What to do at Montaña de Oro State Park

October 5, 2022


There is more to Montaña de Oro State Park than its cobalt blue waters and sweeping ocean views. Located 25 minutes from downtown SLO, the park, with its sharp coastal mountains in the background, offers visitors a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Add in idyllic views and wildlife sightings, and you have the makings of an exciting family-friendly tour. 


Here are some of the best things to do at Montaña de Oro State Park:


Hike Bluffs Trail

Get your adrenaline pumping in this scenic trail that weaves through grassy knolls, winding around trees, and scrub brush. Around 2 miles long one way and with 90 feet of elevation change, Bluffs Trail impresses you with tidepools, coves, rock islands, wildlife sightings, natural bridges, and rugged coastlines. While mostly flat, there are a few steep sections where you’ll have to use your hands for balance. It’s well-marked and open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians alike. The trail takes around 90 minutes to hike, but there’s so much to see and do along the way that you should allot at least 3-4 hours to really make the most of the experience. Dogs are not allowed, so leave your fur friends at home for now. 


Kayak the Spooners Cave

Hear the sweet lull of the ocean as you kayak Spooners Cave. Spanning about 8,000 acres and 7 miles of beachline, Montaña de Oro State Park offers a unique coastline experience. Plenty of kayak rentals are nearby, so you can wade your way through the waters. The Spooner’s Cove Beach sits in a cove where Islay Creek rushes into the Pacific Ocean in Montana de Oro State Park. Visitors can explore tide pools, caves, and unique rock formations surrounding this beautiful beach at low tide. As one of the many accessible beaches within Montaña de Oro State Park, Spooners Cave is an excellent location for swimming, surfing, and kayaking. It’s home to diverse wildlife like seals, otters, and birds. You can also explore the tidepools, picnic around the scenic spot, swim in the pristine waters with the dolphins, whales, or seals, or explore underwater marine life. Camp in the Islay Creek Campground and Visitor center if you want to explore the place further. 


Climb up Valencia Peak

Valencia Peak offers sweeping views of the Central Coast from its 1,347 feet peak. Although it is one of the highest summits in Montana de Oro, Valencia Peak has a steady yet comfortable trail, which makes it friendly even for newbies. Begin your trail from the parking lot south of the famous Spooners Cove. Go left at the junction with Rattlesnake Flats Trail, where you can see an old trail leading straight towards the summit. However, if this is your first time climbing Valencia Peak or if you aren’t an experienced climber, it’s best to follow the new trail. The new route uses more switchbacks to ease the ascent. Valencia Peak Trail is one of the best Montana de Oro hikes that crosses a couple of level steps in the terrain that offer inspiring ocean views on the scenic climb to a summit with 360-degree views. 


Take a self-guided tour at the Historic Ranch House‍

History enthusiasts would enjoy a self-guided tour at the Historic Ranch House. The Spooner’s 1892 Ranch House is a great place to learn about the early settlers’ way of life. Take your family and friends on a self-guided tour and explore the ranchhouse, which has preserved exhibits and activities. Learn about the Native American people who first lived there, followed by Mexican land granted rancheros. Explore the Spooner family’s seaside dairy and the wild creatures that call Montaña de Oro State Park home. There are interactive displays, which make a memorable destination for anyone interested in history. There’s also a gift shop, general store, and visitor center on the premises. 


Explore local tidepool

Your Montana de Oro experience is not complete without exploring the gorgeous tidepools around the area. Montana de Oro tide pools are magnificent no matter the time of the year.  The rock formations in the tide pools are quite rugged and can make for a challenging walk. The best times to visit are during low tide when you can observe sea anemones, crabs, snails—and other fascinating creatures. Because tide pools are only accessible during low tide, you must plan your visit around the tide. Best to go an hour before low tide, so you have time to explore the area. The most accessible tide pools to reach are on the south side of the bay. Walk south along the beach until rocky areas and tide pools begin. North-side locations are more difficult to access, but some good areas exist. Besides checking the tides, wear appropriate shoes for comfort and safety. 




Whether you are visiting with your family or friends, Sand Inn & Suites will make you feel at home with our immaculate rooms, outdoor pool and spa. After a day’s trip exploring Montaña de Oro State Park, you can take side trips to famous breweries, galleries, museums, and restaurants just a short walk away from our budget friendly hotel.

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