San Luis Obispo Section 9

Montaña de Oro State Park to Avila Beach

San Luis Obispo Section 9

Montaña de Oro State Park to Avila Beach

Until Pacific Gas and Electric allows more public access through its Diablo Canyon property, site of California's largest nuclear power plant, CCT hikers are forced to make this 20-mile road detour to get between the coast of Montaña de Oro State Park and Avila Beach to the south. It's barely ten miles as the crow flies from the southern end of the state park to Port San Luis near PG& E's south gate, or 13 miles of rugged and pristine coast, only the southernmost 3¾ miles of which are currently open to the public (see next section). The land along the Pecho Coast remains wild and undeveloped except of course for the massive nuclear plant located smack in the middle of that pristine shoreline. During Coastwalk's CCT Whole Hike in 1996, the hikers received permission to walk the entire Pecho Coast--except for five miles surrounding the plant. The exclusion of those five miles that PG&E required as a condition of gaining access split the Whole Hikers into two groups. One group accepted their terms and walked the coast through the Diablo Canyon lands, accepting a ride for the five miles. The other group followed this detour, believing that, if they did not walk five miles of the coast, they could not say they walked the entire coast.

We firmly believe that PG&E has an obligation to Californians to provide a route for the Coastal Trail across their Diablo Canyon property. While we are pleased and grateful that they've opened up access to the southern end of that coast on a guided hike basis, we don't think PG&E should be let off the hook until they establish a through route for the Coastal Trail.

If you choose to walk this detour- a provisional road route for the CCT- we hope you find comfort and camaraderie in the fact that some of the Whole Hikers walked it too. Then sit down and write PG&E a letter urging that they open more of the Pecho Coast to public access.
Be aware that you can start the detour from one of several spots. You could for example skip all of Montaña de Oro (though it would be a shame to miss such a dramatic shoreline), walking south from the town of Morro Bay on Main Street which turns into State Park Road as it winds through Morro Bay State Park. When it ends at South Bay Blvd., turn right and follow the latter to Los Osos Valley Road on the described route at 3⅞ miles. Alternately you can choose to walk a small part or all of the Montaña de Oro coast, then follow Section 9 as described.
If you're hiking south along the sand spit, you want to leave the beach at 5 miles at the broad, distinct side trail that ascends ¼ mile to the parking lot at the end of Sand Spit Road. From the lot follow the road, or the trail that parallels it to the north, uphill to Pecho Valley Road beyond ½ mile and turn left.

Walk the shoulder of Pecho Valley Road northeast, ascending to the road's summit beyond 1⅛ miles. (The Rim Trail, an alternate route from the sand spit meets the road just south of the summit.) The road contours briefly, then descends, leaving the park around 1⅜ miles. Continue your descent to 2¼4 miles, entering the town of Cuesta-by-the-Sea. Soon the road turns east and becomes Los Osos Valley Road, which you'll follow all the way to Highway 101.
Follow Los Osos Valley Road on a gradual ascent, passing through the commercial center of the town of Los Osos beyond 3 miles. Reach the intersection with South Bay Blvd. at 3⅞ miles, which connects with Morro Bay to the north. Los Osos Valley Road picks up a bike lane as it continues east. Top the gentle hill you've been climbing at 4⅜ miles a and begin a gentle descent.

At 4⅝ miles you pass the Los Osos Oaks State Reserve on your right, an 85acre natural area with old growth coast live oaks and chaparral growing atop ancient dunes, a pleasant spot for a shady break. Cross Los Osos Creek at the reserve's eastern boundary and descend to 5⅛ miles, then climb over a rise with a cemetery on your left.

Continue east on a gentle descent through the rich bottom lands of the Los Osos Valley. When you pass Turri Road around 7 miles, begin a gentle ascent that continues to 8¾ miles. Descend gradually, then contour to the stoplight at Foothill Blvd. at 10½ miles. Los Osos Valley Road enters the city of San Luis Obispo at 11⅛ miles, where you pick up sidewalks to get you off the busy road shoulder. Follow the sidewalks on a mostly level walk through a busy neighborhood, passing Laguna Lake on your left, then crossing Madonna Road beyond 12¼ miles.
Continue southeast on the shoulder of Los Osos Valley Road, which has lost its sidewalks here but does have bike lanes. Descend gradually to pass beneath Freeway 101 at 13¼ miles and continue to the end of Los Osos Valley Road at 13¾ miles. Turn right on South Higuera Street and walk its shoulder south. You quickly leave town and follow a shoulder bike lane along San Luis Obispo Creek. When you cross the creek at 14¾ miles, you're back beside the roaring freeway.

Follow Higuera Street under the freeway and turn right on Ontario Road at 15½ miles, since Higuera soon merges with the freeway south. Walk the shoulder of Ontario south for 2 miles to its end at San Luis Bay Road at 17½ miles. Turn right and ascend along the shoulder of San Luis Bay Road to 17¾ miles, then descend to 18⅜ miles, where you pass See Canyon Road. Climb briefly then descend across San Luis Obispo Creek to road's end at 18⅞ miles.

Turn right and walk the shoulder of Avila Beach Drive. At 19⅝ miles it comes to Cave Landing Road on the left, where you must make a decision. Avila Beach Drive continues west, coming to First Street of Avila Beach at 20½ miles which leads to the town's commercial district opposite the beach, then continues to PG&E's south gate, start of the Pecho Coast Trail, at 21⅞ miles. If you have a reservation for a docent led hike north on the Pecho Trail, SLO Section 10, you'll want to continue west. Otherwise, the CCT through route down the coast turns left and climbs steeply up Cave Landing Road to 20 miles, then descends to the paved road's end at 20⅛ miles, start of SLO Section 11.

Distance: 20⅛ miles or 21⅞ miles, depending on your destination (32.4 or 35.2 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers, bicyclists.

Surface: Road shoulders, sidewalks.

Access point: Sand Spit Road, Montaña de Oro State Park.

How to get there: From the south, exit Highway 101 onto Los Osos Valley Road and head west 13 miles to state park, then turn right on Sand Spit Road and drive to its end. From the north, exit Highway east of Morro Bay onto South Bay Road and drive south to its end at Los Osos Valley Road, where you turn right and follow Los Osos to Sand Spit Road.

Other access: Anywhere along route. South end access: Avila Beach, either at end of Cave Landing Road or at PG&E's south gate.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 595 feet+/715 feet- to start of Section 10, 795 feet+/725 feet- to start of Section 11.

Cautions: No overnight parking in day use lot. Use extreme caution walking these busy road shoulders: walk single file, wear bright clothing, stay out of roadway.

Further information: Montaña de Oro State Park (805)528-05 1 3, Morro Bay State Park (805)772-7434.

Facilities: Handicap-accessible chemical toilets, picnic area, phone at access point. Stores, phones and water in towns along the way.

Campgrounds: Montaña de Oro State Park has primitive camping. Town of Morro Bay has camping with hot showers in two state park campgrounds, Morro Strand State Beach on Section 7 and Morro Bay State Park about 3 miles north of route, plus two private campgrounds. Avila Beach area has a private campground, the Avila Hot Springs Spa & RV Resort. Pismo State Beach at end of Section 11 has 103 units.

Lodging: Many choices in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, a few in Avila Beach. Morro Bay Home Hostel (805)772-9005 is nearby. Hostel Obispo (805)544-4678 is in San Luis Obispo.

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