SLO County Hike of the Week: Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve

The trail: Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve. From downtown San Luis Obispo, take Highway 101 south and exit at Los Osos Valley Road. Head west on Los Osos Valley Road for about 9 miles, then take a left on Broderson Avenue. The trailhead is at the dead end near the Highland Drive intersection.

Distance: Approximately a 2 1/2 -mile loop.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Tips: This trail has a wide variety of terrain for such a short trail. There’s soft red sand, loose gravel and jagged rocks. Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes. Trekking poles may also be recommended on the steeper section near the peak. There isn’t much shade either, so make sure to bring sunscreen.

Dogs: Dogs allowed is Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve portion of the trail, but not in the Montaña de Oro State Park portion.

Parking: There is no official parking for the trail, so find what you can on the street near the trailhead.

Facilities: None.

Description: This hike through the Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve in Los Osos loops into the northern section of Montaña de Oro State Park and has a large variety of terrain. If you don’t want to do the entire loop, the first part of the trail is easy to navigate and is perfect for an out-and-back dog walk that provides cool views of Morro Bay and Morro Rock.

The trail’s highest point, which sits near a small, shady eucalyptus grove about 800 feet above sea level, provides an amazing panoramic view of Los Osos Valley. There are some tricky narrow spots with high walls formed by rainwater, and the trail gets steep once you enter Montaña De Oro.

Clarification: Dogs are not allowed in Montaña De Oro portion of this hike.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect direction to travel from San Luis Obispo to the trail. Hikers should drive west on Los Osos Valley Road.