The aesthetic draw of Montara Mountain is in its sweeping views of the surrounding areas. It is a northern projection of the Santa Cruz Mountains and a prominent peak south of the San Francisco. The other highlight is the nearly 2,000ft elevation gain to the peak, hence the popular destination for dedicated hikers, runners and mountain bikers.
What Makes It Great
From the trailhead located in a parking lot of McNee Ranch State Park, the path to Montara Mountain (via Gray Whale Cove Trail) immediately begins to climb one long switchback across the mountain. Thankfully, it also quickly offers rewarding views of the endless ocean so its possible to gain incredible scenery without reaching the summit. This path is dense on either side with flora like cow parsnip and coastal sage, and in springtime, vibrant flowers sprout up and accentuate its beauty. Follow this Gray Whale Cove Trail parallel to the coastline until you reach one of many unmarked intersections. You may choose when to take a left off the current path because the first four choices will eventually connect with Old San Pedro Mountain Road - a decrepit paved highway that was once the main route between Montara and Pacifica before CA-1 was constructed. Be diligent, however, and study a map of the mountain before you set off on your adventure because the unmarked paths can be a source of confusion. Once on the crumbling highway, try to spot the occasional rusted car chassis along the path and keep enjoying the views that amplify in scope the higher you climb. Stay on this wide road to find the summit amidst microwave towers. Incredible panoramas can be seen from here with Mount Diablo resting behind the San Francisco Bay to the east, while the rugged Pacific coastline stretches from San Francisco in the north to Pescadero in the south. You may retrace your steps all the way back to the parking lot or use your map to select one of the spurs off the lower half of the route to complete a semi-loop journey.
Who is Going to Love It
With a couple thousand foot elevation gain, Montara Mountain provides a great training destination for athletes and outdoor lovers craving a workout; hikers, runners and mountain bikers are welcome. Horse and dog-owners can also join the fun using certain approved routes.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are several ways to get reach the peak of Montara Mountain and most of them eventually intersect. For a single-track, no-dog route, begin at a Montara Mountain Trailhead in San Pedro Valley County Park. The trail will fork soon after you begin; follow the path to the right. Consider taking the Brooks Creek Trail as part of your return trip if you choose the no-dog route. The trail will guide you through a picturesque canyon filled with manzanita trees to the tallest seasonal waterfall in San Mateo County: Brooks Falls. A different, roughly 7-mile trip is open to dogs, horses, bikers and hikers begins in McNee Ranch State Park (described in the section above). Explore other ways to reach the summit by purchasing the Trails of Pacifica Map. From the city, take I 280-S to CA-1 S and then pass through Pacifica. From the intersection of Linda Mar Blvd and CA-1, it’s about a 2.8 mile drive to Gray Whale Cove State Beach. Park in the crescent-shaped gravel lot just left of CA-1.