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9 San Luis Obispo Parks To Check Out Now
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9 San Luis Obispo Parks To Check Out Now

Here are 9 of the best parks in San Luis Obispo to check out with your friends or family and discover the natural beauty of SLO.

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4 min read

March 14, 2022

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo greets you with its incredible array of beaches and waterfalls, as well as natural and cultural preserves. Experience the redwoods greeting the sea, meet the wildlife thriving along the rugged coastline, and get a glimpse of the sand dunes protecting endangered plants and animals as you discover the best San Luis Obispo parks. Whether you’re planning a picnic alfresco, a romantic date by the coast, or a day of adventures amidst the groves,  S.L.O. County parks provide the perfect background to match.

These are the Best Parks in S.L.O. to Check Out

Montaña de Oro State Park has 8,000 acres of cliffs, sandy beaches, canyons, hills, coastal plains, and streams.

1. Montaña de Oro State Park 

Montaña de Oro State Park is one of the Golden State’s largest state parks, offering 8000 acres of multi-use trails, seven miles of coastline, soaring cliffs, deep canyons, rich tide pools, camping spots, and basically anything else you might look for in a park. The park's name, which translates to “Mountain of Gold,” comes from the golden wildflowers that bloom all over its hills in spring. 

Visit this San Luis Obispo state park during springtime, enjoy the most beautiful wildflower hikes, and watch the most beautiful sunsets from your campsite by the beach. Montaña de Oro is a S.L.O. County park that belongs on everyone’s bucket lists.

2. Estero Bluffs State Park

Wetlands, intertidal areas, coastal terraces, native grasslands, and low bluffs await you at Estero Bluffs State Park. Acting as a protective habitat for plenty of endangered species, this San Luis Obispo park features a variety of scenic sites and even more tidepooling opportunities.

Want to come across the best lookout point at this San Luis Obispo state park? Hike across the Estero Bluffs State Park Trail that runs parallel to the rocky shoreline. You’ll trek across coastal grasslands, native scrubs, and seasonal wildflowers. If you’re lucky, you might also see gray whales migrating southbound. 

Avila Beach Park is the ideal spot for a family picnic, a romantic rendezvous with your partner, or a fun outing with your best friends.

3. Avila Beach Park

Avila Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Luis Obispo and a wonderful spot for a quick getaway. On your next vacation to this coastal town, plan a visit to Avila Beach Park, especially if you’re traveling with children. 

Kids love the pirate ship, swings, slides, and tic-tac-toe game at this San Luis Obispo park. You can also throw down a blanket and enjoy a picnic with your family with views of the coast, pick up a game at the basketball court, stroll down to the beach, and grab dinner in the adjacent downtown. 

4. Morro Bay State Park

One of the most famous landmarks of San Luis Obispo County is Morro Rock. Enjoy birdwatching, kayaking, boating, swimming, and a range of many other things to do in Morro Bay. If you can’t part ways with its scenic views and fun adventures in one day, reserve one of the 135 campsites and treat yourself to a rugged weekend by the coast; this will be especially fun if you have your go-to group of adventurers with you at this San Luis Obispo park

The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is one of only five sites in the state that has counts of over 10,000 butterflies annually.

5. Monarch Butterfly Grove

Picture a eucalyptus tree grove with thousands of monarch butterflies fluttering about—sounds like a scene straight from a dream, right? Well, if you visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove from late October through February, this is exactly what you’ll come across. 

Located in Pismo Beach, this San Luis Obispo park provides the perfect microclimate for the western monarch to rest during the winter months. They hide in the tall eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees, which supply the shelter and canopy they need for thermal stability. Watching the butterflies at this S.L.O. County park is truly a fantasy.

6. Los Osos Oaks State Reserve

Los Osos State Reserve was created in 1972 to protect stands of 700-year-old oaks growing atop relict sand dunes in western San Luis Obispo County. According to botanists, five major plant communities thrive within this S.L.O. County park: the coastal sage scrub, central coastal scrub, dune oak scrub, coast live oak forest, and riparian. 

About a three-minute drive from Los Osos Oaks State Reserve is the Los Osos Skate Park. A 17,000-square foot concrete park with challenging terrains for skaters of all levels, this San Luis Obispo park provides hours of skating fun.

Vineyard Dog Park is located on the west side of Templeton with beautiful views of the surrounding oak-studded hillsides.

7. Vineyard Dog Park

If the thought of going to the park without your doggo makes you feel guilty, we feel you and we have you covered. Mark Vineyard Dog Park on your Central Coast getaway itinerary and watch your pups have the time of their lives.

The fenced off-leash S.L.O. County park is located on the west side of Templeton and offers beautiful views of the surrounding oak-studded hillsides. The dog park in San Luis Obispo is about an acre in size and is separated into “big dog” and “small dog” play areas.

8. Heilmann Dog Park

Another one of the best dog parks in San Luis Obispo is Heilmann Dog Park. Located in an ideal location for North County residents, this awesome doggie heaven provides everything you need to spend a day in the park with your furry friend. Securely fenced and equipped with water, mutt mitts, picnic tables, umbrellas, park benches, and even a doggie spa, this San Luis Obispo park is a hit with all visitors—dogs and owners alike. 

Hearst San Simeon State Park preserves the rocky coast and rare habitats, encompassing a total of 3,409 acres.

9. Hearst San Simeon State Park

Hearst San Simeon State Park’s location—just a few miles from Hearst Castle along scenic Highway 1—makes it one of the most popular S.L.O. County parks. Visit and you’ll get access to beaches, tide pools, trails, and a rocky coastline to admire. To see the best of what this San Luis Obispo park has to offer, trek the 3.3-mile trail that runs through parts of the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Washburn Campground. The trail exposes you to overlooks, rest-stop benches, and interpretive panels that educate visitors about the wildlife and habitat in the park.

Want to say hi to the elephant seals that rest along the shores of this San Luis Obispo County park? Head to the Elephant Seal Boardwalk—a vantage point providing an ideal location to view the seals from a safe distance. 

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