Morro Bay Scenic Drive
From San Luis Obispo to Morro Rock, a birdwatcher’s paradise
|Mileage||16 miles (27 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||37 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||Beach Street, Coleman Drive, Embarcadero, Los Osos Valley Road, Main Street, South Bay Boulevard, State Park Road, and Turri Road|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Avila Beach, CA▼, Greenley Oaks, CA▼, Grover Beach, CA▼, Los Osos, CA▼, Pismo Beach, CA▼, San Luis Obispo, CA▼, Morro Bay, CA▼, and Cayucos, CA▼|
2.9 average from 36 votes
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A pleasant drive out of San Luis Obispo takes you on Los Osos Valley Road. The valley soil is rich, dark soil and you will pass acres and acres of vegetable farms. Traffic moves swiftly on this stretch but the view is lovely especially in the early morning hours or at sunset when the light dances over the fields often highlighting the flow of irrigation sprinklers.
In approximately seven miles you should watch for the turnoff for Turri Road. Turning right onto this country lane will find you suddenly moving at a slower pace. During growing season the fields on either side of the road are aglow with yellow and orange marigolds grown here for seed. Off in the distance is the craggy peak of Hollister Mountain, one of the nine volcanic plugs that line the distance between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.
Turri Road continues up a hill through cattle fields and then down into a winding section adjacent to Los Osos Creek. During the wet season you will encounter a vernal pool midway on the right side of the road. You may see waterfowl here such as American wigeon, mallard, pintail, and cinnamon teal as well as some shorebirds mingling with the cattle that come to the pool to drink.
Turri Road ends at South Bay Boulevard where the creek flows into the Morro Bay estuary. Turn right here and continue to the first left just over the low bridge. This is State Park Road and is the entrance to Morro Bay State Park (W1). Take the lower section of the road that runs alongside the estuary. You may view flocks of shorebirds and great egrets feeding out in the salt marsh. As you approach the State Park Campground you will see the Marina area on your left. Turn into the parking lot, proceed proceed to the end and park. Here you can walk the flat trail around the lagoon and take offshoot trails out to the edge of the estuary. More than 200 species of birds make the Morro Bay area their home and you should see a good variety of them on this walk. At the end of the main trail you will be at the edge of the bay and can look all the way over to the sandspit. You might see an otter feeding or harbor seals and sea lions.
Black Hill Trail (H2) on Black Hill, the last volcanic peak before Morro Rock, offers a chance to get up close to the plant life including chapparel, coastal shrubs and eucalyptus groves where Monarch butterflies gather. The 3-mile round trip to the summit has a 600 foot elevation gain and a beautiful panoramic view.
Back on State Park Road continue a short distance to the driveway up to the Museum of Natural History (M1). This is a great place to visit and see the exhibits featuring the geology, flora, and fauna of the area. The view from outside deck of the museum is great. You can see all the way down past the harbor area to Morro Rock. Birdwatchers can use the Museum’s binoculars to view the grebes, loons, shorebirds, herons and egrets that are feeding in the bay below.
A short distance from the Museum is a pullout for a spot called Windy Cove (V1). This is another great place for viewing birds and is also a parking spot should you want to walk up the hill on the right to look at the heron rookery. Nesting begins in June and great blue herons, great egrets, and double crested cormorants utilize the barren eucalyptus trees to build their nests and raise young. At low tide, the view from Windy Cove across the bay to a large mudflat called Grassy Island offers a chance to see flocks American white pelicans as well as egrets, herons, and shorebirds.
Continue your drive out of the State Park onto Main Street and through town approximately one mile to Beach Street. Turn left and drive down the hill onto the Embarcadero. At the stop sign turn right and proceed to the parking lot across from the entrance to the power plant. Park here and walk the boardwalk alongside the bay to Morro Bay’s famous landmark, Morro Rock. This 576 foot volcanic plug marks the entrance to the harbor. In winter you can watch waves crashing over the breakwater or at any time you can go to the north side of the Rock and take a stroll on the beach. You can also drive out to the Rock along Coleman Drive adjacent to the boardwalk should you not want to walk.