Montana de Oro is one of the largest state parks in California and definitely in the running for the most beautiful and diverse on the central coast. With many different terrains and activities to do it is a priority on the SLO graduation bucket list!

During this time of year Montana de Oro is particularly beautiful. With the incredible weather San Luis Obispo county is blessed with wildflowers are able to thrive in this park. According to the Sierra Club, it was the yellow color of these wildflowers that gave the park its name, Montana de Oro which translates to Mountain of Gold.

The amazing part about this park is the variety of terrains that bring an extremely diverse wildlife to the area. According to California State Parks, there are many trails for visitors to hike as well as mountain biking and equestrian trails.

This park features over 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia Peak.

John Flaherty, owner of Central Coast Outdoors, says that he knows this park like it is his own backyard. With a full range of different levels of hikes and incredible tide pools this is a very special place on the central coast, Flaherty says.

“It is a relatively large, undeveloped stretch of coastline that is very beautiful and it has excellent public access,” Flaherty says.

Montana de Oro beach. Photo by Nina Martin.

Montana de Oro beach. Photo by Nina Martin.

With so many different terrains there are bound to be a huge range of animals. Here are some of the animals you can expect to see out there, Flaherty says.

  • mountain lions
  • bobcats
  • deer
  • coyote
  • brush rabbits
  • many kinds of birds
  • California quail

Montana de Oro is one of the most beautiful places on the coast and a great place to take visiting family and friends, Xochi Hernandez, sophomore at Cal Poly, says.

Xochi Hernandez at the Montana de Oro tide pools. Photo by Nina Martin.

Xochi Hernandez at the Montana de Oro tide pools. Photo by Nina Martin.

“I took my boyfriend and my family there and they both loved it! We took this long hike, called the Hazard Peak Trail, up to where you can see the ocean for miles,” Hernandez says.

According to, Hazard Peak Trail is about six miles round trip and gives a heavy dose of ocean views at the top.

The tide pools and sand dunes are two of the other main attractions for college students at Montana de Oro, Cheyenne Sommo, sophomore at Cal Poly, says.

“Every time I go there with friends we always roll down the sand dunes. It’s so much fun because the sand is so soft and pure,” Sommo says.

The tide pools are the place you want to go when you’re looking for animals, Sommo says. As soon as you look down you see so many different types of sea life.

Cheyenne Sommo at the tide pools at Montana de Oro. Photo by Nina Martin.

Cheyenne Sommo at the Montana de Oro tide pools. Photo by Nina Martin.

Corallina Cove is one of the best places to go to look at the tide pools, Flaherty says. These are some of the animals you can expect to find down there.

  • sea otters
  • harbor seals
  • sea stars
  • limpets
  • hermit crabs
  • California mussels
  • chitons

The central coast is blessed with many state parks and Montana de Oro is close enough to SLO that you can’t miss out on experiencing its beauty.

For more information on how to reserve campsites, directions and services you can visit Reserve America.