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Outfitted with epic views hiking Valencia Peak Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park is one of the best places in California to engage with nature and enjoy the outdoors year-round.
By trekking through the green-filled hills and looking out at the stunning blue Pacific Ocean, you know the hike will be well worth your time. In fact, hikers of all ages can take on this trip. It is bucket list worthy hiking to the picturesque views of one of the highest summits in the state park.
Today, we will be breaking down the Valencia Peak Trail and laying out all the important details. Hiking does not have to be just a young person’s game, so get your boots on, and let’s dive into the Valencia Peak Trail.
- Location: Los Osos, California – Central Coast – 200 miles south of San Jose
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1347 feet gain
- Seasonality: Year-round, Spring wildflowers
- Permits: No permits are needed to hike
- Campgrounds: 2
- GPS App: AllTrails
Where is Montaña de Oro State Park
Located in Los Osos, California, Montaña de Oro State Park is known for being a gorgeous strip right on the coast. Named after the very pretty golden wildflowers that will line the hills, this is a true escape into nature.
The state park is just under 150 miles West of Bakersfield and 200 miles south of San Jose. This area of California is known for its natural features. With the coast there, the sites are immaculately paired with the greenery that cuts inland.
On a closer note, the park is accessible from Highway 101 and Pecho Valley Road. The parking lot for Valencia Peak Trail is located just to the left past the visitor center.
One of the biggest perks of traveling to Los Osos is that the temperatures throughout the year hardly vary at all. With yearly low averages around 60 degrees and highs around 70, great weather with not much rain graces the area. So, you can escape the California heat here, even in the summer.
How Hard Is It Hiking Valencia Peak Trail
The difficulty of day hiking at the Valencia Peak Trail does change throughout the trek. The start of the trail is very smooth and easy before hitting some switchbacks and steeper terrain. Although you do make up a good bit of elevation, the views are so entrancing that it does not feel as hard as it would be in a boring area.
In terms of difficulty rating, it sits with a moderate designation. The fact that the trail is very well-maintained helps keep some of the difficulty down. Now, be warned that there are areas with poison oak that can get close to the trail edge. Just be extra diligent to not brush up against the poison oak in the areas where it is found.
To compare it to another area of life, a hard hike would be like eating a habanero. The flavor is delicious, but part of the process is going to be brutal. It may pay off, but it may not. An easy hike would be like adding some bell pepper to your dinner. There is no pain added, but there are some great flavors being introduced.
This hike would probably be classified as a jalapeno as it has a kick, but it is nowhere near the difficulty of a habanero and still adds a good amount of flavor to the experience.
Obviously, this pepper rating system is a quirky way to categorize hiking, but it gives you an idea of what you are in for on the trail.
How Long Will It Take To Hike This Trail
You may ask, “how long will it take to hike this trail?” This is a question that absolutely needs to be asked. You always want to know what you are getting yourself into in order to properly plan your time.
To start, there is physical distance. Without any deviations, the hike is about 4.5 miles round trip. So, you are not on the hook for an entire day’s trek if you do not want it to be. Although distance translating into a time estimate is a bit subjective, it should not take much longer than 4.5-5 hours for those who hike with a purpose but do not push themselves too much.
One of the best ways to really enjoy this trail is to pack a lunch and make the better part of a day out of the experience. Hiking Valencia Peak Trail and the peak itself are gorgeous, so you will really want to take your time and not rush the experience.
What Is The Elevation Gain When Hiking Valencia Peak Trail
A huge factor to consider is the elevation gained. You will gain just under 1300 feet of elevation during this hike.
The starting point is just above sea level, so you are very close to summiting the top while hitting its entire elevation. The peak is 1347 feet, and you will be greeted with an elevation sign when you finally grace the top.
Although the hike is not hard, it is the elevation gained and lost on the way down that adds to the difficulty. Because the trail is in such good condition, handling the elevation change should be your only challenge.
The way down is the best time to really take in your surroundings. Because most of your uphill grind is done and the downhill elevation change is not super steep, it is incredibly enjoyable. Now, going downhill will place a little more stress on your knees and shins. But as long as you take your time and be careful, there will not be too much of an issue.
What Is The Best Time Of The Year For Hiking Valencia Peak Trail
This is a very interesting part of the country because the climate varies a lot from other areas. In places like the East Coast and Midwest, there are large temperature and weather changes between the seasons. This really is not the case in the Los Osos area. Because of the unique climate area, the challenges of battling the weather and planning your trip carefully are not as intense.
However, you can go in the spring to take in the wildflower blooms, especially toward the trailhead. This adds a bit of color and personality to your experience. Also, the summer months will have almost no precipitation. Yet, the high temperatures do not vary much from the winter months. Now, this will be the peak season, so going in the winter and late fall may be less crowded.
Will I Need A Permit For Hiking Valencia Peak Trail
One of the best perks of the Valencia Peak Trail is that there are no permits or fees required to hike. Having a free trail of this caliber has become increasingly hard to find as of late. In fact, a lot of other trails in Montaña de Oro State Park are free to explore.
Can I Camp At Montaña de Oro State Park
That being said, camping in the area and exploring a number of trails is a really cool way to take in the whole area and make a trip out of the experience. Montaña de Oro State Park is home to one main campground. That campground is called the Islay Creek Campground. Additionally, you can find a couple of smaller, more remote sites in other areas.
Islay Creek Campground is an awesome place to post up and have easy access to the top trails in the park. There are a total of 50 campsites in the summer and 25 in the winter. So, you can make reservations at certain times of the year to secure your spot. If you want to be a little more remote, there are a few campsites that are accessible by backpacking.
There is a breakdown of the Valencia Peak Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park. As you can see, there is a lot to take from this location in California, and this trail specifically provides excellent opportunities for adventure and good times. So, if you need an idea for your next hiking endeavor, keep the Valencia Peak Trail in mind.