Los Osos: El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area Hike

Friday, May 29, 2015

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The El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area is about 90 acres in size and located in Los Osos on the southeastern shore of Morro Bay. The name “Elfin Forest” comes from the short stature of the California Live Oaks, which grow as tall as 50 feet elsewhere in Los Osos. Here they are stunted by the local environment and, despite being centuries old, range from a high of 20 feet in sheltered areas to a low of 4 feet near the tallest ridge line.

There is a boardwalk that loops through its center with extensions to two bay over-looks (Bush Lupine Point and Sienna’s View). There is also a boardwalk extension running to the end of 16th Street. Note: the Elfin Forest grows on an ancient sand dune and the sand trails are all loose sand.

In this compact preserve you can see 8 distinct environment types: Coastal Dune Scrub, Maritime Chaparral, Coastal Live Oak Woodland, Oak/Manzanita Complex, Riparian Woodland, Brackish Water Marsh, Coastal Salt Marsh, and if the tide is in Estuary Waters and if its out Estuary Mud. (http://www.elfin-forest.org/about/default.htm)

We started at the 12th St entrance; follow the sand trail towards the boardwalk-Morro Bay Estuary and the Morros comes into view!

At the boardwalk: turn left. At the junction-go straight, this extension takes you out to the Overlook area at Bush Lupine Point. Enjoy the panoramic views!



Exit Bush Lupine Point and turn left at the junction to continue on the boardwalk loop. Walk and enjoy the coastal bay landscape around the reserve.

At the next boardwalk junction: turn left-this extension leads out to the Overlook area at Siena’s View.

Sit and admire the glorious view!

Exit Siena’s View back to the boardwalk junction: turn left at the T to continue on the loop. Look around and enjoy the flora around the Elfin Forest.

At the next boardwalk junction: read the “Seeds of Life” panel and turn right-follow the spur into the oak grove at Rose Bowker Grove. DO NOT CLIMB OR SIT ON THE BRANCHES. The centuries-old trees here area unique form of Coast Live Oaks growing elsewhere as tall as 50 feet. However, here they only grow to about 12 feet high limited by the coastal dune environment. The name “Elfin Forest” refers to the stunted height of the vegetation. (El Moro Elfin Forest Guide)

The kids are focused on a rather large pretty caterpillar on the bench.

Exit the oak grove, turn right and continue east through the pygmy oak woodland along the boardwalk.

When you reach the unsigned open trail junction off the boardwalk: turn left onto the Habitat Trail. (this is an optional extension of the walk-you can opt to stay on the boardwalk) The sand trail takes you for a short scenic loop through the coastal dune scrub and maritime chaparral with fantastic views of the estuary marshes, the Morros, Los Osos creek and S Bay Blvd!

At the unsigned trail junction; turn right onto Orchid Trail-the sand trail goes alongside S Bay Blvd to the next junction. Turn tight and follow the trail back towards the boardwalk.

Exit the trail onto the boardwalk and make a left: stop for a moment at number 19-you are standing at the highest point in the reserve-125 feet above sea level. Looking north, you can see the estuary and Morro Bay State Park. The volcanic Morros form a chain from northwest to southeast. The Irich Hills rise in the south. The Pacific Ocean, sandspit and Morro Bay lie to the west while the landmark, Morro Rock, lies to the northeast.(El Moro Elfin Forest Guide)

Continue west on the boardwalk and return on the sand trail to the 12th St entrance.

This is a very scenic relaxing walk around the Elfin Forest Preserve. You’ll enjoy the spectacular views around the bay and the superb coastal dunes landscape! Shadow likes it too!

*Note: it’s best to start this walk from the 16th St entrance; it’s ADA-accessible and great for families with strollers. This is also the only place on the boardwalk to pick up the El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area Guide pamphlet-the numbers in the guide match numbers along the boardwalk. 

1.3 Miles with 84′ of elevation gain
Time: One hour leisurely stroll with multiple stops
Hike: Easy
Family friendly and Dog (on-leash) friendly

Parking: There is free limited parking at each street end from 11th Street to 17th St. The 16th Street entrance has the boardwalk extension coming clear out to the parking area. It has two designated handicapped parking spaces plus room for three non-handicapped parkers. If you have a stroller this also is the recommended entrance. Note: the Elfin Forest grows on an ancient sand dune and the sand trails are all loose sand. There is also a bicycle rack at this location.

Weather: Afternoon overcast skies with coastal fog. Temps ranged from the mid to high 50’s.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Elfin Forest

El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area Guide:







One Comment

  1. What a neat place!

    Yes, we all loved the stroll along the boardwalk-it was very scenic! Nancy


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