Escape to Nature in SLO CAL’s State Parks
Seeking to safely venture out to recharge in vast, open-air spaces with abundant leisure and adventure opportunities, with some mesmerizing scenery to go with it? Sounds like it’s time for a road trip to San Luis Obispo County, CA (SLO CAL) – home to five must-see state parks where you can play the days away. SLO CAL is a California-less-traveled region that entices visitors with a laid-back vibe across 20 quaint, individual communities that invite everyone from hardcore adventure junkies to inspired artists to rejuvenate their spirits. And the state parks that dot the region are some of the many places these personal renaissances transpire.
Naturally in the current environment, many restrictions and safety precautions are in place and may vary from park to park, so be sure to check out each park’s website or the California Department of Parks and Recreation to make sure you have the most current information before you visit.
Oceano Dunes State Park
Remember when you were a little kid and spent hours joyfully playing in the sandbox, letting your imagination run wild? Now picture that sandbox much, much bigger, and now you have way cooler toys than a plastic bucket and shovel. This is the Oceano Dunes State Park. Conveniently located next to the largest dunes complex in all of California, you can spend the afternoons on an adrenaline high traversing endless hills of windswept sand dunes by foot or horseback. The park also is great for biking, hiking, and jogging, as it’s webbed with trails that treat visitors to magnificent views of crashing Pacific waves. Don’t forget the fishing gear, as Oceano Dunes State Park is a great place to cast a line with your toes in the sand.
Harmony Headlands State Park
Speaking of fishing gear, be sure to check out Harmony Headlands State Park, a 784-acre, day-use only coastal park located just minutes off Highway 1 and another great site to fish from the shore while taking in the natural beauty of the region. If you prefer more dry-land exploration, take the trail from the parking lot to observe the park’s varied terrain of steep hills, grassy terraces, and million-dollar views of the Pacific.
Estero Bluffs State Park
The 355-acre Estero Bluffs State Park consists of a grassy coastal terrace that gently slopes from Highway 1 to the glistening Pacific, making for picture-perfect nature exploring. The park is a particularly diverse and scenic area of the California coast, featuring sea stacks, wetlands, low bluffs, and coastal terraces, in addition to a number of endangered species, including the snowy plover. This nature lover’s paradise is best explored with a leisurely hike to Vista Point, an afternoon on the beach, or trying your skill at windsurfing.
Morro Bay State Park
Sailing, fishing, hiking, and some incredible views await you at Morro Bay State Park, the perfect place for unenclosed adventuring. If you packed your clubs, the park features an 18-hole public golf course. As evidence of your visit, get a picture with Morro Bay's signature landmark, Morro Rock. You’ll spot this feature just off the coast, casting a silhouette as the sun vanishes into the horizon. The park is also home to Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History which has exhibits covering natural features, cultural history, Native American life, geology, and oceanography. The museum portion of the park is currently closed due to State and County health and safety guidelines, but be sure to check the Morro Bay State Park website to see if it will be available during your visit.
Montana de Oro State Park
Although Montana de Oro State Park translates to “Mountain of Gold,” you might not find any valuable metals. However you will be impressed with the seas of blooming golden wildflowers, and enjoy one platinum experience. The park challenges hikers and backpackers with terrain ranging from rugged cliffs coastal plains, while secluded sandy beaches, the best-known being Spooner’s Cove, serve as the perfect blanket for relaxing picnics in the fabulous SLO CAL weather. If you feel like indulging in a bit of “head-in-the-clouds” fun, be sure to venture up to the 1,347-foot Valencia Peak, where you’ll be treated to spectacular views and calming solitude.