This gigantic volcanic plug stands at 576 feet above the Pacific Ocean in Morro Bay.
Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’ll find the breathtaking Morro Rock protruding out from the smooth sandy beaches of Morro Bay, California. It was formed over 23 million years ago as a plug or lava neck of a long-dormant volcano that’s created when magma cools and hardens. Years of erosion have washed the surrounding layers of ash away, to reveal what we see today.
Hiking to Morro Rock
The striking dome formation is the last of the volcanic peaks from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay, known as the Nine Sisters and makes for a memorable beach hike. While it will require around a 3-hour drive from L.A. first, Morro Strand Trail is unlike anything you’ll ever see. You can trek across the undulating dunes of Morro State Park and end the route with a dip in the ocean. The trail begins at Cloisters Park where you’ll walk for about half a mile to the beach and another mile down Morro Strand State Beach to Morro Rock.
A brief history of Morro Rock
Morro Rock’s history dates back to somewhere between 6500 to 2000 B.C.E. when the Salinan and Chumash tribes considered it a sacred site. They would climb it twice a year as part of a solstice ritual—but never to the very top. Later, it was spotted by Spanish maritime explorers in the 1500s under Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo which is how it got the name “morro,” meaning mound or turban. It’s also referred to as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” as it’s practically the size of an island and its distinctive appearance was used to help sailors navigate their way into the port.
Through the late 1800s, it was quarried until a state law was introduced, transferring the title to the State of California. In 1968 it became a historic landmark thanks to the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society and the City of Morro Bay
Wildlife and fauna
There is no shortage of visual splendor in Morro State Park and there’s plenty of wildlife enjoying the scenery too. You might spot the endangered peregrine falcons nesting amongst the rocks and anything from sea lions and otters to whales swimming in the blue waters. Then there are the tide pools are filled with colorful marine life like starfish, coral and hermit crabs.