This section of pristine coastline on Pacific Gas and Electric property near Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, just south of Montaña de Oro State Park, opened to the public in July 2007. The 1.8-mile Point Buchon loop trail travels along the grassy bluffs above Coon Creek Beach to the Point Buchon headland, the westernmost point on the central coast, before returning to the trailhead. Another trail travels south from the loop trail along the coast for five miles.
The loop trail provides unobstructed views of the lovely, rarely seen Diablo Canyon coastline. Looking south you may see hordes of seagulls and pelicans perched on the table-like rocks. Cattle and sheep sometimes graze along the bluffs, and we spotted a coyote that wasn’t at all intimidated by our presence. Along the trail is a sinkhole, actually a sea cave that collapsed in the 1990s. A wood fence keeps visitors at a safe distance. The exposed walls of the sinkhole display layers of shale lifted and tilted by persistent geological forces.
Trailhead: At Coon Creek lot, southern end of Pecho Valley Road (road closed to public beyond trailhead lot), two miles past historic ranch house visitor center in Montaña de Oro State Park
It's a fairly bumpy ride and may be problematic for some.
Obstacles: There's no shade on the trail. Access around the locked gate at the paved road is about 32 inches.
The paved access road to the guard station, where visitors must check in and sign a liability release form, is extremely steep and requires caution. It first dips down past coffeeberry and sage to Coon Creek Bridge, where you might get lucky and see steelhead trout, then travels up another extremely steep section to the station. As a precaution I had someone walk alongside me on the downhill, and the uphill section worked my motors to their limits. It was simultaneously scary and invigorating, and required my full attention. It was worth the effort, but I don't recommend trying it alone on your first visit.
Past the guard station the trail is dirt and gravel. Less than a quarter-mile in, my companion had to assist me when I started to lose traction on a moderate downhill slope. At the bottom of the slope, a trail on the right leads to Coon Beach but becomes inaccessible to wheelchair riders before its end. Shortly past that junction, an impressive sinkhole is a good place to stop and enjoy the view. From here the trail becomes bumpier, gradually climbs uphill, and parallels the coast. A steep rocky section at its crest was difficult to navigate and again required my friend's assistance. The reward at the top was unspoiled views of the coast, with many rocky outcrops.
At about the three-quarter-mile mark is a trail to return to the gatehouse, but a livestock fence prevents wheelchair access. From this point the trail continues along the coast another five miles, but I can't verify its accessibility; I chose to backtrack to the start, because the constant jostling from the bumpy terrain had become bothersome. The challenges this site poses for wheelchair riders are, however, overshadowed by its pristine coastline and feeling of serenity. It shouldn't be missed.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
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