Day Use Area
Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve
Here are some guidelines for people visiting Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve:
What is open now?
The following is open at the park:
- Limited parking is available to the public.
What is currently closed at this park and throughout the State Park System?
- High public-use indoor facilities, including museums and visitor centers.
- Special events and tours continue to be canceled until further notice.
Are there any new visitor guidelines?
Yes, please see below:
- Stay Local: Stay close to home. Walk or bike into the park. Parking is very limited. Do not take road trips to parks and beaches or to neighboring states.
- Stay Active: Keep walking, jogging, hiking and biking. Watch for one-way trails.
- Stay Safer at 6 Feet: Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Gatherings, picnics and parties are not allowed. Visitors will be asked to leave if there are too many people at the park, beach or on trails to allow for the required physical distance.
- Stay Clean: Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.
- Stay Covered: The state now requires you to wear a face covering in most indoor settings and public outdoor spaces when you cannot maintain physical distancing of six feet or more from people outside of your immediate household. For details, please visit CDPH’s guidance here. Visitors should also abide by their local county health orders.
Thank you for your patience and continued support of California State Parks as we work to limit your risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors. For more information, please visit parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.
Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve features ancient sand dunes covered with centuries-old coast live oak trees. According to botanists, five major plant communities thrive within the reserve. They are coastal sage scrub, central coastal scrub, dune oak scrub, coast live oak forest, and riparian (streamside). The oak communities exist close to each other, but each has its own character. The oak scrub has dwarf oak trees growing on the ancient (relict) sand dune. Though they are coast live oak trees, they rarely grow more than six to eight feet tall. The larger coast live oaks are located where the soil is moister. These giants can grow to 25 feet in height. Their massive trunks and gnarled branches twist into all sorts of fantastic shapes
Location - Directions
The reserve is located on Los Osos Valley Road in the Los Osos Valley, just outside the town of Los Osos, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Seasons - Climate - Recommended clothing
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.
Facilities - Activities
At the beginning of the reserve's trail, traffic noise from the busy road dominates. Penetrating deeper into the park, these sounds diminish, giving way to birds singing, water trickling in Los Osos Creek, and wind rustling through the oaks. Trails traverse through the variety of plant communities, and the trail is alternately in bright sunlight or dappled shade. A word of caution: one of the predominant undergrowth plants in the area is poison oak. A sign at the entrance helps visitors identify and stay away from this pesky plant. Staying on the trails helps to avoid contact.
One of the trails goes through remnants of an old Chumash Indian midden (trash dump) site. Fragments of clam and abalone shells the Chumash consumed long ago are found here. The nomadic Chumash had temporary encampments all over the Morro Bay watershed area, and this is just one reminder that many other people have come before us.
There is a variety of wildlife in the park. Visitors can spot a shy plain titmouse, or see a California valley quail rustling through the underbrush. Visitors may also see a brush rabbit darting across the trail, or encounter the home of a nocturnal dusky-footed wood rat.
The Reserve is also the home of several species of lichen that can be found nowhere else. Visitors should look for wisps of lichens and mosses dangling from oak branches throughout the reserve.
About the Park
In 1769, Gaspar de Portola's expedition passed through the Los Osos Valley. Father Crespi's diary notes that the expedition saw "troops of bears (osos)" in the valley, and, since then, it became known as the Los Osos Valley. When the new Monterey mission populace faced starvation, a hunting expedition was sent to the Los Osos Valley, killed many grizzlies, and packed the meat back to Monterey, saving the people there from disaster.
Los Osos Oaks was part of a Mexican land grant that was eventually divided into farm and ranchland. Incredibly, unlike the trees in the surrounding area which were cleared away to allow for agriculture, the magnificent oaks in the park are still growing.