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Visit Montana de Oro State Park

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Many of the coastal state parks in California are relatively tame and often quite developed, popular because of the beaches and visitor facilities rather than the natural scenery. But not so Montaña de Oro, at 8,000 acres one of the largest state parks, which includes a seven mile stretch of rocky or sandy coastline, mountains up to 1,649 feet, sand dunes, several deep valleys and extensive coastal bluffs. A paved road crosses the whole park, close to the ocean, so shoreline access is easy, and this, combined with the excellent scenery, a pleasant campground and many trails make the place often rather busy, with over half million people coming here each year. The ambience is not as peaceful as some more remote places like the Lost Coast or the Harmony Headlands, but Montaña de Oro State Park is still one of the highlights of California's southern coastline. The name of this area ('mountain of gold') was bestowed by Irene McAllister, an early resident, in reference to the numerous California poppies that bloom in the spring.

Like many other locations along the Pacific coast, the hills, ravines, dunes and bluffs have their own appeal, but the best part of the landscape is the rocky shoreline, divided into inlets, arches and promontories, with many sea stacks just offshore. Also in common with other places, the bedrock is sedimentary, formed of many thin, parallel layers, inclined by geological faulting, and then carved by the water into a great variety of forms, both angular and rounded. Extensive tidepools are found amongst the marine terraces and gullies, though some places are sandy, including Spooner's Cove - the largest beach in the area and the center of most visitor services - and the northern section of the park, where big dunes stretch for several miles, separating the ocean from the sheltered waters of Morro Bay.