Hazard Canyon Reef

Directions:  The trail begins on the north side of the parking area, where long, wide steps descend into Hazard Canyon.  At the bottom, cross a wooden boardwalk alongside a small creek to Hazard Canyon Reef, where surfers dwell and tidepools can be investigated at the base of the cliffs.  Another trail here detours up the bluffs to a viewpoint of the rugged coastline.  At your leisure, head south through the tidepools beneath the cliffs, and after 2/3rds of a mile, you will reach an unmarked trail that cuts up through the sand dunes to the top of the bluffs.  This stretch should ONLY be attempted during low tides, because otherwise the waves may wash you out to sea.  

Distance: 2 miles round-trip

Time: 1.5 hours

Highlights:  This trail at Montaña de Oro State Park leads down narrow Hazard Canyon to Hazard Canyon Reef, a rocky beach cove perfect for tidepool explorations.  If the tide is out, rock-hopping along the base of the cliffs is possible, and a loop may be done, returning to the parking area via the Dune Trail.

Similarities/Differences:  Rock-hopping across tidepools can be just as fun as rock-hopping down Rancho Alegre’s Tequepis Creek, but you will be tempted to delay your journey often, because every tidepool contains the potential for new animal discoveries.

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy, but challenging and potentially dangerous during high tides.  Beware slipping on rocks covered with kelp and algae.  As they say, “Green and brown, you’ll go down; white and grey, you’re okay.”

Trailhead: Take the Los Osos Exit from Highway 101 and follow Los Osos Valley Road 10 miles to the town of Los Osos.  From the first traffic light encountered in Los Osos (at South Bay Blvd.), continue for 2.5 miles on Los Osos Valley Road until you reach the large (3’X6’) entrance sign to Montaña de Oro State Park.  By this point, Los Osos Valley Road has curved south and become Pecho Valley Road.  From the entrance sign, continue 1.6 miles to a large parking lot on the right, which is at the south end of a huge eucalyptus grove immediately after you see the entrance to Camp K.E.E.P. on your left.

Credit: Photos courtesy of Paul Grafton and CA State Parks.  The website for Montaña de Oro State Park can be found at


Above the cliffs you will reach a junction.  Straight ahead is a parking area by the park road.  The right path heads to the visitor center and Spooner’s Cove.  Instead, take a left, and a half-mile later the trail splits again. Bear right at this junction and return to the eucalyptus grove and your vehicle.

- click on map to enlarge -