California Central Coast

Montaña de Oro State Park

Creative Commons: docentjoyce

Montaña de Oro State Park is one of the most spectacular places for running on California’s Central Coast. This large oceanside park features runnable coastal paths, beaches, cliffs, and hills — just a fantastic variety for running. Here are some of our favorites. Note: Pecho Valley Rd., the main park road, is runnable but there is no shoulder and considerable traffic at times. PARK INFO & MAP

Bluff Trail. Google Street View

Bluff Trail. 2.1 miles one-way, 111 foot gain. A wide and runnable trail along the coast, with great ocean views. The trail runs for 2.1 miles between a southern end parking lot off Pecho Valley Rd. and a northern lot near Spooner’s Cove. To make it a shorter loop, take Pecho Valley Rd. for the return (3.3 miles total). ROUTE MAP

Point Buchon Trail. 3.7 miles one-way. 200 foot gain. This is similar to the Bluff Trail but a bit more rugged and remote. From the southern parking lot, the trail runs south along the coast for up to 3.7 miles toward Diablo Canyon. Can be combined with the Bluff Trail for a nearly 6-mile (one-way) coastal run!  ROUTE MAP

Trails North of Spooner’s Cove. There are numerous trail here, between the park road and the ocean, running for 2+ miles. Dune Trail is decent for running but a bit more rugged. Canopy Trail has a lovely canopy and is runnable but narrower. At the northern end, trails and a road lead down to Sandspit Beach.

Sandspit Beach/Morro Bay State Park. At the northern end of Montaña de Oro State Park, trails lead to Sandspit Beach, which is gorgeous, undeveloped, and wonderful for running. The sand is reliably compact near low tide. Sandspit Beach turns into Morro Bay State Park Beach at the northern end, for up to 5 miles of beach running.

Hill Trails. Google Street View

Hill Trails. There’s a large network of trails in the hills east of Pecho Valley Rd. This area is heaven for trail runners and mountain bikers. The terrain is fairly open, leading through scrub and grassland, and there are wonderful mountain and coastal views. There are options for steeper trails leading to Valencia Peak, and at the northern end of the park, trails (such as the Rim Trail) that lead to Broderson Peak. There are also gentler, switchback-ey type trail that run along the hills rather than up them. One good loop from the northern end parking lot, combines the Islay Creek Rd. trail and the Reservoir Flats Trail. 2.5-miles, 220 foot gain ROUTE MAP


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