Montaña De Oro State Park
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.
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
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.
DescriptionIslay 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.
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 gentleRocks on the trail may cause difficulties for manual wheelchair users on the way back up the slope to the trailhead.
DescriptionThis 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.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Visitor Center: Not Accessible
Accessible Parking: YesThe 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: YesAdjacent 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 AccessibilityThe 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.
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|Managing Agency:||California State Parks|
|Address:||3550 Pecho Valley Rd., Los Osos|
|Nearest City:||Los Osos|
|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
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Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy
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