The trail: Cerro Cabrillo at Morro Bay State Park. From San Luis Obispo, head north on Highway 1 toward Morro Bay for approximately 9 miles. Take exit 277 toward Los Osos/Baywood Park to South Bay Boulevard. After 1.4 miles, turn left onto the Quarry Trailhead’s gravel parking lot.
Distance: 2 to 4 miles, depending on which trails you take to the Cerro Cabrillo summit. Taking the Quarry Trail directly to Cerro Cabrillo is about 2.5 miles round trip.
Difficulty: Moderate to extreme. The trails surrounding Cerro Cabrillo are normal dirt pathways that traverse the rolling hills surrounding the peak. The trail to the summit starts off steep and progresses into light rock climbing to reach the top.
Tips: You’ll be thankful for a pair of good-quality hiking shoes — short of actual climbing shoes — for the trip to the top. There’s no fresh water available at the trailhead, so bring your own. And there’s not much shade, so a hat and sunscreen are advisable.
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Dogs: Not allowed on Morro Bay State Park trails.
Parking: On the Sunday morning I went, parking was plentiful in the gravel lot at the Quarry Trailhead.
Description: First, a disclaimer. The trail to the top of Cerro Cabrillo — the highest point in the park at about 900 feet — is pretty intense. It involves a steep incline and climbing over boulders on an unmaintained trail over the final quarter-mile. But there is good news for those looking for a more leisurely hike: There are plenty of trails surrounding the peak: Quarry, Live Oak, Portola, Park Ridge and more. I started off on Quarry Trail, which provides a steady incline as you approach Cerro Cabrillo. A group of rock climbers were scaling one of the southern faces of the peak. The trail’s vegetation is severely drought-stressed at the moment, but during wetter months the vegetation, including wild sage bushes, is a bit more green and lush. After about three quarters of a mile, an unmarked trail heads left toward the summit. This is when you really start climbing. The journey to iconic Tiki Rock — a good place to stop to rest and take in the views of Los Osos to the southwest and 1,404-foot Hollister Peak to the east — is a strenuous climb. But the views are just getting started. After Tiki Rock, the hike turns into more of a rock climb for the final stretch. Perch atop one of the many gigantic boulders on the windy summit and enjoy the reward of 360-degree views. The decline is perhaps the toughest part, with loose dirt providing precarious footing. I’d suggest this hike for someone looking for a great workout and a bit of an adrenaline rush — but be careful.