Take a hike in Morro Bay

January 8, 2007 

On a clear day, marvel at the view from atop Black Hill, an ancient volcanic peak in Morro Bay State Park that can be reached by a long or short route. From the parking lot at the top of Black Mountain Road, it’s just a quarter-mile walk up to the rocky summit, where you’ll see panoramic views of the bay, ocean and surrounding morros. The longer route, which starts at the lot on Park View Drive, climbs 1 1/4 miles through groves of eucalyptus, oak and Monterey pine trees.

A favorite of locals and visitors alike is the stunning Bluff Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park, which offers view after wave-crashing view of the terraced coastline, with the sandspit and Morro Rock in the distance. The easy, level trail (about 3 1/2 miles if you go all the way to the end and back) makes the vistas accessible by anyone and passes rock outcroppings, sea caves and cove beaches. There’s even a detour down to one spot with tidepools that are great for spotting starfish, colorful crabs and waving anemones. Follow Los Osos Valley Road as it turns into Pecho Valley Road and enters the park. Follow the road past the signed Spooner’s Cove and up the hill, park and meet the trailhead just ahead. The park offers a variety of other trails, including the hike up 1,347-foot Valencia Peak and wooded canyons, that are popular with mountain bikers and horseback riders as well as hikers. There are primitive and equestrian campgrounds, and Spooner’s Cove is a popular day use area.

For a family-friendly stroll through nature, find the Elfin Forest Natural Preserve, whose mile-long boardwalk meanders through gnarled pygmy oaks and coastal sage to two platforms overlooking the estuary. Kids will enjoy exploring the room-like openings in the 500-year-old dwarf oaks. Take South Bay Boulevard toward Los Osos, turn right on Santa Ysabel Avenue then right on 16th Street and park.

Take a free guided hike with experts who can talk about the geology, history, ecology and wildlife of the area through Adventures in Nature (805-772-2694). The schedule changes monthly, and hikes explore Morro Bay State Park, Morro Rock, Montaña de Oro, Oceano Dunes and more.

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