California's Central Coast

Los Osos, Montana de Oro and the Scenic Drive to Morro Bay

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Los Osos is reached by taking the Los Osos Valley Road exit from the 101 soon after you pass the Madonna Inn but before you reach San Luis Obispo. Turn left and enjoy the view of the farms and surrounding mountains as you drive to Los Osos. The valley of the bears was originally inhabited by the Chumash Indians and discovered by the Spanish in 1542. There is a Chumash archaeological site on the sand dunes in Los Osos dating all the way back to 800 AD.

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We love to visit Los Osos and take the scenic 7 mile drive out to Montana de Oro State Park. (Follow Los Osos Valley Road all the way to the end where it turns into Pecho Valley Road to get to the park entrance) The park includes over 8,000 acres making it one of the largest in the state. This magnificent area is filled with breathtaking views of Morro Bay, its harbor and sandspit. There are campgrounds, picnic areas and plenty of biking, hiking and horseback riding trails. You drive through a huge grove of eucalyptus trees planted by early entrepreneurs planning to sell the wood as railroad ties. The wood turned out to be too soft and the effort was a failure but the trees add to the beauty of this wondrous place. The rolling hills are covered with golden flowers in the spring, which is why they called it 'Mountain of Gold'.

morro spit view view from montana de oro hillside Stop along the way at each of the turnouts to 'check out' the view and take pictures or to take advantage of one of the many trails to the shore. You will not be disappointed!

spooners cove beach view beach at montana de oro creek at spooners cove layered rocks at spooners cove crashing waves spooners beach beach celebration jj and james spooners cove
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Spooner's Cove features a stream feeding the wild, crashing ocean with rocks to climb and tide pools to explore. The campground located across the street is wonderful offering views of the Pacific Ocean and the steep cliffs along the shore.

marsh flowers Travel back through town and take a left on South Bay Boulevard to reach the Elfin Forest Natural Area. It is located just off South Bay north of Santa Ysabel. There is a boardwalk that makes for easy access which starts at the north end of 16th Street. The forest is a wilderness on a small scale featuring stunted live oaks growing on the sand dunes. There are hundreds of types of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians supported in the forest in addition to the many natural plant communities. The forest is located between Los Osos and the Morro Bay Estuary and is located on the edge of the bay. We really enjoyed our walk but were reminded that the weather can change quickly in this area and it is important to wear layers. We were cold and then quite warm before we got back to the car! Oh, and take water!

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Keep driving along South Bay Boulevard and pass the Los Osos Bear statue and begin your trip through the estuary. Look for deer and many different types of birds as you drive but do drive carefully. If you take a left just past the bridge and keep to the low road that travels along the ground level (not up through the golf course) of the sanctuary you will find places to stop and get a better view. The estuary is where the creeks and ocean meet and is a breeding ground for fish and a heaven for birds and covers about 2,300 acres. It is important to keep your distance from the wildlife and stay on the trails to protect this amazing and precarious area.

morro bay state park campground Morro Bay State Park is located on the right and we have camped here often with my grandson James. Whether you camp or not….I suggest that you park and climb up the road at the back of the campground to the top of Black Hill for an unbelievable view of the estuary. Take your binoculars or you will wish you had. Oh, and those things that look like bears out in the marsh - but never move….are bushes!!!

state park marina rentals bayside cafe morro bay Across the street is the State Park Marina where you can rent kayaks and get out into the bay and see the area from another perspective. There are also boat rentals and the fabulous little Bayside Café where you can get a meal or a snack and some friendly chat.

Next stop on the left is the Natural History Museum. This little gem is a delight and the docents working there are so eager to make your visit fun and informative. One of them sold JJ a peacock feather when he was about 3 and told him some story that led him to believe it was local - so watch out - their sales tactics are ruthless! The view from the museum is perfect and there is a lot to learn about the ancient Chumash people and the wildlife living in the area. We have always seen a raft (family) of turkeys walking around here, scratching the ground and turning up bugs but didn't see a single one this trip???? They do charge a fee and feel very comfortable closing the entire place down for a private party so you might want to check and see what's going on. I do know that even when it is closed every male in my family loves to climb that big, giant rock located between the parking lot and the museum. It never gets old!!!

The Morro Bay Golf Course is located just across the street and next to the campground. You can get all the information you need and book tee times online at
morro bay golf course road morro bay golf course lagoon

Just past the museum is where wind surfers are found when conditions are right. You can park on the right next to the golf course and watch them for hours. My grandson advised us this is not a good place to get into the water (aside from the fact it was about 40 degrees!) and we realized he was right as soon as we started walking along the beach. The water seems to contain a lot of 'harbor' and slimy sea grass but the windsurfers are unfazed!

Keep driving and just follow the road right into Morro Bay. You will see signs along the road to watch out for turkeys…please let me know if you see them!!

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