State Park and drive through the eucalyptus grove. The trailhead will be on the left, just before Spooner’s Cove. The same views apply to mountain biking enthusiasts, too. Ride the Oats Peak Trail, an intermediate out-and-back singletrack clocking in at 11.2 miles and an ascent of more than 1,430 feet. To access the trailhead, enter the park and pass through the eucalyptus grove. Pass Spooner’s Cove and the visitor center, then turn left on the road to the Islay Creek Campground. The trailhead will be on the right side of the road, just before dropping to the campground. Directions: Travel 6 miles southwest from Morro Bay, or seven miles south from Los Osos on Pecho Valley Road. Spooner Cove at Montana de Oro

Morro Bay State Park

Visiting the Morro Bay State Park opens a window on the Central Coast at its finest. Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the marina, hiking, golfing or watching wildlife ― all beneath a stand of majestic Monterey Pines. Trails abound for hikers and mountain bikers, and kayakers will love cruising around the bay. (Note that dogs are allowed on trails with a leash.) When you’re ready for an indoor adventure, don’t miss the Natural History Museum, which has views of the ocean. Directions: Take Highway 1 to the Los Osos - Baywood Park exit. Drive west for about 1 mile, then turn right into the state park.

Pismo State Beach Oceano

As thrilling as it is beautiful, this state beach includes the Oceano State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), which permits vehicles to drive on the beach. Other activities here include swimming, surfing, kite-flying and horseback riding. Visitors can also enjoy surf fishing or digging for famous Pismo clams. And don’t miss the boardwalk from the SVRA parking lot to the Monarch Butterfly Grove Cross the freshwater lagoon adjacent to the grove for excellent birdwatching. (Note that dogs are allowed on leash only.) Directions: From Highway 101, take the exit toward Pismo Beach/Wadsworth Avenue. Head west on Highway 1 about 7 miles. Keep left at the fork to continue on Highway 1 / Dolliver Street for 3 miles.Turn right onto Pier Avenue, then right onto Pismo State Beach.

Best Central Coast Beach Vacation Towns Along Highway 1

Cambria

This seaside hamlet feels cozy and quaint beneath native stands of Monterey Pines. Hit Cambria Coffee Roasting Company for a cup of joe before heading to Moonstone Beach for majestic views and treasure-hunting. Then take a self-guided walk through Cambria’s historic streets with help from the Cambria Historical Society. Grab lunch at Robin’s Restaurant (don’t miss the lobster bisque!) and wander through Cambria’s boutiques and art galleries. Finish with a hike through the beachfront Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and luxurious seafood dinner and wine at the Sea Chest Oyster Bar. Main Street Cambria

Cayucos

Looking for classic beachy fun? Cayucos sits directly on the shoreline with personality to spare. Try breakfast at the Sea Shanty, then work it off with a walk along Cayucos State Beach. If the weather permits, enjoy surfing and sun bathing in its soft sand until lunchtime. Grab a slice at Ocean Front Pizza, or tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse before taking a walk along the historic pier. Try fishing off the side, or browse the antique and surf shops along Ocean Avenue. And don’t miss the Brown Butter Cookie Company, where brown butter cookies are topped with (what else?) sea salt. At dinner time, head to The Grill at the Cass House or Lunada Bistro for farm-to-table cuisine.

San Simeon

There’s plenty of fun to be had in San Simeon, land of castles and endless coastline. Take your cup of coffee up to the Elephant Seal Rookery, and watch the circle of life unfold before your very eyes. Then head to Hearst Castle State Park to experience the grandeur of William Randolph Hearst’s life and times.(Don’t miss the famous Neptune Pool! Or the zebras!) Afterward, lunch on gourmet sandwiches at Sebastian’s Cafe, followed by wine tasting at the adjacent Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room. Then walk down to the W.R. Hearst Memorial State Beach and enjoy the sand between your toes. If time permits, learn about marine life and the history of San Simeon at the Coastal Discovery Center. Finish your busy day at the Ragged Point Inn with elegant cuisine, fine local wine, and an ocean view to remember. Whale Watching at the San Simeon Pier on Highway 1 Spooner Cove at Montana de Oro

Los Osos & Baywood

Start a day in Los Osos with coffee at the Back Bay Cafe, then head for Montaña de Oro State Park. Hike, bike, or ride a horse along any number of trails, then relax on the beach at Spooner’s Cove. For lunch, grab tasty Mexican fare at La Casita (plus chips and a container of their legendary salsa for take-away). Then enjoy walking the labyrinth in Baywood, or take in the many artist’s galleries and studios on 2nd Street. Munch those chips and salsa on the Baywood Pier, then dine at Blue Heron for farm-to-table cuisine and local wines.

Avila Beach

This protected paradise can be as exciting or as relaxed as you want it to be. Start with a walk beneath the leafy canopy of the Bob Jones Trail, with a stopover at Woodstone Marketplace for coffee and breakfast. Then finish at the beach for sunbathing, surfing or sand play.  (Avila Beach doesn’t welcome dogs between 10am and 5pm, but Fisherman’s Beach lets them roam off leash, down the road.) Or, if you golf, hit the links at the Avila Beach Golf Resort. Either way, you’ll be hungry for lunch. Try Mersea’s for fresh seafood with a view, or Custom House for classic American fare. Afterward, stroll the boardwalk’s unique shops, or take a hike or trolley ride to the Point San Luis Lighthouse. (Remember to make a reservation for the visit!) For wine lovers, try wine tasting in spots like Sinor-Lavallee and Alapay Cellars. Finish with a French bistro dinner at Blue Moon Over Avila, or fresh flavors at romantic The Gardens of Avila. Oceano Dunes on Highway 1

Oceano

Have a freewheeling good time in this hidden gem by the sea! Begin the day with a walk - or ride - along the beach. The Oceano Dunes State Park Vehicular Area is the only beach in California that permits vehicles to drive on the beach. Looking for a thrill? Try a Hummer tour with an experienced guide. Oceano also welcomes horses and their riders to enjoy the sand and sea. Try hooking up with the Pacific Dunes Riding Ranch for information on trail rides and stables. After a busy morning, take a load off at Beach Burger, one of the best spots for piled-high burgers. In the afternoon, hit the Oceano Train Depot and Museum for a fascinating look at the town’s history. Afternoons also provide the best time for kite-flying, kite-boarding or paragliding on the shoreline. In the evening, try any one of Oceano’s famed Mexican restaurants like Chacho’s or Old Juan’s Cantina. Follow that with a show at the uproarious Great American Melodrama theater, where the laughs come a mile a minute. [post_title] => Best Beaches in Central California [post_excerpt] => The Central Coast boasts some of the best beaches in the U.S., and certainly on the West Coast. Visitors can find a spectrum of options, with ideal beaches for sunbathing, beachcombing, wildlife viewing, surfing, tidepooling, doggie fun or even dune-driving. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-best-beaches-in-central-california [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-05 20:43:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-06 04:43:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/?post_type=activities&p=112919 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 112718 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-03-19 16:37:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-20 00:37:36 [post_content] => Hiking along the Highway 1 Discovery Route showcases the diversity of this abundant place. From Ragged Point to Nipomo, each corner of coastal SLO CAL has its own distinctive flora, fauna, and history. Visitors along Highway 1 have their choice of tucked-away mountain trails, walks along rugged coastline and expansive wine country views. Some hikes pass beside quaint cafes and historic sites while others feel as remote as a world away. Some come with a soundtrack of crashing waves, others, with the hum of bees and singing crickets. Whatever your mood, the Highway 1 Discovery Route has a hike to suit it. Safety note: For even the tamest of hikes, be sure to bring water, a hat, sunscreen, ID, keys, your mobile phone, and a friend. Also bring cash (some trails charge a small fee) and be sure to remove all valuables from your vehicle at trailheads. Read below to learn about all the hiking options along the Highway 1 Discovery Route.

Ragged Point Hiking Trails

Ragged Point Cliffside Trail

Steep cliffs and breathtaking panoramas mark this classic Ragged Point hike. Short and sweet, the trail measures less than 1 mile long, but descends (and ascends!) 400 feet in elevation. A narrow path of switchbacks leads to a small black sand beach fed by a seasonal waterfall. Bring grippy hiking shoes for this landmark hike, and enjoy the towering ocean views.

Fire Road Trail

Sweeping coastal views and a well maintained, graded road characterize this trail, found just across Highway 1 from Ragged Point Inn. Up and back, this 4-mile, 1700-foot-gain trail makes for an excellent scenic workout.

Salmon Creek Falls

With its 120-foot waterfall and easy trail access, Salmon Creek Falls is a short hike just off Highway 1 at Big Sur’s southern end. For a longer walk, take the trail to its end 6.5 miles in.

San Simeon Hiking Trails

San Simeon State Park

This 3.3-mile trail skirts sections of the San Simeon Natural Preserve and Washburn Campground. Look for coastal vista points, benches and interpretive signs about local wildlife, flora and fauna. Note: the trail section that skirts the seasonal wetland is wheelchair accessible.

Piedras Blancas, Boucher Trail

In just under 2 miles, this varied and interesting trail winds over coastal bluffs, grassland and wetland areas. Beginning at the paved elephant seal viewing parking, the trail ends a half mile north of the Piedras Blancas Light Station.

San Simeon Cove

Hiking San Simeon Cove belongs on any California dreaming bucket list. Find the trailhead by climbing the bluff at the north end of the cove. Then travel through a magical forest on the bluffs above the beach. Spanish moss hangs from eucalyptus, pine, cedar, and cypress trees along the way. At the end of the peninsula, a half-mile in, the cove sparkles against breathtaking views of rock formations on the beach.

Elephant Seals

The viewing boardwalks at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery comprise a section of the California Coastal Trail. Short, flat, and easy to walk, these boardwalks are also wheelchair accessible with terrific views of the elephant seals.

Junge Ranch Trail

This 2.2-mile out-and-back trail offers views of abundant wildflowers to hikers of all skill levels. Accessible all year long, the trail welcomes dogs on leash as well.

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail

Don’t miss a chance to stroll this San Simeon trail with unparalleled coastal views. This hike travels beside varied landscapes, from rocky coastline and cliffs to scrubby bushes and fields dotted with flowers. Walk up and down the sea’s edge, feel the sea spray and enjoy the views.

San Corpoforo Creek

The signs for this trail are hosted by the Los Padres National Forest, which owns a part of the wild, untouched beach at the end of the trail. Find a small parking area with a fence and gate on the north side of the Highway 1 bridge over San Carpoforo Creek. (The address of the house opposite is 18550 Cabrillo Highway, San Simeon, California.) The trailhead lies beyond the gate and leads to San Carpoforo Creek, which can sometimes be tricky to cross. But the reward for those who do is access to a remote sandy beach.

Washburn Campground Trails

In addition to the San Simeon State Park trail, another trail begins at the end of its boardwalk and crosses the wetland into a pine forest. It then cuts north along the shady side of a bluff and up a long hill to the upper State Park campground. Return to the start point along the east side of the campsites, or extend the walk to a larger loop east. This extension passes through a eucalyptus grove before returning to the starting point for a total hike of about 3 miles.

Cambria Hiking Trails

Moonstone Beach Trail

Cambria hiking at its most accessible and panoramic, this 2.85-mile out-and-back bluff trail features classic coastal scenery. Look for wildlife, explore tide pools on the beach, or admire the scenery from a comfortable bench. A large portion of this Cambria hiking trail includes the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, making for a comfortable walk for all skill levels. Dogs can come, too! (Just remember to keep them on leash.) Find the trailhead at the beginning of Moonstone Beach Drive and hike northwest through the pines along Santa Rosa Creek. You’ll see the boardwalk begin after just 0.2 miles.

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

One of the most breathtaking hiking trails near Cambria, this preserve once belonged to the Chumash and Salinian Native Indian tribes. Today, it is permanently protected from development, thanks to the American Land Conservancy and the local chapter of SWAP (Small Wilderness Area Preservation). This favorite 1-mile trail along the Pacific Ocean welcomes pedestrians, horseback riders, and bicyclists. It also protects the home of many endangered species, including red-legged frogs and Monterey pines. Completely ADA accessible, this trail is a reminder of what dedicated citizens can do to protect a precious space. At 437 acres, the preserve has multiple entrances. Consult this map for more detailed access information.

Fern Canyon Henry Cluck Trail

Another secluded Cambria hiking trail, this one passes through Fern Canyon, crosses Fern Drive and dead ends in a chaparral near Highway 1. At about 1.5 miles, this out-and-back easy hike showcases Cambria’s Monterey pines, oaks, ferns and a seasonal creek. To find the trailhead, head south on Highway 1 and turn right on Burton Drive. Make another right on Fern Drive and follow to the bottom of Fern Canyon. The trail marker is at the left.

Lampton Cliffs Park

One of the best short hikes near Cambria, this trail loops through a 2-acre park on the south edge of town. Toward the beach, stairs lead down to the rocks and crashing waves, especially dramatic during winter swells. At low tide, though, tidepooling becomes the activity of choice here. Find the trailhead at the intersection of Lampton Street and South Windsor Boulevard with a small parking lot.

Leffingwell Landing

With short hiking trails, Leffingwell Landing offers a beautiful lookout and access to a rocky shore with great tide pools. Visitors at the right time of year might be lucky enough to spot a whale or two. Find this special spot where Moonstone Beach Drive meets State Park Road in Cambria.

Strawberry Canyon Trail

One of the most secluded hiking trails in Cambria, Strawberry Canyon comprises a large, 1-mile loop. Peace and quiet characterize this walk, along a secluded trail beneath towering pines. To reach the trailhead from Highway 1 in Cambria, drive 0.75 miles south on Burton Drive until you reach Kay Street on the left. The trail is across the street, on the right side of Burton Drive.

Cayucos Hiking Trails

Estero Bluffs

Part of the Estero Bluffs State Park, this easy 3-mile hike includes wide, flat trails through coastal rushes and panoramic views of Morro Bay and Morro Rock. To find the trailhead, take Highway 1 North past Cayucos. Pull into the rustic parking lot just past town on the west side of the highway. This is one of the best Cayucos hikes for a picnic!

Whale Rock Reservoir

One of SLO County’s best hikes with a 360-degree view, the Whale Rock Reservoir runs out-and-back at a total of 4 miles long. The trail travels through the 1,350-acre reserve, and is uncrowded and easy to walk. Bring dogs on leash, but beware of ticks! The best months for this hike are during the dry season, April through November. Enjoy viewing wildflowers and bird-watching throughout. Get to the trailhead by driving south on Highway 1 from Cayucos. At Old Creek Road, turn left. Drive 1.5 miles and park on the left before the the PG&E substation.

Hang Glider Hill Trail

At 1 mile round trip, this trail can be hiked by just about anyone. Fans of hang gliding will enjoy watching people take off from here, with long views of the ocean as backdrop. To reach the trailhead, drive south on Highway 1 from Cayucos; turn left onto Ocean Boulevard, right on Haines Avenue, right on Davies Avenue and continue up the hill to the dirt road.

Harmony Headlands State Park Trail

A former cattle ranch from the 1800s, this land was purchased by the Land Conservancy in 2003 and deeded to California State Parks. Today, the easy 4-mile round-trip trail passes the historic ranch house and along coastal bluffs with views of the ocean. Be forewarned that dogs are not allowed on this trail. Find the trailhead 6.8 miles north of Cayucos on Highway 1, on the ocean side of the highway.

Trail tips for hiking in Cayucos

Learn More

Los Osos & Baywood Hiking Trails

Montaña de Oro State Park & Hazard Canyon Reef

Located within Montaña de Oro State Park, Hazard Canyon Reef is a gorgeous beach with tide pools and scenic views. Take the 1-mile hike on the Dune Trail to safely access the mouth of the canyon. Walk through the 4-way junction, then between the dunes, and the trail will end at a rocky shore. Explore the tide pools for hermit crabs, sea stars, sand dollars and anemones. The trail is named after a prior landowner who planted eucalyptus trees in hopes of selling them as lumber.

Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve

This 24-acre preserve offers hiking trails and excellent views of Morro Bay and Morro Rock. Managed by the Morro Coast Audubon Society, the preserve is located on the north side of Ramona Avenue between Broderson and 4th Street. Trails lead among Monterey Cypress and eucalyptus to two freshwater ponds, and around a salt marsh to the edge of Morro Bay. Several threatened and endangered species of birds populate the preserve, and many shorebirds and ducks winter in the adjoining bay. From late October to March, Monarch butterflies also cluster here.

Black Hill Trail

Nine peaks between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay originated as volcanoes beneath the sea fifteen million years ago. After the sea and volcanic explosions subsided, erosion began dissolving the softer mountain material around the volcanic rock. Nine volcanic peaks remain, including Hollister Peak and the famed Morro Rock. Black Hill, the last peak in the series, offers a 0.6-mile trail with a little of everything: chaparral, eucalyptus, oaks, pines, and coastal shrubs. From the mountain's 640-foot summit, you can view the Morro Bay Estuary, the sand spit, and the hills of nearby Montaña de Oro. Hikers looking for more can hike to the summit starting farther down Black Hill. To find the trailhead, drive through the Morro Bay Golf Course, turning right at the first intersection and up the unmarked Black Hill Road. Follow 0.8 miles up the hill to the end of the road and park.

Bluff Trail

Inside Montaña de Oro State Park, this trail spans 3.4 miles round trip, passing coastal bluffs, tide pools, beaches and rocky coastline. The trailhead can be found across that of Valencia Peak, just near the visitor center. Start across a wooden bridge and then take in views of the sea, including Spooner's Cove. Stop at Corallina Cove after a half mile or continue on for more rugged trail and Quarry Cove.

El Moro Elfin Forest

Adjacent to the Morro Bay Estuary, this 90-acre natural area belongs to San Luis Obispo County Parks and California State Parks. Foliage includes coastal brackish marsh, riparian woodland fringe, pygmy oak woodland, maritime chaparral, coastal dune scrub, and oak and manzanita. The Elfin Forest supports more than 110 kinds of birds, 22 species of mammals and 13 species of reptiles and amphibians. Chumash middens can also be found throughout the park. A mile-long boardwalk loop provides access for young and old, walkers and wheelchair users, and protects the forest’s sensitive habitat. The Los Osos/Morro Bay Chapter of Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP) removes invasive plants, provides erosion control, and conducts plant revegetation projects. SWAP also sponsors monthly third-Saturday nature walks and educational walks for local schools.

Quarry Trail

This 2-mile, moderately difficult loop trail lies on the east side of Morro Bay State Park. The Quarry Trail skirts the southern flank of Cerro Cabrillo, a 911-foot double-peaked ridge. The hike’s name refers to the rubble piles of an abandoned quarry site used for road construction in the 1950s.

Avila Beach Hikes

Bob Jones Trail

Of all the Avila Beach hikes, the Bob Jones Trail provides the leafiest, most family-friendly. Also called the "City to the Sea" trail, the paved path is popular as a hiking, jogging and biking route. The trail winds alongside San Luis Obispo Creek towards Avila Beach, stretching 2.5 miles each way. From the trail are views of bridges spanning the wide creek, the Avila Beach Golf Course, the town of Avila and the Pacific Ocean. You can even stop off at Woodstone Market for lunch or a snack along the route!

Mallagh Landing

Commonly referred to as Pirate's Cove, the Mallagh Landing name is more accurate given the history of the land. In 1849, David Mallagh came to California as a sailing captain and built a small wharf and an adobe nearby. The Mallagh home can still be found under the hills of Ontario Grade. Mallagh Landing offers a hike near Avila Beach with scenic views of the coastline and Port San Luis Harbor. The route from the harbor to the landing is popular with kayakers. The hike over land is 9.3 miles, but is considered easy and can be done in about 3 hours. Both the walk and the bird watching are worthwhile.

Ontario Ridge Trail

One of the most scenic Avila Beach hiking trails, this 4-mile trail travels over a steep ridge above Shell Beach. For spectacular ocean views, start at the Shell Beach trailhead or at Cave Landing in Avila Beach and hike the full loop. Coastal sage surrounds the steep, rugged trail, passing views of Mallagh Landing, Avila Valley, San Luis Obispo, and Shell Beach.

Pecho Coast Trail & Rattlesnake Canyon

The Pecho Coast Trail comprises 3.75 miles round trip along a scenic coastal trail to the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse. Many native plants and animals flourish along the trail. Wildflowers can be seen in the spring, as well as gray whales swimming offshore.All hikes along the Pecho Coast Trail are docent-led and require a reservation. Learn from docent naturalists about the local history of Avila Beach and the Chumash tribe that once lived here. For those looking to hike further, the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail winds past the Point San Luis Lighthouse and loops back for a round-trip total of 8 miles. To preserve and maintain the space, the trail is limited to a set number of hikers on specified dates.

Arroyo Grande & Edna Valley Hiking

Black Lake Trail

The Black Lake Trail in the Arroyo Grande Valley offers a 2-mile, easy to moderate out-and-back hike. Accessible year-round, the trail offers views of Black Lake.

Big Falls Trail

Tucked away behind Lopez Lake lies Big Falls, one of the most scenic spots on the Central Coast. The two waterfalls along Big Falls Creek are some of the best around and worth the trek. To get to the trailhead, turn onto Hi Mountain Road, located just before the entrance to Lopez Lake Recreation Area, and then veer left onto Upper Lopez Canyon Road. The trail travels through a sycamore and oak forest to the 40-foot Lower Big Falls and, further up, 80-foot Big Falls.

Cougar Trail

The entrance for Cougar Trail lies near the entry to Lopez Lake Recreation Area. Close to 3 miles long, the trail welcomes hikers, dogs and mountain bikes. Enjoy scenic views, groves of oak trees and wildlife viewing.

High Ridge Trail

This trail passes a series of steep canyons east of Lopez Lake along a fire ridge. The hike offers scenic lake views and fossils can be found along the path and in the surrounding rock. The east to moderate hike is 5 miles out and back, and is accessible year-round.

Horizon Hike

Tolosa Winery leads a Horizon Hike over Edna Valley. Enjoy a mild hike, learn about the vines as you walk and take in a 360-degree view of the valley. Trout Creek Trail Looking for an equestrian-friendly trail? Trout Creek Trail in the Arroyo Grande Valley is almost 8 miles out and back and is well suited for horses and dogs. Enjoy listening to the creek and identifying a variety of birds on the moderate trail. Accessible March to November.

Cerro San Luis Trail

Cerro San Luis Obispo is the large morro looming over San Luis Obispo, stamped with a large letter "M." It stands for Mission School, not Madonna Inn (which sits at its base) as many believe. The trail up this volcanic peak has great views of Laguna Lake and Bishop's Peak. From the summit, there are views of San Luis Obispo, the Santa Lucia Mountains and peaks to Morro Bay.

Oceano & Nipomo Hiking

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

A trail from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Preserve to Mussel Rock spans 5.2-mile out and back. Hikers, trail runners and naturalists use the moderately difficult trail, which offers scenic coastal views.

Oceano Dunes Preserve Trail

Best known for the State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), the Oceano Dunes Preserve also offers a quiet, uncrowded trail to walk. To reach the trailhead from southbound Highway 1, drive to Oceano (south of Pismo Beach and Grover Beach). Turn west on Pier Avenue and park at the entrance to the SVRA. Walk a half mile south, parallel to the water’s edge, to the dune entrance. You can also walk along Strand Way, a neighborhood street that parallels the beach. This reaches Arroyo Grande Creek, which also leads to the dune preserve entrance.

Nipomo Native Garden

This 0.6-mile trail stretches over a 12-acre botanical garden featuring plants native to the Nipomo Mesa Guadalupe Dunes complex. The trail travels through both developing and established woodland, with interpretive displays and kiosks throughout. The garden is used for recreation as well as research into plant community dynamics on the Nipomo Mesa.Open during daylight hours, the garden offers an easy hike plus benches from which to enjoy the view. The garden can be found between Pomeroy, Camino Caballo and Osage Streets in Nipomo, with parking available on Osage. [post_title] => Hike On Highway 1 [post_excerpt] => Hiking along the Highway 1 Discovery Route showcases the diversity of this abundant place. From Ragged Point to Nipomo, each corner of coastal SLO CAL has its own distinctive flora, fauna, and history. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => where-to-hike-on-highway-1 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-22 21:00:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-23 05:00:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/?post_type=activities&p=112718 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 110331 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:01:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:01 [post_content] => The tiny one-room jailhouse over-looking downtown Arroyo Grande from Le Point Street is known as the Hoosegow. It was believed to have been constructed around 1910 for use by the County Constable. The jail is of concrete construction measuring about eight inches thick. Besides the door, there are only three other openings in the structure. These are very high windows about ten inches by twelve inches crisscrossed with metal bars. The single entrance is constructed of a heavy iron door which is secured by and oversized padlock. Fortunately, the jail has been preserved and is surrounded by a small park maintained by the City of Arroyo Grande known as t "Hoosegow Park." [post_title] => The Hoosegow Jailhouse [post_excerpt] => The tiny one-room jailhouse over-looking downtown Arroyo Grande from Le Point Street is known as the Hoosegow. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-hoosegow-jailhouse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:01:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/the-hoosegow-jailhouse/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 110375 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:01:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:01 [post_content] => Set in the heart of rural San Luis Obispo County, California lies Harmony. Boasting a population of 18 (9 people & 9 cows), Harmony Glassworks offers a one-of-a-kind experience in contemporary glass art. Founded in 2007 by glassblower and instructor, Eric Dandurand, Harmony Glassworks is an art gallery, studio, and school all in one. Inside the gallery you will find a large selection of hand blown glass from some of the best glass artists in the world including profound works by Jiri Pacinek, Charles Lowrie, Ted Emerick and Eric Dandurand. Many more artists are represented than we can list. We have a large collection of affordable indulgences. Our collection includes sculpture, vases, jewelry, paintings, platters, lighting, drinking glasses, paperweights, ornaments, stained glass, wine bottle stoppers, glass furniture and more. We also have official Harmony T-shirts. [post_title] => Harmony Glassworks [post_excerpt] => Set in the heart of rural San Luis Obispo County, California lies Harmony. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => harmony-glassworks [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-17 11:47:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-17 19:47:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/harmony-glassworks/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 110170 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:01:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:00 [post_content] => Before the advent of the railroad and easily traversed highways, most of the commerce in central California was conducted by ship and piers and wharfs were vitally important. Local products were shipped out to markets in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Early on, during the Spanish and Mexican eras, ships anchored off the coast and goods were exchanged via small craft, powered by oar. That can be risky even in the best weather. The earliest piers such as the San Simeon pier, were enterprises underwritten by wealthy landowners or by collaborators forming a company which owned the pier. This made the shipment and import of goods much easier and cheaper. [post_title] => San Simeon Bay Pier [post_excerpt] => Before the advent of the railroad and easily traversed highways, most of the commerce in central California was conducted by ship and piers and wharfs were vitally important. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => san-simeon-bay-pier [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:01:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/san-simeon-bay-pier/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 110171 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:01:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:00 [post_content] =>

Still standing as a restored inn and restaurant, Captain James Cass’s House is in downtown Cayucos. It was originally built between 1867 and 1875. At that time Cayucos was composed of Captain Cass's store, warehouse, private dwelling, pier.

All of the building materials were transported by ship along the coast from San Francisco. The house is a two-story wood structure with a jerkinhead style roof. It was originally painted a light buff with brown trim, and surrounding the house were very-well-kept lawns and gardens. The interior was just as impressive with four etched glass doors imported from England. Captain Cass's house was the town's show place and social center during the late 1800’s.

[post_title] => Cass House (Captain James Cass House) [post_excerpt] => Still standing as a restored inn and restaurant, Captain James Cass’s House is in downtown Cayucos. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => cass-house-captain-james-cass-house [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:01:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:01:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/cass-house-captain-james-cass-house/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 99353 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:59 [post_content] => What: Free hiking and mountain biking maps and trail maintenance days When: Year-round Reservation Required: None required Stewardship Travel along the CA Highway 1 Discovery Route in coastal San Luis Obispo County (SLO CAL) engages visitors in over 50 bite-size activities and contribution opportunities. Stewardship Travel adds meaning and fun while immersing visitors deeply in the natural and cultural heritage experiences that California’s unique Central Coast has to offer. Visitors and local residents alike are invited to download free trail maps throughout the San Luis Obispo and the HWY 1 Discovery Route at: http://www.cccmb.org/home-old/maps Volunteers are welcome year round to help build, restore and maintain hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. All work day events and classes are well organized by the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers group, a non-profit organization since 1987 that assists California State Parks, County Parks, and the National Forest Service to expand and maintain networks of sustainable and enjoyable trails. No experience necessary to jump in to help and learn! Trails in Montaña de Oro State Park, near the towns of Los Osos and Baywood, offer bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians varied terrain with beautiful ocean and canyon views. The park features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. The best-known beach is beautiful Spooner's Cove, across from the main campground. The park's name, Montaña de Oro means "Mountain of Gold," and comes from the massive amount of golden wildflowers that bloom in spring. Wildlife in the park features the black tailed deer and the black oystercatcher. The annual volunteer trail workday in Montana de Oro State Park is the first Sunday in February. Opportunities for volunteering on trail restoration include at least one trail work session per month. Two major workdays are offered each year and are called TRAILWERKS: all-day events with free meals, tee shirts, and raffle prizes for participants. The Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers group encourages everyone who enjoys California trail systems to volunteer for workdays as well as practice important trail etiquette that helps prevent trail erosion, reduces user conflicts, and ensures trail access.  More detailed information, trail guidelines, and volunteer locations available at http://www.cccmb.org/ Donations are most welcome and appreciated to purchase trail building tools for all volunteers (if you can’t join a trail workday). Gain a deeper connection on vacation through activities and charitable donation opportunities that protect wildlife, habitat, and cultural heritage sites. This activity selection includes: *A learning activity and/or outing *A conservation/heritage donation opportunity through Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers [post_title] => Free Online Trail Maps & Trail Work Volunteer Days [post_excerpt] => Visitors and local residents alike are invited to download free trail maps throughout the San Luis Obispo and the HWY 1 Discovery Route [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => free-online-trail-maps-trail-work-volunteer-days [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-09 14:21:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-09 22:21:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/free-online-trail-maps-trail-work-volunteer-days-2/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97153 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:59 [post_content] => In 2015 the Avila Beach Community Foundation launched an RFP for a Public Art Project in Downtown Avila Beach. The winner, local artist Colleen Gnos, painted a series of murals reflecting Avila's past and present that were installed on two Avila Beach Lifeguard Towers and unveiled to the public in February 2016. The towers have become a popular “must-see” for both residents and visitors. [post_title] => Avila Beach Lifeguard Tower Murals [post_excerpt] => The towers have become a popular “must-see” for both residents and visitors. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => avila-beach-lifeguard-tower-murals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/avila-beach-lifeguard-tower-murals/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97547 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content] => Highway 1 is most famous for its coastal views, so you'll definitely want to take the chance to hop out of your car and stroll along the Pacific Valley Bluff Trail. This hike winds through a grassy field that ends at a cliff, where the landscape opens up to panoramic ocean views. The unique plant life here is unlike anything else; scrubby bushes and flowers dot the fields and tuck themselves away among the rocky coastline and cliffs. Take your time walking up and down the ocean's edge, enjoying the breezes and scenery. [post_title] => Pacific Valley Bluff Trail [post_excerpt] => Highway 1 is most famous for its coastal views, so you'll definitely want to take the chance to hop out of your car and stroll along the Pacific Valley Bluff Trail. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => pacific-valley-bluff-trail [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/pacific-valley-bluff-trail/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 100277 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content] => What: Kid-friendly aquarium visits
When: First Monday of each month, October through May, 10am to 12pm
Reservation Required: No advance reservation is required.

Stewardship Travel along the CA Highway 1 Discovery Route in coastal San Luis Obispo County (SLO CAL) engages visitors in over 50 bite-size activities and contribution opportunities. Stewardship Travel adds meaning and fun while immersing visitors deeply in the natural and cultural heritage experiences that California’s unique Central Coast has to offer.

Join us for kids activities and storytime with hands-on interaction with tide pool animals and aquarium exploration. Suitable for kids aged 5 and under. First Monday of each month, from October through May, 10am to noon. $6 at the door; $40 season pass.

Gain a deeper connection on vacation through activities and charitable donation opportunities that protect wildlife, habitat, and cultural heritage sites.
This activity selection includes:
*A learning activity and/or outing
*An educational center
*A conservation/heritage donation opportunity through Central Coast Aquarium [post_title] => Mommies & Guppies at Central Coast Aquarium [post_excerpt] => Join us for kids activities and storytime with hands-on interaction with tide pool animals and aquarium exploration. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mommies-guppies-at-central-coast-aquarium [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/mommies-guppies-at-central-coast-aquarium-7/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97540 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content] => What: Kid-friendly hands-on learning opportunities
When: Weekly on Saturdays
Reservation Required: To reserve space, or get updates on program offerings, call (805) 927-6575. Program cost: $2.00/person

Stewardship Travel along the CA Highway 1 Discovery Route in coastal San Luis Obispo County (SLO CAL) engages visitors in over 50 bite-size activities and contribution opportunities. Stewardship Travel adds meaning and fun while immersing visitors deeply in the natural and cultural heritage experiences that California’s unique Central Coast has to offer.

Each week the Coastal Discovery Center invites visitors to participate in its Plankton Monitoring program and other programs. Citizen science fulfills a great need for resource protection of our natural coastal resources. It helps to establish scientific baselines and increases stewardship through public education and action. Visitors love learning and appreciate the opportunity to participate in real science! This program is statewide and its success depends on citizen scientists. [post_title] => Hands On Citizen Science Outing in San Simeon Cove [post_excerpt] => Each week the Coastal Discovery Center invites visitors to participate in its Plankton Monitoring program and other programs.  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => hands-on-citizen-science-outing-in-san-simeon-cove [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/hands-on-citizen-science-outing-in-san-simeon-cove/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97257 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content] =>

A "who did it" scavenger hunt played on a smart phone. Play anytime! Just open the website, pick your desired location and follow the directions to begin playing.

[post_title] => Mystery Thrill Seekers [post_excerpt] =>

A "who did it" scavenger hunt played on a smart phone.

[post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mystery-thrill-seekers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/mystery-thrill-seekers/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97531 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content] => The Boucher Trail runs from the paved elephant seal viewing parking for 1.9 miles, to a half mile north of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. It offers spectacular scenic vistas of the coastline and opportunities for wildlife viewing. The trail includes coastal bluff, grassland, and wetland areas, making it interesting and varied. [post_title] => Boucher Trail at Piedras Blancas [post_excerpt] => The Boucher Trail runs from the paved elephant seal viewing parking for 1.9 miles, to a half mile north of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => boucher-trail-at-piedras-blancas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/boucher-trail-at-piedras-blancas/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97508 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content] =>

Experience an “off road” adventure you will not forget by visiting the Oceano Dunes Visitor Center. Navigate this state-of-the-art center and engage in the hands-on exhibits of native dune and lagoon plant and animal species, Pismo clams, off-highway vehicles, and cultural history. Take an historical tour with a deeper look at the Chumash and the unique individuals called the Dunites. End your visit with a short stroll behind the center for a view of the fresh-water lagoon and all its natural inhabitants. This is a must stop if camping in the park or before venturing off to the coastal playground of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA).

PURCHASE WITH A PURPOSE: bring the education home with you by shopping in our nature store. All sales from the store help support local state parks programs & events.

The Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center is located at 555 Pier Avenue, Oceano 93445. Summer hours are noon to 4pm. For more information and to confirm current hours of operation, please call 805-474-2664. You can visit our website at www.parks.ca.gov. [post_title] => Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center [post_excerpt] => This facility provides our community and park visitors with new educational opportunities. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => oceano-dunes-district-visitor-center [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/oceano-dunes-district-visitor-center/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97219 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:55 [post_content] => Our club is growing and we invite you to come out and give this easy-to-learn, fun game with the funny name, "Pickleball," a try.  We have the equipment, just wear tennis shoes (non-mark soles) and a smile. 

Where:  We play on six new dedicated pickleball courts located at the Old Cambria Grammar School, 1350 Main St.
  [post_title] => Cambria Pickleball by the Sea [post_excerpt] => Our club is growing and we invite you to come out and give this easy-to-learn, fun game with the funny name, "Pickleball," a try.   [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => cambria-pickleball-by-the-sea [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/cambria-pickleball-by-the-sea/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 97426 [post_author] => 0 [post_date] => 2019-03-07 12:00:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:54 [post_content] =>

Montaña de Oro State Park offers one of the best locations on the Central Coast for wildlife viewing. From here, you can see otters, seabirds, seals and dolphins. Watch the whales year-round, with the best viewing opportunities from mid-December through early April.

Just down this trail to the south, the tide pools at Corallina Cove are a favorite of harbor seals, southern sea otters, seastars, sea anemones and many more fascinating marine creatures. Explore Los Osos and the back bay in Baywood for more wildlife viewing.

Be a wildlife steward. Give animals the space they need to eat, rest and socialize. Keep your distance and please do not touch, feed or chase wildlife. Enjoy and help protect this diverse and fragile marine environment.

The Whale Trail sign is located on the Bluff Trail and supported by VisitLosOsosBaywood, San Luis Obispo County Parks, and Highway 1 Discovery Route

The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas, other cetaceans and marine mammals from shore. Learn more in this video

Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment by establishing a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails along the Salish Sea and the Pacific Coast.

Our goals are as follows:

  1. Increase awareness that our marine waters are home to orcas and other species
  2. Connect visitors to orcas, other marine wildlife and their habitat
  3. Inspire stewardship and build community
  4. Promote land-based whale watching
Listen to the interview about the Whale Trail here and read more in the Pasadena Independent article here. [post_title] => Whale Trail [post_excerpt] => The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas, other cetaceans and marine mammals from shore. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => whale-trail-lo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-07 12:00:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-07 20:00:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/activities/whale-trail-lo/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 18 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 118435 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2019-07-15 21:35:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-16 05:35:04 [post_content] =>

El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area

An ancient oak grove, the Elfin Forest is home to trees that grow only 4 to 20 feet tall. Walking the path among these itty-bitty beauties, adults often stand a full head taller than the trees! Skirting the Morro Bay Estuary, this enchanting area offers plenty of moments for seeing wildlife, native plants, and ocean views.

History of the Elfin Forest

At 90 acres, the El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area faces northwest toward the Morro Bay Estuary. The natural area was so named for its pygmy trees: California Live Oaks that grow to a maximum of 20 feet tall. (Elsewhere in Los Osos, California Live Oaks grow up to 50 feet tall.) Even after centuries, these trees remain small due to a combination of environmental conditions and the history of the place. At the end of the most recent ice age, the Elfin Forest did not grow here. Instead, the area was occupied by a deep river valley. The climate was much cooler and damper than it is now, resembling that of Northern California and the Oregon coastline. As the town name of Los Osos implies, the valley likely saw grizzly bears, in addition to saber toothed tigers, mammoths, and even camels. Over thousands of years, the ocean rose to its current level, with sand dunes taking over the river valley. The Elfin Forest grew in the middle of one such dune system. A lack of minerals, nutrients, and moisture keeps the Elfin oaks from growing to full size. Among the pygmy oaks, the Elfin Forest is also home to coastal brackish marsh, maritime chaparral, coastal dune scrub, riparian woodland fringe, and manzanitas. In total, the area houses over 200 plant species, 110 bird species, 22 mammal species and 13 reptile and amphibian species. It also boasts a number of insect species, including a whopping 23 species of moths and butterflies.

Chumash & Back Bay

Locals call the area of the Elfin Forest the “back bay.” Here, a large Chumash archeological site stands just adjacent to the Elfin Forest. Throughout the area, Chumash middens can be found. These ancient refuse heaps show that people occupied the area of the forest dating back at least 9,000 years. The forest was likely a seasonal hunting and gathering point until 500 years ago, when lethal diseases traveled up the coast from the earliest European visitors. Later, European explorers reached the area of Los Osos, bringing cattle and several plant species with them. The sedimentation of the back bay shows that these species quickly changed the landscape through cattle grazing, deforestation, and foreign plants competing with native species.

Park History

As far back as 1889, the land where the Elfin Forest stands had been subdivided into sites for vacation homes. Fortunately, only a few sites ever sold, and even fewer were developed. In 1987, with strong support from the community, California passed legislation to fund the purchase of 51 acres on the forest’s north side. The purchase was meant to be an annex to Morro Bay State Park. In 1994, the remaining 39 acres were purchased collaboratively by the Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP), San Luis Obispo County, the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Department of Transportation. Today, a portion of the forest belongs to the State Lands Commission, while the rest belongs to the County of San Luis Obispo. SWAP works with SLO County Parks to manage, maintain and restore the natural area.

Elfin Forest Trail Stroll

A walk through the Elfin Forest offers views of its unusual pygmy oaks, views of seabirds from a comfortable platform, and coastal panoramas. Entrance to the trail is free, and dogs are welcome on leash. Benches, trail guides and interpretive displays are provided, but restrooms, drinking water, and other facilities are not. The park is open year-round, every day, from sunrise to sunset.

Trailhead Access Points

The Elfin Forest can be accessed at seven different points just north of Santa Ysabel Avenue. From Highway 1 South, just past Morro Bay, take exit 277 toward Los Osos/Baywood Park. Turn right on South Bay Boulevard and right again on Santa Ysabel Avenue. Access to the Elfin Forest and street parking can be found at 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, and 11th Streets. Handicap access is only available at the 16th Street entrance. Mutt Mitt dispensers (for picking up after dogs) are available at every entrance.

Boardwalk Loop

At just under one mile, the Elfin Forest boardwalk loop was built in 1999 to provide access for all ages and abilities. The boardwalk is reachable via open sand trails leading from parking areas and access points. The one exception is the 16th Street access point, where the boardwalk starts and stops beside the parking area.

Viewpoints

The boardwalk loops through the heart of the Elfin Forest, including two platforms for viewing the bay. Called Bush Lupine Point and Sienna’s View, these platforms provide the perfect perch for viewing seabirds and enjoying the breeze.

Accessibility

Handicap parking and direct access to the Elfin Forest boardwalk are available only at the 16th Street entrance, just north of Santa Ysabel Avenue. Picnic in the Elfin Forest and Oaks State Reserve in Los Osos

Docent Lead Trail Walks

"Nature Walks in the Elfin Forest" are led by experienced and knowledgeable docents on different topics each month. Examples of trail walks include an exploration of the different insects in the forest, wildlife rehabilitation, and others. Walks are free and take place the third Saturday of the month at 9:30 A.M. There’s no need to RSVP: just show up at the 15th Street entrance off Santa Ysabel. Volunteers ask that you kindly leave pets at home for the walk, which lasts 90-120 minutes.

Other Nearby Activities

Los Osos Oaks Natural Reserve Discover this other area with pygmy oaks, as well as a 1.5-mile series of trails on the southern edge of Los Osos. Enjoy the beauty of gnarled, gangly branches throughout this protected nature reserve. Montaña de Oro State Park This sprawling state park offers mountain biking, equestrian, and hiking trails throughout its 8,000 acres. Visit beaches for tidepooling and picnicking, or wander the historic Spooner Ranch House, historic home of the park’s early settlers. From any point in the park, enjoy views of its 7 undeveloped miles of coastline. Golfing Los Osos is home to two popular golf courses with ocean views. Try the executive 9-hole course at Sea Pines Golf Resort, as well as foot golf and disc golf. Or head to Dairy Creek Golf Course for a links-style 9-hole course that’s easygoing enough for beginners, and challenging enough for seasoned golfers. Kayaking Kayaking enthusiasts love Los Osos for its wide range of conditions. For confident kayakers, a paddle from Spooner’s Cove to Morro Rock offers plenty of thrills. For those who like to take kayaking easy, the calm waters of Morro Bay and the Estuary make for a peaceful outing. Outfitters include the Kayak Shack in Los Osos, as well as Central Coast Outdoors, which leads half- and full-day kayaking tours across the region [post_title] => Elfin Forest [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => elfin-forest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-18 15:45:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-18 23:45:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://highway1discoveryroute.com/?post_type=activities&p=118435 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => activities [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 279 [max_num_pages] => 16 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => 1 [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => c50a8743218f41837186da651baa1d4a [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

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