Montaña de Oro
Mountains of Gold in California’s Central Coast
Majestic Montaña de Oro
Nestled in the little town of Los Osos in the Central Coast of California, Montaña de Oro (Mountains of Gold in Spanish for the yellow wildflowers found there) is a paradise for campers, hikers and nature lovers.
Where to Stay
If camping is your thing, then we highly recommend reserving your campsite at Islay Creek Campground months in advance (you can book as much as six months in advance, and might need to depending on the time of year that you plan to visit). This campground doesn’t allow RVs, only tents and trailers up to 27ft in size. The amenities are basic; non-potable water and pit toilets. You can buy firewood from the park ranger on duty but watch for their hours since they’re not there all the time.
Each campsite has a picnic table and a firepit. Be sure to secure your food in your vehicle and take out your trash nightly; racoons and other nocturnal animals can be heard scurrying around the sites in search of any food/trash.
This campground tends to attract families for the most part and its important to maintain the 5 mile an hour limit as you drive through to avoid the little ones riding around their scooters and bikes throughout the grounds. Its big enough to give them a sense of freedom, and small enough that parents don’t have to worry about them straying too far from camp.
The distance from city lights makes this a wonderful place to star gaze at night. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see the International Space Station with your naked eye. The sounds of the ocean in the near distance are a glorious lullaby as you settle in for the night.
If you’d rather not rough it; nearby Los Osos and Morro Bay offer a variety of hotels, motels and beds and breakfast for your comfort.
What to Do
Montaña de Oro State Park has over 5,000 miles of hiking, mountain biking and even equestrian trails. A short walk out of Islay Creek Campground is the easy for the whole family Bluff Trail. This 4.6-mile trail affords you beautiful views of the Pacific and on a clear day you can see Morro Rock and the smokestacks of Morro Bay in the distance. If you stay the course, you’ll be awarded with the opportunity to check out a couple of tidepool beaches.
Since a lot of this area was formed as a result of tectonic shifts, the terrain is rugged; the cliffs, the rocky California coast and the spectacular beaches all make for a wonderful day of being reminded of the majesty of Mother Nature. Be sure to carry plenty of water and cover up with at least SPF30 zinc oxide-based sunscreen. Spooners Cove Beach right across the campground is a wonderful place to take a picnic.
This pebbly beach (think skipping stones) with rock formations and tide pools provide a natural playground for the kids (or the inner kid in you!) and the sheltered cove additionally is a great, safe place to swim if swimming in the icy Pacific is your jam!
If you want to feel like a giant, we recommend a visit to El Moro Elfin Forest is a 90-acre natural reserve that is home to over 110 kinds of birds, 22 species of mammals and 13 species of reptiles and amphibians. (Source https://www.elfin-forest.org/). Elfin Forest gets its name because of the California Oaks that have stunted growth; some as small as 4ft, and not bigger than 20ft due to the surrounding environment.
The Morro Bay Estuary is a great place to spend the day. Rent a kayak or a paddle board, pack a lunch and have a picnic on the opposite sand bank. Sea otters and sea lions both call the Morro Bay Estuary home and these adorable water pups can be found floating, diving, swimming, playing as you navigate your boat around the Estuary.
Where to Eat
Look no further than Celia’s Garden Café in Los Osos for breakfast. Seating options are indoor or a delightful outdoor garden patio. With freshly made fare with locally sourced ingredients this breakfast-all-day spot has something for every palate.
If you’re looking for a big-ish kind of breakfast to tide you over through an active day, consider her homemade Corned beef hash. Served with two eggs any style and bread with a side of either tomatoes or cottage cheese. If you’re a Benedict connoisseur you’re going to have to experiment with her variety of eggs benedict offerings with options for surf, turf or garden! Her homemade lemon hollandaise sauce adds a delectable layer of lemony goodness and offers an explosion of flavors in your mouth! If flour-based breakfast is more your style, she offers a delectable array of pancakes, blintzes, waffles or French toast.
Round out your breakfast with a split of champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice and nearby San Luis Obispo roasted coffee.
No trip to the Central Coast of California can be complete without a visit to Giovanni’s Fish Market in Morro Bay. You’d better hurry; the line starts to form by 11am for lunch for this order and pick up at the counter style kitchen with only outdoor seating. Don’t feed the seagulls and don’t leave your food unattended. You can’t go wrong with anything from this family owned market! They sustainably fish and ship seafood all over the United States. Their fried and grilled fish offerings served with their delicious coleslaw or French fries are the perfect compliment to an icy cold beer or wine on a beautiful Central California day!
Sitting on their patio, with views of the marina and Morro Rock can truly make you feel like this is a slice of heaven on earth. If you’re a chowder fan you’ve got to try their award-winning clam chowder in a sourdough boule.
If you’re wandering along the Embarcadero in Morro Bay, turn off onto Morro Bay Boulevard and find your way to Grandma’s Frozen Yogurt and Waffle Shop at the Gathering Place. Personalized service, incredible ice creams, crepes and waffle boats and a sense of warmth makes you feel like you’re part of the family!
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway for two, or for a family friendly vacation for all generations; whether it’s a weekend trip or a couple of weeks spent exploring the Central Coast the food, the views, the trails and the clean ocean air will offer you an experience you will never forget. Montaña de Oro offers you the opportunity for solitude and space and a way to truly connect to all the best that Mother Nature has to offer.
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