Montaña de Oro
Montaña de Oro, or Mountains of Gold, is one of the largest & most beautiful state parks in California. Encompassing over 8,000 acres, SEVEN miles of shoreline, multiple hiker-friendly mountains, primitive & equestrian campgrounds, & a quaint museum-Montana de Oro offers a cornucopia of activities!
Although over half a million people visit Montaña de Oro each year, unless you decide to enjoy Spooner’s Cove (which will probably have a lot of families & a great atmosphere) or the scenic Bluff trails detailing the southern cliff-line, within minutes of walking any trail the coastal shrub is so dense & the park so big you will b alone with Mother Earth at last!
Reaching this diverse California park is actually pretty simple. Follow Los Osos Valley Road until it turns into Pecho Valley Road. Shortly after this transfer you will enter Montaña de Oro.
As you drive into the park on Pecho Valley Road (the main road continuing south through the park & finally terminating at the most southern boundary) you will b met with patches of dense Eucalyptus forests shading most of the drive, sneaking in between glimpses of Hazard Peak & amazing ocean views. Depending on what you want to do, will determine how far-in the park you must travel.
The northern & central coastline of the park is mostly comprised of dunes saturated in smaller shrub admiring the coast, until narrowing into a sand-spit guarding the Morro Bay estuary. There are numerous trails weaving through these dunes & if you go in the morning or early afternoon you will probably get to witness some phenomenal surfers getting tubed on some massive, very dangerous waves!
If amazing surf interests you there are multiple parking lots along Pecho Valley Road with short trails that lead you directly to the beach. I would recommend the lots either before or after Camp Keep.
If your looking to enjoy some quality coastal camping, there are two campgrounds (really cold at night all times of year) right before Camp Keep, parallel to Hazard Reef. Montaña de Oro also offers an equestrian campsite located on your first available left, Hazard Canyon Road, upon entering the state park.
Though you should b aware that they do not offer horse rentals, just equestrian campsites. Additionally, before camping you must register at the Park Headquarters located on Pecho Valley Road shortly south of the Hazard Peak Trail.
The Southern coastline is significantly more active with Spooner’s Cove & the beautiful, convenient Bluff Trails attracting many families & picnics. However, there is not much noise pollution as the waves are so loud, dominating the mostly southern cliff-line, that most cars become inaudible, let alone people!
Also, along the southern half of Pecho Valley Road, there are tons of trails heading east through Hazard, Valencia, Oats & Alan Peaks. Hazard Peak can be a little strenuous, but along with Valencia Peak, I saw a lot of kids on the trails marching-on with relative ease. Oats & Alan Peaks are more difficult, sometimes going nearly straight-up & are solid hikes with ascents of 1373 & 1649 feet respectively.
The views are extraordinary! And since Oats & Alan Peaks border the southeastern boundary of the park, it is almost complete seclusion & pure bliss!
There are also three additional campgrounds descending further south throughout the park. Starting in the center , the first non-dune campsite is located right next to Islay Creek in between Hazard & Valencia Peaks. The second is located right next to the Bluff trails on the eastern side of the road. The third, & last campsite, is at the very southern edge of Montaña de Oro near Coon Creek.
Overall, Montaña de Oro is AWESOME!! Whether it be hiking one of the four peaks, surfing the multitude of breaks, camping, horseback riding, or just sitting-back & enjoying the rare diversity of the park-there really are so many activities for all ages & skill-levels that you could stay for a week & still not have explored the whole area!