Environment Planet Earth Montana De Oro: The Mountain of Gold By Jaymi Heimbuch Writer California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer specializing in wildlife conservation. She is the author of The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Jaymi Heimbuch Updated December 12, 2019 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Planet Earth Outdoors Weather Conservation Something for everyone Photo: Mr Phil Price [CC by SA-3.0]/Wikimedia Commons California's Montaña de Oro state park has it all — rocky and dramatic shorelines, beautiful plants and wildlife to enjoy, miles of trails to explore, and of course, panoramic views. Click through these photos to learn about this must-see state park and everything it has to offer. Fields of golden poppies Mike Baird/Flickr. Montaña de Oro means "Mountain of Gold" in Spanish and for good reason. During spring, the hillsides are covered in blankets of golden poppies, the California state flower. Creatures great and small Mike Baird/Flickr. Montaña de Oro is a paradise for naturalists, birders, backpackers and hikers. The area is packed with wildlife from small creatures living in the tidepools to the birds and larger mammals living in the hillsides and canyons. Hiker's paradise Mike Baird/Flickr. The park has nearly 8,000 acres of land and is one of the largest state parks in California. Hikes include Bluff Trail, which features long stretches of flat terrain near the cliffs, and Valencia Peak Trail, which challenges hikers to reach the top and rewards them with amazing views. From the top you can see nearly 100 miles of coastline. Diversity in wing and beak Mike Baird/Flickr. Birders delight in the diversity of species to be found in Montaña de Oro state park. Long-billed curlews, pictured here, are a common site as they feed along the surfline on the beaches. Mmmmm! Breakfast! Donald Quintana/Flickr. Starting a hike first thing in the morning is a great way to spot wildlife as more species are out in the early morning and evening hours. If you are very lucky, you may spot a bobcat or two as they hunt for rodents. Not just on lily pads Donald Quintana/Flickr. Pacific tree frogs can be spotted if you have a sharp eye. These tiny creatures can be shades of greens or browns. They can also change color over time, even as quickly as within a few hours. Hiking partners Donald Quintana/Flickr. This long-tailed weasel is one of the many small mammal species visitors might spot on the trails. Other species include brush rabbits, black-tailed hares, opossums and raccoons. Hikers may also see deer and coyotes on the inland trails. Diverse marine life Desmond Talkington/Flickr. Along the shore, tidepools are filled with amazing creatures, like this sea anemone. Black oyster-catchers, hermit crabs, starfish, and many other species can be seen on the rocks, while out in the water visitors may see dolphins, sea lions and other marine mammals. Educational tours Mike Baird/Flickr. Volunteer docents lead tours of the tidepools for visitors, who can learn about many of the species that call the area home. Docents and park rangers also lead other educational nature talks throughout the summer. Outdoor fun for everyone docentjoyce/Flickr. Activities to be enjoyed at Montaña de Oro include horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, hiking and camping. Camp prepared Davey Gonzalez/Flickr. There are 40 campsites in Montaña de Oro, all with only the basics. Camping in this beautiful park is an escape from the bustle of daily life and urban noise. While you don't exactly need to "rough it," there are no stores, so be sure to pack all the supplies you might want for your stay. Dangerous sights Mike Baird/Flickr. Montaña de Oro is home to a lot of wildlife and that includes some species to be wary of. Be sure to keep an eye and ear out for rattle snakes which are fairly common in the area. If you see one, simply back away and give it plenty of room as you pass. Hiking treks Fred Moore/Flickr. There are trails for hiking as well as for horseback riding. Most of the trails and loops take between three and four hours to complete. While many are maintained, such as this stretch of the Coon Creek loop, some trails are rugged. Bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots! Rocky waters Mike Baird/Flickr. Close to a million people visit Montaña De Oro each year. Not only is it the open spaces and wildlife that attracts visitors, but also the geological and cultural history of the area. The area was once home to Chumash Indians, and in more recent history, ranchers. The park became an official state park on April 24, 1965. Meadows to waves Docentjoyce/Flickr. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Chumash Indians lived along the coastline from Morro Bay to Malibu, including in what is now Montaña de Oro state park. Visitors can still see traces of Chumash middens, or refuse mounds, and village sites. Must-see destination Mike Baird/Flickr. As one of California's largest state parks, Montaña de Oro has so much to offer visitors. A broad array of activities, flora, fauna and vistas makes Montaña de Oro a favorite among locals, and a must-see destination for travelers. The next time you're planning an outing or camping getaway, consider this beautiful place!