Situated in a beautiful setting near mountains, rugged ocean cliffs, and pristine nature, Islay Creek Campground offers a serene place to camp in Central California. This campground is an ideal place to stay for nature lovers and families who are looking for a peaceful camping getaway on the coast.
Islay Creek Campground is located within Montaña de Oro State Park which offers lots of fun outdoor activities, hiking and mountain biking trails. This is a smaller campground that is not well known – ideal for those who want to feel submerged in the wilderness away from city crowds.
We just returned from a weekend camping trip at Islay Campground and are here to share tips on what you can expect during your stay.
This guide covers all you need to know about staying at Islay Creek Campground including campground location, what to do in the area, and other helpful tips!
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Table Of Contents:
Islay Creek Campground Location
Islay Creek Campground is located at Montaña de Oro State Park, just 10 minutes south of Los Osos town and 20 minutes south of Morro Bay within San Luis Obispo County. This park is tucked away in a rugged section of the California Coastline a bit further from Highway 1 than other State Parks.
Despite being one of the largest California State Parks, Montaña de Oro is very little known outside of the Central Coast. The secluded location makes this park a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts and those who enjoy camping away from the crowds.
Visitor Tip: There is no reception within Montaña de Oro State Park, especially at the campground. Before heading out there, I recommend downloading an offline map on Google Maps so you can locate the campground entrance and nearby attractions.
Google Map Location: Islay Creek Campground
Directions To Islay Creek Campground Arriving From South
If you’re coming from the south, take Highway 1 to Los Osos. Then take exit 200A for Los Osos Valley Road (just before Morro Bay).
This road will lead you to Los Osos town where you can stock up on camping supplies, water, firewood, and anything else you may need. Los Osos is a pretty tiny town but they do have a few grocery stores including Ralphs, Grocery Outlet, and a few smaller markets.
After, continue driving along Los Osos Valley Road. This road will turn into Pecho Valley Road which will lead you directly to Islay Creek Campground entrance by Spooner Ranch House.
Once the road narrows be sure to keep an eye out for bikers, hikers, and wild turkeys that can unexpectedly cross the road.
Directions To Islay Creek Campground Arriving From North
If you’re coming from the north, take Highway 1 to Morro Bay. Take exit 277 toward Los Osos/Baywood Park. Turn right onto S Bay Blvd and take it past Morro Bay Estuary to Los Osos town.
Turn right onto Los Osos Valley Rd and continue onto Pecho Valley Road which will take you all the way to the campground entrance.
About Islay Creek Campground
Islay Creek Campground offers spacious campsites that can accommodate tents, campervans, and trailers up to 27 feet in length. This campground does not have hookups and has limited amenities so it very much feels like ‘going off the grid’.
Most people that we saw camping at Islay Creek Campground were bikers, surfers, and families with little kids. This is a family-friendly campground and the little ones were running around making friends with other kid campers.
The campground has 50 campsites that are scattered along Campground Road. On our visit, all of the campsites were booked up, but only a portion of the sites was occupied. It seems that many people reserve them, but don’t actually show up.
The campsites can accommodate up to 2 vehicles. Unlike the other nearby State Park campgrounds, here you’ll have lots of privacy and space in between the sites. We have camped at both Morro Bay State Park Campground and Morro Strand State Beach Campground before and they both feel pretty cramped compared to Islay Creek Campground.
Islay Creek Campground is tucked away in remote wilderness away from city noise and roads. The entire campground was very quiet by 9 pm and we got a really good night’s sleep.
We stayed at this campground in October during an unusually hot weekend. Despite being surrounded by large trees, our campsite had very little shade during the day, and dealing with the heat was the hardest part of our stay.
If you plan to bring your four-legged family member, the campground does allow dogs on a leash. However, the rest of Montaña de Oro State Park does not which applies to all of the hiking trails.
Here are a few places in the area that do allow dogs:
- Spooner’s Cove
- Elfin Forest
- Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk
- Black Hill Trail
- Cloisters Community Park (up to the sand dunes)
- Morro Bay Dog Beach
We always bring our dog camping with us on the Central Coast. If you don’t mind driving a bit, there’s always something you can find to do in the area that is dog-friendly.
You May Also Like: 15 Best Places To Go Camping On Central California Coast
Islay Creek Campground Amenities
Islay Creek Campground is a primitive campground with very limited amenities. Each of the sites is pretty basic and comes with a fire ring, picnic table, a place to store camping items, and a flat area to pitch a tent.
If you plan to make food outdoors, be aware that there are lots of raccoons in this area that will try to snatch your food and trash. These little guys crawled under our campervan as we were grilling dinner and waited for the opportunity to steal our food.
We immediately put everything away and they left. Raccoons can be dangerous, bite and claw you so don’t keep anything out with a scent.
The campground has pit toilets but no showers or sinks. There are water spigots scattered throughout the area where you can get some water.
If you do want to take a shower, you can head over to Morro Bay State Park Campground 20 minutes north. Upon arrival, you can present the campground payment receipt to the kiosk attendant and you’ll be allowed entry into Morro Bay State Park Campground.
There are several restrooms at Morro Bay State Park where you can take a shower. This is what we did during our stay once we started feeling sticky from the hot weather. These showers are coin-operated so you will need to exchange dollars for coins before showering.
Be sure to stock up on everything you may need before arriving at Islay Creek Campground as there are no stores, drinking water, or food nearby. The nearest grocery store is in Los Osos about a 15-minute drive from the campground.
If you forget to bring firewood, you can purchase some from the camp host.
Islay Creek Campground Reservations
Islay Creek Campground Reservations can be made on the Reserve California website here.
In the search box look up “Montana De Oro SP”, select your arrival, the end date, and then select what type of campsite you’re looking for. From the search results select “Islay Creek Campground” and it will show all available campsites. There are 50 sites that can be reserved at this campground and they are all primitive sites.
The campsites at Islay Creek Campground cost $25 per night. This is much cheaper compared to other State Parks, but this campground does not have showers or toilets with water.
Things To Do Near Islay Campground
Islay Creek Campground is situated in a central location for exploring Morro Bay, Cayucos, and San Luis Obispo towns. The campground is also just a short walk from the ocean and sandy beaches so there is quite a lot to explore in the area!
Islay Creek Campground is a very popular place to stay for mountain bikers. Some of the most popular mountain biking trails in this area include Hazard Peak Trail (12 miles), Islay Creek Hazard Peak Loop Trail (8.6 miles), and Oat Peaks Trail which starts at the campground (10 miles).
Here are a few popular things to do near Islay Campground:
Spooner’s Cove Beach
While it’s very little known, Spooner’s Cove is one of the best beaches on the Central California Coast. This beach is situated at the Islay Creek Campground entrance and can easily be reached within a short walk from the camping sites. Once you arrive, you can take the stairs down to the sandy shoreline or walk along the main paved road to reach the entrance.
Spooner’s Cove Beach consists of a small cove where you can lay out next to the ocean. This location also has restrooms and a parking area if you’d rather drive there.
Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail
Montaña de Oro Bluff Trail is a popular beachfront hiking trail that starts near the campground just off Pecho Valley Road. This 4-mile-long trail has little incline and follows next to the ocean with beautiful coastal views of rugged cliffs and unique rock formations.
Spooner Ranch House
Spooner Ranch House is situated on top of the ocean bluffs overlooking Spooner’s Cove. In the 1900’s this was a family home for the Spooner family. Now it serves as a visitor center and a historic museum featuring what life was like back in the day for the Spooner family.
Visitors can take a tour of the house or enjoy lunch at one of the shaded picnic tables overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve
Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve is a small preserve where you can observe migratory butterflies in the winter months. It’s located on the west side of Los Osos town and features easy walking paths through a serene eucalyptus forest.
The best time to see Monarch Butterflies on the California Coast is from November to February. Outside of this time frame, you might only spot a couple of butterflies in the grove.
Elfin Forest is a 90-acre natural area in Los Osos just north of the campground. Charming wooden boardwalks, resting benches, ocean views, and diverse ecosystems make this a great place to enjoy scenery away from the crowds.
Here you can go on a 1 mile-long easy hike that overlooks Morro Bay Estuary and stops at two ocean viewpoints. There is also a small Pygmy Oak forest that looks very magical and enchanting!
Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk
Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk is a short and scenic pathway that is located next to Morro Bay State Park Campground. Along this boardwalk, you can enjoy great views of wetlands, salt marsh, grasslands, and the marina.
This area is home to over 200 bird species so here you can also do a bit of bird watching. The trail is only 0.7 miles long so it’s a great place to go for a leisurely walk to stretch your legs.
Morro Rock is one of the most popular attractions on the Central California Coast. This towering volcanic rock formation draws tourists to Morro Bay town year round!
Morro Rock is a unique volcanic plug that formed 22 million years ago. While the scale of Morro Rock is best seen from a distance, you can drive up to the base of the rock and walk around Morro Rock Beach.
Black Hill Trail
For a better view of Morro Rock, we recommend hiking the Black Hill Trail which starts at the Morro Bay State Park Campground. From this trail, you can enjoy panoramic views of Morro Bay town, Morro Rock, and the Morro Bay Estuary.
The Black Hill Trail is about 2.5 miles long if you do the full distance. If you’re short on time, you can also drive to a parking lot at the top of Black Hill Trail and hike only 0.3 miles to the summit.
Cloisters Community Park
If you have little kids, you’ll enjoy spending some time at the Cloisters Community Park. This park has a kid’s playground where they can get their energy out, a grassy area, picnic tables, easy walking paths, and access to nearby ocean dunes.
Morro Bay T Pier (Otter Viewing Area)
Situated along the Embarcadero oceanfront strip, Morro Bay T Pier is a popular place for otter viewing on the coast. Due to calm waters and abundant kelp forests, you can often spot sea otters hanging in the marina and nursing their little ones on their bellies – the cutest thing you’ll ever see!
Bayside Cafe is an iconic Morro Bay restaurant situated within the Marina Peninsula. This oceanside café was established in 1986 and serves a mix of seafood, American food, and a bit of Mexican food.
If you’re getting tired of camping meals, Bayside Cafe is one of the best places to eat in Morro Bay!
What To Bring Camping On The Central Coast
Here are a few things that we recommend bringing for a camping trip in Montaña de Oro State Park:
- Helinox Chair Zero. Foldable chairs are great for eating, hanging out, or sitting around a campfire. We have a couple of foldable chairs that we can easily put together when we’re stopped at a campsite or store at the back of our van when not in use.
- REI Camp Foldable Table. We also have a small camping table that we can prop up for eating meals outdoors. This table has foldable legs and is made of aluminum material that lasts a long time.
- AeroPress Travel Coffee Press. Do you love coffee as much as we do? Using an AeroPress is one of the easiest ways to make coffee while camping. We love this coffee press because it can fit into small storage spaces and it won’t break if you accidentally drop it. If this is too much work, REI also sells Kuju Coffee Single Serve pour-overs that are so easy to use while camping!
- Travel Towel. A travel towel is great for outdoor trips because this type of towel is light and dries quickly – perfect for a day on the beach or after showering. It’s also very compact so it’s easy to store in small spaces like a tent or a car.
- Packing Cubes. Staying organized while camping can be a challenge. These travel packing cubes will keep everything nice & tidy and also save a ton of space.
- Down Hoody. The Central Coast evenings tend to stay cool all year long. I have a lightweight jacket that I can easily bring along on road trips. It comes in handy on cooler mornings and while enjoying a campfire at night.
- Headlamp. Having a headlamp is a must for camping trips. A headlamp is essential in case you need to find your way to the restroom at night (or check out strange wildlife noises outside your tent).
Islay Creek Campground is a beautiful and peaceful camping spot on the Central Coast. It offers spacious campsites, stunning beachfront trails, and other fun outdoor activities.
Looking for more things to do in the area? Here are a few other popular posts that you may find helpful:
- 10 Best Hotels In Morro Bay For a Coastal Getaway
- 10 Best VRBO Morro Bay Vacation Rentals In California
- 12 Charming Places To Stay In Cayucos, California
- 12 Best Hikes In San Luis Obispo County, California
- Cayucos Hiking Trails: Cass Hill
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