Incredible Day Hiking at Oats Peak Trail

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One of the best ways to be adventurous and see the natural beauty of our world is hiking. One incredible California hiking opportunity is the Oats Peak Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park. With the coast to the west and rolling hills and mountains to the east, you are in a truly gorgeous spot.

Today, we will be breaking down Oats Peak Trail and how you can take it head-on. Afterward, you will know everything you need to know about the area and getting on the trail.

Quick Stats

 Location:                      Central Coast of California – San Luis Obispo County, USA

Difficulty:                     Moderate

Elevation:                     1373 gain

Length:                         In and Out 10.1 miles. Approximately 5 hours

Seasonality:                Year-Round – Spring wildflowers

Permits:                        None needed for day hiking

Campgrounds:            Islay Creek Campground



Breath Taking Views on The Oats Peak Trail

wildflowers on a cliff overlooking the beach. beach
Montaña de Oro State Park, California Central Coast USA

Montaña de Oro State Park is in a gorgeous area of California. This is in San Luis Obispo County and butts up against the Pacific Ocean. The rugged nature of the park features cliffs, canyons, hills, and other natural features.

More specifically, the Oats Peak Trail in the park features those same aspects and starts toward the coast then works its way inland. It is about six miles away from Morro Bay and 150 miles west of Bakersfield. So, you are in an area that is not close to a lot of big cities and focuses on natural beauty.

A Challenging Trail for Beginners

This can be considered a moderate hike in terms of difficulty. Despite a fair amount of elevation gain and loss, the conditions do not call for a harsher rating.

Because of that moderate rating, a lot of hikers can take part regardless of hiking experience. Although this is not a “beginner” trail by any means, it can be a nice challenge for those who are getting into the activity.

The trails are very well-kept and in good condition, so that does not add any challenge. Now, be aware that there is poison oak in the area, although it is usually cut back far enough from the trail. There are also rattlesnakes that are known to frequent the area, so be diligent about watching where you step.

Although this is a “moderate” trail in terms of the difficulty rating, do you know what moderate means? A moderate rating means that the elevation gain is around 500-1000 feet per mile and about 8 miles round trip. However, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules about this rating system.

As you can see with this hike, it is a little bit out of range in terms of length, but the elevation is not nearly as much of an issue. So, it is made up in other areas. Depending on who you talk to, these figures can be very different, so keep that in mind.

You Can Choose In and Out or Loop Trail Hike

Hikers on top of a hill
Lunch Break on the Trail

The length of the Oats Peak Trail is 10.1 miles. This is an in-and-out trail as Oats Peak Trail is five miles one way. Once you reach Oats Peak, you turn back and return the way you came. Given that mileage and difficulty, it absolutely can be completed in a day. If you are an experienced hiker that can get the job done efficiently, it can be completed in about five hours. However, if you want to take your time and enjoy it fully, plan out seven or eight hours.

However, there are a couple of options if you would like to extend your stay or take some other way back to the start. One option is Rattlesnakes Flat Trail.

This trail is a 2.8-mile loop that can be accessed through the Oats Peak Trail. Now, you do not have to experience all 2.8 miles as some of this will be connecting to other trails. The other trail that connects the two back with the trailhead is Coon Creek Trail. There are 7.1 total miles to the trail, but that is an out and back figure. In reality, it will just be a couple of miles as you make those connections and head back to the parking lot.

If you want to keep it simple, just go in and back out the same way with the Oats Peak Trail. If you would rather see some new areas one way, consider the other two.

Easy Day Hike at Oates Peak Trail

hikers on the Oats Peak Trailtrail
Great Day Hike on the Oats Peak Trail

Hiking Oats Peak Trail, and the others that come along with it, is an excellent day hike. With the difficulty not being too high and the length not extending more than a few hours, you can tackle this in a good day’s work.

The key to a successful day hike is being prepared for everything. Because you will probably be out there for the better part of a day, you need to pack in everything you may need. This includes water, meals, snacks, and rain gear. So, stop in Los Osos or a nearby town and stock up for a day on the trails!

Moderate Gain Hike Starting From Sea Level

hikers standing next to sign that says Oats Peak elevation1373 feet.
Oats Peak Trail Elevation Sign

The total elevation gain is 1373 feet. You start close to sea level and work your way up to the peak. Once there, you descend back down, you will lose that same amount of elevation.

If you struggle with uphill hiking, this is how the difficulty can increase. However, the trails are super well maintained, and you gain that elevation over a few miles, so it works up in a way that is not too strenuous.

Springtime in Full Bloom on Oats Peak Tail

purple wildflowers on the side of a hiking trail
Springtime Wildflowers at Montaña de Oro State Park

In this area of California, spring is king when it comes to hiking. With the wildflower bloom in full effect, the area is gorgeous. Plus, the weather is temperate and very enjoyable for a full day of hiking. Keep in mind that this is also when poison oak starts to sneak out onto the trail in some areas.

However, this is an area of California that does not see a big change in weather throughout the year. For example, December could bring temperatures of 60 degrees and the heart of the summer could be up to 70, which is a super small difference.

So, if you cannot go in the spring, this is a year-round area in terms of temperature and weather. This is a huge perk of hiking here.

Will I Need A Permit For Oates Peak Trail

hikers hiking up steep hill.
The Group Making the Trek Up the Hill

One of the biggest perks of hiking in Montaña de Oro State Park is the lack of fees or permits needed. You can take full advantage of the Oats Peak Trail or any of the others without having to pay any money or trying to secure permits ahead of time.

The only aspect you need permits for is if you would like to camp at the state park on top of hiking. If you are simply using these trails for day hikes, there is nothing to worry about.

Make Reservations to Camp in Montaña de Oro State Park

Mature Hikers taking a break leaning against a tree
The Geez and Hiking Buddy Steve on the Oats Peak Trail

Speaking of campgrounds, there are a couple in Montaña de Oro State Park that provides you with super easy access to the trails. The campground that is closest to the Oats Peak trailhead is the Islay Creek Campground. This has 50 sites and puts you right by the starting point. So, if you want to access the trail in the early morning or evening, it couldn’t be easier than staying right there.

This is also the main campground of Montaña de Oro State Park. So, if you want to secure your spot in the peak seasons, be sure to place a reservation early. There are sites for RVs and tents alike, so no matter your style, you are covered.

Because this is a very natural area, there are many camping opportunities away from the state park but still close enough to access easily. Just weigh your options and see if you would rather stay on-site or if that does not matter as much, there are plenty of other options such as the Cerro Alto Campground and the Avila/Pismo Beach KOA. Although these will be a bit of a drive, they are still good options.

womans hand holding wine glass on the top of Oats Peak Trail
Days End on the Trail

Great Visitors Center Close to Oates Peak Trailhead

With Montaña de Oro State Park being a popular place, there are some facilities worth mentioning. The biggest of which is the visitor center. This is located in the Spooner’s Ranch House and is very close to the trailhead and parking lot. This is where you can go to the bathroom and get any important info you may need for the trial.

There are also bathrooms at the Islay Creek Campground which is open to hikers even if they are not camping there. Other than these main things, you will need to plan ahead before you get to the area. Stop in towns like Los Osos and Atascadero to get snacks, lunch, water, and anything else you may need.


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