Visiting Montaña de Oro State Park
I have a California state parks wall calendar that features beautiful photos of select parks from around the state. One day I was flipping it over to the new month when I was immediately struck by its accompanying picture. It featured rocky cliffs being pounded by the sea and was simply breathtaking. I figured it was somewhere in Northern California but when I looked at the caption it identified it as Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County. What? That’s not far at all! Immediately, I knew that I would need to visit the park as soon as possible and a few months later I found myself atop those very same cliffs.
Montaña de Oro State Park is located just south of the quaint town of Los Osos and is comprised of 8,000 acres of cliffs, dunes, plains, canyons, beaches and hills. With only one main road most of the park is left to the wilderness with numerous hiking trails available for exploration.
I visited the park in the late fall, the day after my adventure in Pinnacles National Park. After a night’s stay in Morro Bay I got up bright and early to visit the second park on my weekend itinerary. Though still sore from the day before I couldn’t resist trekking the coastal trails and stopped at practically the first one I saw upon entering the park.
Upon first entering the park there are eucalyptus groves on the left and sand dunes leading to the ocean on the right. I opted to trek the latter and was treated to a beautiful view. As I looked south along the coast I could see glimpses of the cliffs I’d been longing to visit so I made my walk a short one and continued on.
My next stop was Spooner’s Cove which provides access to the beach. Unlike most Southern California beaches the cove is covered with pebbles instead of sand and makes for a more unique walk along the shoreline (it’s one beach where I didn’t want to take my shoes off). The cove is also home to tide pools and there were many visitors scrambling over the rocks exploring.
Spooner’s Cove is named after the Spooner family who once owned what is now Montaña de Oro State Park. From 1892 to 1941 they raised livestock, farmed and operated a highly successful dairy onsite. Their ranch house still exists to this day and now serves as the park’s visitor center.
Beautifully preserved, the ranch house also includes a gift shop and a small museum presenting what life was like when the Spooners called it home.
After touring the house I headed to my final stop in the park, Bluff Trail.The four mile loop meanders along the very same ocean bluff featured in my parks calendar and I was very exited to see the view in person.
It did not disappoint. It also didn’t hurt that I happened to visit on the perfect day. The weather was clear and cool, there was a breeze in the air and the surf was gently pounding the shore. It really was an iconic California moment and reaffirmed my love for my home state and its beautiful parks. Montaña de Oro State Park is the kind of place that is picture postcard perfect and really does need to be seen in person to fully experience it. I’m so happy I was able to do just that.