Los Osos Elfin Forest-Baywood Park, on Morro Bay

The boardwalk at Elfin Forest

Los Osos Elfin Forest-Baywood Park

The Los Osos Elfin Forest is located at the southeastern edge of the Morro Bay estuary. It’s easily missed, though not hard to find and offers a haven for a myriad of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. It is accessible with a 0.8 mile long boardwalk and features a variety of the area’s environments in 90 acres.

The boardwalk inside the Los Osos Elfin ForestA view of the interior of the Elfin Forest
(Rose Bowker Grove) on Morro Bay
Photo by “Mike” Michael L. Baird, view original

The Los Osos Elfin Forest, also known as the El Moro Elfin Forest, is found at the eastern end of the Morro Bay estuary in the little community of Los Osos.

Los Osos (the bears) was the name the Spanish gave to this area as it was originally inhabited by bears which were hunted to supply meat to the California missions before they became self-supporting.

Click on the map to view a larger version

The Elfin Forest is so called because of the stunted live oaks which populate the area. Normally in good environments these oaks will grow to 50 feet, but given the harsh conditions (sandy soil, salt and wind) the oaks here are only 20 feet tall in sheltered locations and 4 feet tall on ridge lines.

One of the numerous benches on the boardwalk through the Elfin ForestThe boardwalk through the Elfin Forest

There are nice boardwalk trails through this miniature forest which makes it accessible to all. For those in wheelchairs, it is recommended that you park at the end of 16th Street where there is handicapped parking and an extension of the boardwalk right to the parking area. The access trails from the other streets are sand.

There are numerous viewing platforms enabling you to take in the abundance of flora and fauna which may be found here.

Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars.

Los Osos Elfin Forest Quick Facts:

Address: West of South Bay Boulevard and North of Santa Ysabel Ave., Los Osos

GPS Coordinates: 35.3319, -120.8255 (16th Street, handicapped parking)

Hours: 6am – 10pm

Organizations: San Luis Obispo County Parks, California State Parks and Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP)

Parking: Parking areas at the northern ends of 11th through 17th Streets off Santa Ysabel Ave. Accessible handicapped parking at the end of 16th Street.

Dogs: Allowed if on leash; “mutt mitts” are available at each entrance for clean-up.

What there is to see: More than 200 species of plants; 110 bird species; 22 mammal species and 13 species of reptile and amphibian; and a great variety of insects.

Website: elfin-forest.org

Elfin Forest directional signSigns  directing toward parking for the Elfin Forest on Santa Ysabel Ave. The sign at 16th St. has a handicapped symbol. (image from Google Street View)

The Elfin Forest trailhead at 16th StreetThe accessible ramp at the 16th Street trailhead

Sticky Monkeybush at the Elfin ForestSticky Monkeybush

Unlike other areas of Central California, the wildflowers here at the Elfin Forest don’t appear in lavish displays that can be seen from afar. However, as you may notice from the next few photos, the wildflower displays are here, just somewhat hidden among the oaks and the chemise.

There are more than 150 species of plants here, supported by the underlying sand dunes and the foggy, coastal influenced weather.

Fuschia-flowering gooseberry at the Elfin ForestFuschia-flowering Gooseberry

In this small area there are five native plant communities. These communities are arranged in “layers” based on elevation starting at the edge of backwaters or Morro Bay estuary: coastal brackish marsh; riparian woodland; pygmy oak woodlands; chaparral and coastal dune scrub.

Manzanita berries at the Los Osos Elfin Forest on the Morro Bay EstuaryMorro  Manzanita

The manzanita (Spanish for “little apple”) was an important plant for the natives who once inhabited this area. It provided food and drink; it is helpful against poison oak and the leaves were used as a toothbrush.

Elfin Forest lupine with Morro Rock in the distanceSilver lupines with Morro Rock and the Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk in the distance

Sunrise over the Los Osos Elfin ForestSunrise viewed from the Elfin Forest

The Morro Bay estuary viewed from the Elfin ForestA view of the Morro Bay estuary at low tide with Morro Rock in the distance

Sunrise inside a grove at the El Moro Elfin ForestSunrise inside a grove at the El Moro Elfin Forest

Sunset over Morro Bay and the Los Osos Elfin Forest

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