increase font use small font sizeuse medium font sizeuse large font size

Montaña De Oro State Park

Montaña De Oro, which means "mountain of gold" in Spanish, is one of California's largest state parks, encompassing 8,000 acres, including seven miles of coastline. Displays of golden yellow wildflowers that bloom from spring through summer give the park its name. Monterey shale, the predominant rock found here, provides a glimpse into the park’s geologic past, as well as a display of colors depending on the angle of the sun. Surfing, mountain biking, and hiking are among the most popular activities, and 300 species of plants can be found here. Spooner's Cove, the park’s main activity center, has a visitor center housed in an old dairy farm building, a campground, and a wide sandy beach with level access but no beach wheelchair. Overall the park has limited access and few developed facilities, but adventurous spirits will be rewarded with spectacular coastal scenery and a memorable experience.

Two trails of varying length and difficulty, Islay Creek and Sand Spit, are very manageable in a motorized wheelchair, and I spoke with a hand-cyclist who regularly works out on the Islay Creek trail. A third trail, Point Buchon, just outside the park’s southern boundary on Pacific Gas & Electric property, offers sweeping vistas of the coast near Diablo Canyon. The extremely steep approach to the Point Buchon trailhead may deter some wheelchair riders, but with assistance my power wheelchair made it up the hill. The park’s visitor center is inaccessible, but a nearby boardwalk with a challenging approach leads to Holloway Garden, a native plant garden with an accessible picnic table that provides a secluded spot with views of the ocean.  
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

Islay Creek Trail

Trailhead: From the Spooner Ranch Visitor Center, go north about one-third of a mile and look for a small pullout on the right. The pullout to the left is larger but a little less level, and requires crossing the road to reach the trailhead.

Length: Over 4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Terrain: Firm

Obstacles: The trail entrance is gated, but the pedestrian opening on the left is large enough for most wheelchair riders. Large ruts made navigating slow; the ride was not smooth and I was jostled around a bit. A hand-cyclist told me that some sections toward the end are steeper than an ADA-compliant ramp. Even with its (minimal) challenges, I loved this trail.


Islay Creek Trail follows an old ranch road for three miles up the north side of Islay Canyon, parallel to Islay Creek, to the park's gated eastern end. Along the first mile, exposed Monterey shale with hues of amber, rust, and cream had the effect of a painted mural. I spent so much time looking at it that I had to turn back before the sun set and the temperature dropped significantly. I was told by a hand-cyclist I met that the view farther east along the trail is primarily coastal scrub and chaparral, with Valencia Peak, the park’s tallest mountain, looming above. The ocean is visible at one point on the return journey. I had the trail to myself that day, but you might get lucky and spot one of the 40 bird species found here or catch a glimpse of brush rabbits or black-tailed hares. 

Sand Spit

Trailhead: Three-quarters of a mile from the park entrance, turn right onto Sand Spit Road and continue to the parking lot.

Length: Less than .5 mile

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Rocks on the trail may cause difficulties for manual wheelchair users on the way back up the slope to the trailhead.

Terrain: Firm


This short hike will treat you to a steady parade of wetsuit-clad surfers trotting to and from the cold waters below. Fog is common, but on clear days the views are stunning. The sand spit that the trail is named for separates the calm waters of Morro Bay’s estuary from the ocean, and stretches north to Morro Rock, a volcanic plug jutting from the ocean at the entrance to Morro Bay Harbor. Far to the north, the steep coastal mountains of Big Sur rear up out of the ocean. The decomposed granite trail starts in the northwest corner of the parking lot and descends a moderate grade via several wide switchbacks. You then travel through coastal scrub about a quarter-mile to a level spot with two benches overlooking the beach, where you can see some of the waves the surfers have come for. This is the turnaround point for wheelchair riders, as the trail then travels steeply uphill through dunes. 

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Visitor Center: Not Accessible

Accessible Parking: Yes

The only designated accessible parking spaces are in the day-use area at Sand Spit and in the campground beyond the visitor center. Parking at the visitor center and at the end of Pecho Valley Road is on firm terrain but not marked. Three-tenths of a mile from the visitor center is a pullout for Islay Creek Trail. There is room to lower a lift and it is on firm terrain but not marked.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Adjacent to the Sand Spit and Spooner's Cove parking lots. There is a tight turn at the approach to the accessible vault toilet in the parking area at the end of Pecho Valley Road. 

Accessible Picnic Tables: Limited Accessibility

The path to the boardwalk leading to the picnic tables at Holloway Garden is soft, riddled with gopher holes, and not clearly marked. The moderately steep approach to the path and the uneven terrain may be difficult for some manual wheelchair riders. I had to carefully navigate my motorized wheelchair.There is also an accessible picnic table in the northwest corner of the Sand Spit lot.
Picnic area at Holloway Garden
Picnic area at Holloway Garden (Jean Morrison)

Features icon key

  • camping
  • hiking
  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: 3550 Pecho Valley Rd., Los Osos
Nearest City: Los Osos
Phone: (805) 772-9723
Hours: Dawn to 10 pm
Visitor center: Thurs.-Sun., 11 am-3 pm
Dogs: In restricted areas
Not allowed on beaches and trails
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, July 23, 2008
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing