Harmony, as well as serenity and beauty, can be found in abundance at Harmony State Park. Isolated and undeveloped, the new park is rarely visited as well.
A modest hike from Harmony State Park’s trailhead near Highway 1 to the headlands brings great reward. Headlands Trail, an old ranch road, parallels a branch of Villa Creek and leads 1.5 miles to bold headlands overlooking a rocky and rugged shore. Somewhat sketchy paths lead along the cliff-edge. Scenic they are, but watch your step!
The land was used for cattle grazing as early as the 1830s, when it was part of Rancho San Geronimo, until the 1960s. Visitors can check out an old bunkhouse, a reminder of those cattle-raising and dairy-farming days.
A developer bought the property in 1975 with the intent of building a residential community. Decades passed, the development failed to get off the drawing board and in 2003 the American Land Conservancy purchased the 784-acre spread and deeded it to California State Parks. Harmony Headlands State Park opened in 2008.
Native and nonnative grasses cover the hills and headlands. Springtime can bring impressive blooms: owls clover, California poppy, goldfields, lupine, California buttercups and San Luis Obispo morning glory.
Kelp thrives in the waters off the headlands. In fact, between the 1890s and 1960s, Chinese-Americans harvested the kelp here and elsewhere along the San Luis Obispo County coast. The kelp was gathered, dried and shipped to China.
The good citizens of Cayucos have installed benches on several scenic perches around the park. My favorite is the one on the headlands. The benches and one portable toilet located next to the historic bunkhouse are the only amenities in the park.
Directions: Harmony Headlands State Park is located just off Highway 1, about 5.5 miles north of Cayucos and about 6.5 miles south of the highway’s junction with Main Street (south exit) in Cambria. The Trailhead is located about a 5 minute drive north of Cayucos. Look for small parking lot (about 10 cars) in a turnout adjacent to the southbound lane of 101.