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Jonathan Stull | 12.11.2016

Let’s get this straight: California is huge. An outdoor mecca with nine national parks and countless wilderness areas and national forests, there are still corners to explore with the type of the natural beauty you might expect to be protected. San Luis Obispo is one of those corners. Tucked into the California coast south of Big Sur, it’s about as far away from San Francisco as it is from Los Angeles. Its distance from the biggest cities in California keeps it quieter, wilder—and prime for outdoor adventure.

  • Harmony Headlands State Park: Nestled along the coast, the state park contains a beautiful spring hike for wildflowers.
  • Cayucos Dog Beach: Dog friendly, as the name suggests, and expansive, with walks on the beach that can extend 3 miles.
  • Morro Strand State Beach: Just north of Morro Rock, Morro Strand State Beach features great surf for water and wind sports.
  • Bluff Trail Hike: Hikers with wanderlust will find a short trail with optional spurs that could consume an entire day of exploring diverse terrain. Visitors can explore coves, coastline, pine forest, and coastal grassland in lightly visited Montana de Oro State Park
  • Sand Spit Day Use Area: A staging point in Montana de Oro State Park for adventures, including Morro Rock.
  • Morro Bay Harbor: A paddle with plenty of options for exploration, seashore wildlife, and dining options for when the paddle is finished.
  • Islay Creek Campground: A primitive campground, but near hiking options that include the Bluff Trail Hike.
  • Morro Strand Campground: Camping at Morro Strand State Beach with full-hookup sites for RVs.
  • Montana de Oro Environmental Campsites: Primitive walk-in sites with greater seclusion in Montana de Oro State Park.
  • Spooner’s Cove: A popular hangout in Montana de Oro on the ocean.
  • Estero Bluffs State Park: More preserve than park, Estero offers secluded, little-visited hiking trails along the coast.
  • Morro Bay State Reserve: Abundant wildlife and calm waters on an easy paddle in Morro Bay State Estuary Preserve.
  • Cayucos State Beach: A well-developed town hangout with a good break for beginner surfers and popular smoked fish tacos.
  • Morro Bay State Park Campground: This campground is central to Morro Bay, and it is also a monarch butterfly nesting area in winter.

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