Pismo State Beach encompasses seven miles of beachfront, extending south from the town of Pismo Beach through Grover Beach and Oceano to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Among its attractions are a promenade, campgrounds, trails, and a nature center. From late October to February, one of the largest colonies of monarch butterflies in California cluster in a eucalyptus grove just off Highway 1 near the North Beach Campground. Docents are on site daily from November through February, 10 am-4 pm, and give talks about the butterflies at 11 am and 2 pm.
Oceano Lagoon, a freshwater lagoon adjacent to Oceano Campground, has a nature center and a short trail that is good for watching birds. From Grover Beach, a mile-long boardwalk travels through the dunes to North Beach Campground.
Visitor center: This small nature center in Oceano Campground has many animal specimens, videos, and displays on Chumash culture, native plants, and butterflies.
Trailhead: The most accessible trail entrance is near space #20 in the RV section of Oceano Campground. To reach the trail from the visitor center you must travel across grass, but I did this easily in my motorized wheelchair.
Just past the viewing platform the edges of the trail are sandy, so stay on the designated trail.
Traveling north from the nature center, this loop trail circling Oceano Lagoon is accessible for less than half a mile. It's a good spot to look for birds and other wildlife; among the creatures I saw were red-winged blackbirds, cliff and barn swallows, ducks, and turtles. If you're lucky, you might spot the resident beaver. At the visitor center you can get a brochure that describes the surrounding environment. Arroyo willow is the predominant tree.
A few hundred yards past the most accessible entrance to the trail is a path that leads to a native plant garden. It’s hilly, but I had no problem in my motorized wheelchair. There's a lovely spot with benches for resting. Back on the trail, travel a few hundred feet farther to a viewing deck and fishing platform at water’s edge. From here the trail travels away from the water through willows and grasses another few hundred yards, then becomes too narrow and sandy for wheelchairs to navigate.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
The accessible pier, adjacent to the beach, is lit at night and has picnic tables on decks that extend from its sides. Fishing is allowed, but 48-inch railings may impede access from a wheelchair. Shops and restaurants line the nearby streets, and in summer the pier can be quite crowded.
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