Montana de Oro is a park with over 8000 acres of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, streams, canyons, coastal plains, and hills. “Mountain of Gold” is the English translation for this naturalist and backpacker heaven
The name came from Irene McAlister a former property owner who fancied finding black gold in the hills. Her ranch and prospective oil field went bankrupt in the 60’s and the state purchased the lands. But even the State Parks offer the flower explanation for the name, officially stating that “Mountain of Gold comes from the golden wildflowers that bloom in spring.”
Hiking is probably the most popular activity at the park and there are numerous trails to try. One of the easiest is the Bluffs Trail. Here there are great views of the park’s eroded marine terraces and its offshore sea stack, Grotto Rock. The flat trail winds along the top of Montana de Oro’s shale and sediment bluffs that are constantly being formed and reformed by the pounding ocean.
At low tide Corallina Cove has tidepools with ochre sea stars, urchins, anemones, and sea snails. Harbor seals lounge on the rocks and sea otters bob around in the surf.
Valencia Peak is the tallest spot in the park. It is two miles to the top of the peak at an elevation of 1,347 feet. On a clear day the view extends from Point Sal in the South to Piedras Blancas in the north.
Other trails are the Coon Creek that follows the creek and has coastal sage scrub alongside, with oak and pine woodlands on the steep side slopes. Another popular walk is to Hazard Reef where through coastal scrub and sand dunes to the beach.
At Spooner’s Cove, located right across from the Visitor Center, enjoy the ocean and watch as waves surge through the colorful rock outcroppings. Here you can practice photographing the waves trying both stop action and motion. Enjoy!