Montana Del Oro State Park

PARK: Montana Del Oro State Park
LOCATION: The park is six miles southwest of Morro Bay and seven miles south of Los Osos on Pecho Road.
SIZE: 8,000 acres
NATURAL SETTING: The park includes more than 8,000 acres, is largely undeveloped, and features a wide range of wildlife including rabbits, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, badgers, deer, fox, bobcats, coyote, and even an occasional mountain lion. There are also many kinds of birds, and in the spring and early summer a brilliant display of wildflowers. It was the predominantly yellow color of these flowers that inspired the naming of the area - Montana de Oro or Mountain of Gold.
AMENITIES: Fifty campsites are situated along the south side of the creek behind the Ranch House. The sites are suitable for tents, trailers, or motor homes up to 24 feet in length. Only toilets are provided and to get away from the main area you can go to the walk-in environmental campsites, which are more secluded and perhaps more peaceful.  
WHAT TO EXPECT: Its seven-mile long shoreline is made up of sandy beaches along the sand spit to the north, and rugged cliffs and headlands to the south. The central and southern part of the park features a number of small coves with sandy beaches, the most prominent and accessible of which is Spooner's Cove. Inland from the shoreline is an ancient wave-cut terrace that was long ago uplifted from the cutting edge of the surf and now appears as a grass covered coastal plain. The plain sweeps back from the ocean and then curves up sharply upward to 1,500 foot high hills including Valencia Peak from which one can overlook nearly 100 miles of the coastline from Point Sal in the South to Piedras Blancas in the north.
WHAT MAKES IT GREAT: This surf-laden state park has a great diversity of beaches and waves for all surfers and beach lovers. The unique sandspit makes for an amazing experience and is worth all the effort to get there. Montana de Oro State Park is a Spanish name for “Mountain of Gold”, for the bright yellow, seasonal flowers that bloom along the hillsides. It is not the only gold to be found along this stretch of San Luis Obispo County coast either, but to be fair, for surfers passing through, the visit may not turn out to be quite as golden.
The surf has its rewards and its hazards. Time it right and walk down a tree-lined trail next to a little creek and you might come upon a spot with a two way peak breaking over a rocky shelf with a fast, sucking right hander and a shorter, less intense left. I stumbled upon such a place back in 1973 after some vague directions by friends in Shell Beach. Only Jerry Grantham, “Whitey” and a small number of other central coast locals were tuned in and on it back in those days. I wasn’t even sure where I was going as I drove past the massive, natural, seaside landmark that is Morro Rock.
The drive through Montana de Oro State Park itself is beautiful, a great place to spend a day in a natural setting. When I luckily guessed where to park and walked through the forest to this particular surf spot, I was stunned to have timed it with solid six-foot, glassy, late spring-time perfection. Who knew?
This was rare, I came to find out, and Whitey, with his long mane of white-blonde hair was out and charging it with four or five others. Even being respectful while out there, the mood was just barely cordial, but I got my share and it was a challenging rush, late-dropping into those ledging, wedging walls. I visited a handful of times after, never got it as good, and as the word spread through the surfing pipeline, so did a grumpier mood by some locals.
One day I surfed it on a smallish day with an onshore wind and only a couple guys out.  Mellow enough, but when I came back to my car, the side window was smashed-in and my other board was stolen along with a wetsuit. Oddly enough, my wallet and a super 8 movie camera was sitting right there as well, just under a towel and were left untouched. I don’t know if it was a message being sent or just dumb luck, but for me, the writing was on the wall. In spite of the laid-back atmosphere of the park itself, there are areas here that local surfers do not want the welcome matt put out for. Unusual, being on a state park, but localism doesn’t really have boundaries and I’ve heard the mood now can get downright surly on any given day.
I’m just glad I experienced it in an innocent manner and ended up scoring. I can enjoy the rest of the beauty of the park now.
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