Beachy Keen spent a glorious afternoon at Montaña de Oro State Park exploring the soft sand, breezy air and of course, the sea creatures. The park is home to Hazard Canyon Reef, where within its tide pools hide sea anemones, urchins, sea stars, and crabs, just to name a few. Finding the tide pools can be a bit tricky, however. The trail begins by a dirt parking lot off of Pecho Valley Road, labeled by a wooden sign that reads, “Hazard Canyon”.
Once parked, head north on the trail on the far right. The journey to the tide pools is just as awe-inspiring as the pools themselves; the air is moist yet refreshing, and the greenery surrounds you on all sides.
Overlooking the tide pools. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share.
The brief journey down to the beach ends with the path opening up to a breathtaking collection of huge rocks with a peculiar wavy pattern and a crashing shoreline.
The air sits still next to the side of the cliff, yet there’s a deep humming of energy that invites you to come and explore…
MDO. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share
The rocks are slippery, so take time and step carefully, or a nice cold bath with the fish may ensue.
As the water pours over the cavities in the rocks and slowly retreats back, a collection of critters can be found, squishy and prickly alike. Taking caution when stepping down into the crevices is necessary, as the life within them don’t like to be disturbed.
Collections of sea anemones are the most prevalent creatures in the pools, and they come in a multitude of colors and patterns. A gradient of green to purple is a common color scheme seen in its tentacles. If touched, they’ll coil away, revealing an underside decorated with small rocks and bits of shells.
Waving hello. Photo by Avrah Baum, free to use/share.
The sea anemone is a favorite of Justin Michelle Trabue, a student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “I love their vibrant colors,” she told Beachy Keen, “there’s an entire rainbow inside of them! You don’t see that a lot in sea animals,” she adds.
While exploring the pools, Beachy Keen had the pleasure of running into a pair of brothers who enjoy spending their time at the calm beach. Daniel and Jack Cimo are originally from Chicago, Illinois, and Jack lives in the area as an avid surfer and personally-acclaimed expert on the tide pools.
“You have to come around low tide when you can see more of not only the anemones, but urchins and stars as well,” said Jack. “I’ve been living here for years and I never get sick of it.”
His brother Daniel was just in town for a few days to see him, and chose to spend his visit at the beach with him.
“Every time I fly out here, we make a point to come to Montaña de Oro,” Daniel said. “Obviously the animals in the tide pools are amazing to see, but there’s so much else at the beach, like the eucalyptus trees and the succulents.”
Besides the anemones, there are thousands of crabs that thrive in pools that latch onto the rocks so they aren’t swept away by the tide. Sea urchins and stars can be seen at low tide, in the late afternoon.
It’s hard to get bored at the pools, so if you’re looking for an exciting and engaging afternoon on the Central Coast, paying a visit to the Hazard Canyon Reef tide pools will not disappoint.
Hazard Canyon Reef entertains and enthralls folks of all ages, but keeping an eye on small children is definitely recommended.
Happy pool hopping!