Saturday, April 6, 2013

Not Just for Elves: El Moro Elfin Forest

Date: January 21, 2013
Place: El Moro Elfin Forest, Los Osos, California
Coordinates: 35.33177, -120.82622
Difficulty: easy

South of Morro Bay State Park and east of the bay itself there is a little nature area called the El Moro Elfin Forest, right at the outskirts of the town of Los Osos. On Monday morning, the last day of our MLK camping trip to Morro Bay we broke camp and went with our friends to check out the Elfin Forest.
The hills of Morro Bay State Park, a view across the Elfin Forest
There are several entrances to this park, all extending from the streets of Los Osos. We parked at the end of 15th street and started the loop from there.
A view to the northwest to the estuary and Morro Rock. 
The single trail there is an easy board walk loop about 1 mile long with a few short extensions leading to observation decks. We started walking west, going clockwise on the loop trail, following the children who run ahead and vanished around the turn.
The area is almost completely covered with thick chaparral of changing heights. The little exposed spots between the shrubs revealed reddish sand.
Coastal shrubs holding the sand in place. View to the northwest. 
The observation deck at the southwestern overlooks the estuary. We were there during low tide. The mud flats were exposed. A mesh of canals and rivulets encircled mud mound, a playground for ducks and grebes.

The Elfin Forest is named so because it is a home for a beautiful grove of pygmy oaks. The north side of the loop trail goes through this grove. There is a lovely corner there, right under those trees.
The Pygmy Oaks of the Elfin Forest
These oaks, like many others, bear galls. The residents of the galls we saw had already moved out.
A Pygmy Oak gall. 
The most challenging part of this hike was to keep track of the children and stopping them from climbing the oaks. We could easily have walked the entire loop in less than 30 minutes, but it did take us a good 2 hours. We kept stopping for every pretty sight and there were many pretty sights there. This hummingbird, for example.
Anna's hummingbird, female
But our prized sighting was this bird: the California thrasher.
California thrasher
This lovely nature area is the perfect stop for anyone who likes short easy walks packed with nature of both plant and animal kind, as well as beautiful scenery. Definitely one of the gems along California highway 1.


  1. seems as a lovely place indeed

  2. I don't know if my previous comment went through....I was saying that we visited nearby Los osos nature preserve and it was also worth it, a hike of about 1.5 hours in a shady grove of mossy oaks.....and it seems to be fairly unknown except from the locals.....

    1. Yes, Los Osos Oaks is a beautiful preserve. I visited it a while back. but was busy managing my kids and didn't take photos. I look forward to a chance of visiting again soon. Thank you!