The trail system in and around Morro Bay can be overwhelming.  Here are some of the best hikes in Morro Bay, and a great place to start exploring.      

Best Views:

Black Hill

  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles or ½ mile option
  • Type of Trail: dirt

The hike up Black Hill is a local favorite. It offers a panoramic view of Morro Bay.  Choose from a 3-mile round-trip hike*, or a shorter version^ of only .6 miles. If you look east from the top of the hill, you’ll see several of the creeks that empty into the estuary.  And you can’t miss Morro Rock to the northwest.   

*For the full hike, take the South Bay Boulevard exit and take a right onto Parkview Drive where you will find the trailhead. 

^For the shorter hike, drive up past the golf course, and park at the Black Hill Trailhead. Follow the dirt path uphill until you reach the boulder-studded top.

Local Tip: leave the car at your hotel and walk to the end of Ridgeway Street where you can pick up a connecting trail to the peak. 

Cerro Alto –

  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Type of Trail: singletrack

Off Highway 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero, and in Los Padres National Forest, is a 5-mile loop to the top of Cerro Alto.  For this hike expect lots of climbing (over 1,500 feet in elevation gain) but great reward at the top with views.  On clear days you can see Morro Rock and the ocean in the distance past miles of rolling hills.  Off 41 follow signs for Cerro Alto Trail, park in the lot at the dead end of the road and take the trailhead off this lot.  To hike this peak, a day pass costs $10.     

Best Accessible Trails:

Marina Peninsula Trail –

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: ½ mile
  • Type of Trail: boardwalk

This .5-mile-long trail begins in the parking lot of the Morro Bay State Park Marina and meanders through the estuary.  From the boardwalk you can see the salt marsh, mud flats, sandspit and Morro Rock. 

Marina Point

Cloisters Wetland –

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type of Trail: paved and boardwalk

Cloisters Park is a 2.6-acre wildlife habitat, with a freshwater lagoon, located in North Morro Bay.  Take San Jacinto Street off Highway 1 and turn left on Coral Avenue.  Park in the parking lot at Cloisters Community Park.  The paved trail goes through the park.  When the path forks go to the right to the wetlands or to the left to go to the beach and the dunes. 

Local Tip: you can also access the boardwalk from the parking lot at the end of Azure Street. 

Best Variety:

Morro Bay State Park and Montana de Oro State Park are renowned for their spectacular scenery produced over millions of years by volcanic activity, plate tectonic interactions (subduction and collision), and erosion.1  They both offer diverse trail systems for visitors to enjoy this landscape.

Morro Bay State Park Favorite – Cerro Cabrillo

  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult
  • Distance: 2 ½ miles
  • Type of Trail: singletrack

The Cerro Cabrillo Peak trailhead is located on the east side of South Bay Boulevard inside the State Park.  The trail has areas of flat path as well as steep climbing near the peak.  Wildflowers and great views out over Morro Bay are the highlights of this hike.    

For more information about the Morro Bay State Park stop in the Museum of Natural History at 20 State Park Road. 

Montana De Oro State Park Favorite – Bluff Trail

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 4 mile loop
  • Type of Trail: paved and dirt

Bluff Trail follows the cliffs and rugged coastline, affording views of tide pools, rock islands, natural bridges and beaches.  Hike it in the spring to see why the park is called “Mountain of Gold” with all the golden wildflowers.  The path is level and suitable for all ages and levels of hikers.  Bluff Trail is 2 miles long in one direction with many side trails to extend the hike.

Montana De Oro Cliffs

Best Views of the Estuary:

Elfin Forest –

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Type of Trail: boardwalk

The Elfin Forest is an accessible, 1-mile boardwalk trail through the beautiful oak forest.  The trail is a showcase for multitude of flowers and animals, as it passes through eight distinct environmental types.  The forest is maintained by the Small Wilderness Areas Preservation, which offers periodic docent-led walks. 

Local Tip: you can find upcoming tour topics for the docent-led walks here

Portola Point –

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Type of Trail: singletrack

This trail is inside Morro Bay State Park.  Begin at the Quarry Trail, continue on to the Live Oak Trail and then to Portola Point Trail.  The path moves through the hills and rewards hikers with great views of the estuary and beyond. 



Enjoy the extensive trail system in Morro Bay's backyard, but please be aware that many of these trails are rustic and without facilities.  Plan ahead and please pack out everything you take in.  Happy hiking!   


1California State Parks Website,