The Best of CA Highway 1: Top Hidden Gems for Outdoor Adventurers and Nature Lovers in Los Osos and Baywood Park

Delight in three state parks, the glassy shores of the Back Bay, a pristine National Estuary, Elfin Forest, and a sweet preserve perfect for birding, kayaking, hiking and biking with family and friends

Surrounded by the south shore of Morro Bay and filled with forests, preserves and outdoor adventure, nature lovers are drawn to the quaint seaside towns of Los Osos and Baywood Park. Very much off the beaten tourist path, Los Osos sits on the southern tidal estuary of Morro Bay, with a glassy bay, and an Eden of feathered wildlife. With its mild climate and friendly population of about 15,000, Los Osos lives up to its positive reputation offering a great climate perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, golfing, and endless hiking, biking and tide pooling. Once considered a separate township, the bayside neighborhood of Baywood Park is now part of Los Osos, but still has its own identity as a picturesque park right on what locals refer to as the “back bay” that is surrounded by wooded stands of eucalyptus trees. Just a stone’s throw from Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay State Park, and the Morro Bay Bird Sanctuary, Los Osos and Baywood Park is an ideal sanctuary for humans, too, offering an ideal base camp for excursions along the Central Coast. Once you visit, you soon understand why the gentle creator of Gumby and Poky, the much-revered Arthur Clokey, spent his final years here. Check out this video to see all there is to do in these quaint seaside towns and check out these fabulous hidden gems:

  • Montaña de Oro State Park, Montaña de Oro, or Mountain of Gold, is home to many scenic views and white sandy beaches. Sandspit Beach is one of the gems of the park, located just inside the park with a parking area and marked by a sign. Walking from the Sandspit Beach parking lot access is one way to get to there and watch a variety of birds flock in the waves. You can also kayak or paddleboard over from Morro Bay. Montaña de Oro State Park offers more than 50 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails with ocean, mountain and valley vistas. Spooners Cove is the focal point of the park, with driving access to the spectacular beach as well as the historic Spooner Ranch House (open and staffed with docents daily). The trailhead to the wheelchair accessible Bluff Trail leads to sweeping views of the coastline and tide pooling at Corrallina Cove. Visitors can celebrate Earth Day at the “Earth Day Stewardship Week” celebration filled with activities and special events such as docent-led hikes and a unique affair at the Spooner Ranch House. Locals and visitors alike are invited to join the popular Super Bowl Sunday Trail Work Day each February; also part of the award-winning Stewardship Travel Program that offers trail maintenance days year-round. All events are well organized by the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers group, a non-profit organization since 1987 that assists California State Parks, County Parks, and the National Forest Service to expand and maintain networks of sustainable and enjoyable trails.

Morro Bay as Seen from Montana De Oro State Park Sand Dunes

  • Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve take a walk through the magical Elfin Forest Los Osos and Baywood Park Stewardship Activities include a Self-Guided Tour of Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, and a Self-Guided Tour of El Moro Elfin Forest, where visitors can explore and learn more about these areas, as well as the plants and wildlife that live there.

Los Osos Oaks HDR #1

  • The rocky shorelines of Montaña de Oro make for plentiful tide pools. Look for pools along the Ocean Bluffs Trail and you’re likely to see giant, fluorescent lime green sea anemones, turban snails, rock crabs and sea stars. This is a fun way for the whole family to explore, with something for everyone. Go exploring and you’ll find them full of life – crabs, starfish, shells and more.

Montana De Oro State Park - Arch 2

  • A two-part natural pond system known as Sweet Springs Nature Preserve is located at the south end of the Back Bay area, and is perhaps Baywood Park’s prettiest and most popular attraction.
  • Wildlife Viewing and Stewardship Travel
    As you plan your trip to Los Osos and Baywood Park along the California Highway 1 Discovery Route, plan wildlife viewing adventures and make a difference through more than 70 award winning Stewardship Travel activities that protect wildlife, habitats and cultural heritage sites. Download Wildlife Viewing and Stewardship Tips Here.

101 this way or los osos that way

  • The Whale Trail is a series of sites, including one located on the Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park, where the public can view orcas, other cetaceans and marine mammals from shore. The mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment by establishing a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails along the Salish Sea and the Pacific Coast. Learn more in this video.

Hidden cove

  • Footgolf, the popular new game for soccer fans, is now available at the beautiful Sea Pines Golf Resort. Players test their skills by teeing off on a traditional golf course and – counting their kicks as shots – try to get the ball into the cup in as few shots as possible.
  • The Central Coast Glass Blowing and Fusing is one of the area’s celebrated local artists. Watch as amazing glass creations are fused together right before your eyes. Whatever it is you’re looking for, we think you’ll find plenty of it here.

Turri Road

  • Morro Bay National Estuary is one of the best-preserved estuaries in central and southern California, and home to more than 250 species of bird. Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along the celebrated Highway 1 Discovery Route, Los Osos and Baywood Park join nine other unique coastal communities along the 101-mile stretch in Central California.

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Los Osos and Baywood Park Must-See Getaway

Immerse yourself in these hidden gems by entering to win the Must-See Getaway Contest. It’s easy. Just fill out this form and you could be selected to win two night lodging at one of the town’s quaint hotels, craft beer tasting and dining at the Baywood Ale House, and a spectacular kayak tour for two.

across the estero bay

Lodging Options

Los Osos/Baywood Park is the perfect place for your Central Coast vacation. Whether you want to stay local and explore miles of secluded coastline, go hiking, paddling, biking, or venture out and about SLO County for world class wine tasting, visiting Hearst Castle, music events, and more… Los Osos /Baywood always offers a peaceful, quiet place to end your day. The Sea Pine Lodge, executive golf course, pro shop, restaurant, and spa are nestled among grand old pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees at the southern tip of Morro Bay, and is bordered by ocean dunes, bay views, picturesque Montaña de Oro State Park and the charming villages of Los Osos and Baywood Park. For inspiration, check out this video of the golf resort. The Baywood Inn is located on 2nd Street in Baywood Park close to Morro Bay State Park, making the ideal lodging choice for those vacationers planning a trip through Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and this beautiful area of California’s Central Coast Region. Small and private, the Back Bay Inn is located on the water. All 13 rooms command spectacular and inspiring vistas of the Back Bay’s mirror-like waters and the beautiful coastal mountains of Montaña de Oro State Park. There are also twelve amazing vacation rentals to enjoy featuring breathtaking vistas from dog-friendly beachfront cottages, large ocean view homes, and some truly unique settings to make your stay unforgettable.

Los Osos labyrinth

Dining

There are plenty of great restaurants right here. From the award winning Nois Thai Food to great Mexican, Sushi, Burgers, Italian, Pizza, and Deli, you’ve got a lot of choices. Love the idea of dining with butterflies and hummingbirds? Then Celia’s Garden Café is a best bet for a fresh and visually beautiful breakfast or lunch. Mostly hidden from the main drag, this open-only-during-the-day eatery has a calming energy, perhaps because it’s adjacent to a spacious nursery. The Back Bay Café features world-class coffee and tea, food that is unique and delicious, a knowledgeable and friendly staff, free newspapers to read and one of the nicest views on the Central Coast. The Baywood Ale House is perfect for what ales you. Open daily and serving up some delicious fare in addition to a wide selection of beers on tap. A short drive from Los Osos and Baywood, wine enthusiasts enjoy the SLO Wine Country’s award-winning wines of the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley Viticultural Areas. NOTE: Since this is a small town, please plan to eat early, as most of our eateries start winding down around 8:00 – 8:30.

Good Enough to Eat at Sunny Acres Food Stand

Events

Los Osos has a strong community that loves to get together and celebrate. You’ll find lots of music events, concerts, group nature hikes and ways to get out on the water. The small but mighty Los Osos/Baywood Park Farmers Market offers visitors fresh fruit and vegetables along with live music every Monday, there’s an annual Vintage Trailer Rally in the fall along with a Sea Otter Experience every spring and summer, giving visitors close up views of sea otters through the spotting scopes and binoculars. Check here for a list of the upcoming events.

Morro Rock from Above Los Osos

Must-See Rural Road Trip Map: Los Osos and Baywood Park

There are must-see spots along the way to become immersed in Los Osos and Baywood Park, as well as the 9 other quaint towns that make up the H1DR. Discovering the hidden gems and local favorites along the route has become so popular by visitors that 10 rural road trip loops are featured on the website, making it easy to navigate by car. Download the Los Osos and Baywood Park Road Trip Map Here.

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