Emma and Abbey at play at the Elfin Forest
Photo: Robyn O'Leary (CC)
The Morro Bay estuary is famous for its temperate climate, scenic beauty and wide variety of seaside activities available for all your two- and four-footed family members. Majestic Morro Rock looms over the north end of the bay, while the southern end of the estuary splashes up against the quiet little town of Los Osos, where opportunities for bayside adventures await.
One of the best secrets in San Luis Obispo County is the Los Osos Elfin Forest. A beloved favorite of locals, this 90-acre nature preserve welcomes dogs with miles of trails and stunning vistas of the bay.
The most popular access point to the Elfin Forest is the entrance on 16th St., directly off of Santa Ysabel, where dogs and their people will find an ample supply of Mutt Mitts and informative signage about the area’s Native American history. A short walk up the well-maintained boardwalk finds Morro Rock and the estuary peeking into view over a California live-oak forest. Visitors are invited to pick up a trail guide that includes a map and information about the surrounding vegetation.
The boardwalk makes a loop of roughly a mile, and includes two scenic overlooks, each offering a different perspective of the Morro Bay Estuary. Branching off from the boardwalk are numerous sand trails that leashed dogs are welcome to explore. Wildlife is abundant in the Elfin Forest, and it is not unusual to see the tracks of birds, lizards, coyotes or deer along established trails. Keen observers will notice the piles of brush under many of the oaks, which are in fact nests of the dusky-footed woodrat. Bird-loving dogs and their people are in for a treat at the Elfin Forest, as a wide variety of avian friends live in both the interior of the forest and along the shoreline.
For on-the-water adventures in the bay, look no farther than Central Coast Outdoors for dog-friendly kayaking. Rays gently swim below the water’s surface, while harbor seals and otters splash near the embarcadero. A rookery near the Museum of Natural History is the year-round home to egrets and herons. Kayaking allows for an up-close visit to the Morro Bay Oyster Company’s sustainable oyster beds.
Central Coast Outdoors is owned by long-time San Luis Obispo county residents John and Virginia Flaherty, who welcome friendly dogs on their popular private kayak tours. Bay Cruisers operates out of Morro Bay, with dogs welcome on their Tiki Boat tours and electric-boat rentals.
A day by the bay will certainly work up an appetite, and Morro Bay has a number of restaurants with dog-friendly patios. For the best fish and chips in town, head over to the Bayside Cafe. Tucked between Morro Bay State Park and the marina, it’s a foodie favorite with a large, scenic deck. For Morro Rock views and fresh, local catch, seat yourself on the deck of Tognazzini's Dockside Restaurant at the north end of the fishing docks, or pop by the patio of Blue Sky Cafe on the embarcadero.
Pooped pooches are welcome at a number of Morro Bay hotels and motels. The Bayfront Inn on the embarcadero is particularly welcoming, and the friendly front desk will happily add a photo of your pet to their online gallery. The charming Beach Bungalow Inn and Suites is just a few blocks off the busy waterfront and welcomes dogs with treats and blankets.