Natural wonders abound on the Central Coast. Every cycling trip can feature an outdoors discovery—or simply another opportunity to visit your favorite waterfall, monolith, or sandy shore. If you don’t want to miss out on the most impressive landmarks on the coast, check out the list below and choose your route based on your must-see selection.
Willow Creek Beach
Located in the Silver Peak Wilderness, this beach and picnic area is a hidden gem covered with large boulders and some jade stones. Willow Creek flows down and pools next to a tall cliff here and a concrete highway bridge towers overhead. The sandy beach is around the corner to the right. Stop and enjoy this remote retreat.
Montaña de Oro State Park
This park’s name, “Mountain of Gold,” comes from the blanket of golden wildflowers that bloom in spring. It features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. Naturalists and backpackers enjoy the solitude and freedom found along the park’s many trails. The best-known beach is Spooner’s Cove, across from the campground.
Standing almost 600 feet tall, Morro Rock is the signature icon of Morro Bay. This preserved landmark can be seen from miles away, acting as a beacon to the town. This area is open to the public, and many choose to walk around spotting otters in the water, others kayak, and some take boat tours around the bay. Sunrise to sunset, this natural wonder will not disappoint.
Hike down a short trail to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in California. It pours directly onto the beach from a cliff 80 feet above, creating a dramatic scene that’s beautiful in pictures but even better in real life.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Located seven miles north of San Simeon, the Piedras Blancas Rookery has been home to thousands of elephant seals for decades—and you can still see the seals congregating on their beach today. Seals are lounging year-round, but the most popular time to visit is during peak season in January, April, and October, when the majority of elephant seals come to visit.
Avila Hot Springs
While this man-made swimming pool resort may not look like a natural wonder at first glance, Avila Hot Springs’ source of mineral water is a geothermal spring emanating from deep within the earth’s mantle. It’s brought to the surface by their artesian well, which allows the water to flow up without pumping at about 130-135 degrees, where it is cooled with a little fresh water to about 104 degrees in their hot pool. The flow of this natural spring has remained constant for over 100 years.
Salmon Creek Falls
From the trailhead on Highway 1, navigate through a couple of grottos to find a spectacular waterfall, where two streams unite and drop 120 feet into the pool below. Continue on the trail for a long hike with even more great views along the way, or head back to Highway 1 and get back to your ride.
Tide Pools at Moonstone Beach
Moonstone Beach in Cambria is a favorite of locals and visitors alike—partially because of the mile-long boardwalk that stretches along the cliffs above the beach, but also because of the beautiful beach itself. Stroll along the boardwalk, hunt for moonstones on the aptly named beach, or walk north on the sand to the tide pools and check out the variety of marine life that call this area home.